Macklemore web

On April 1, 2013, YouTube announced they would stop accepting submissions for their online video ‘competition’ to determine and announce a winner by 2023. Seattle emcee Macklemore might have preferred that this announcement were real, not just an April Fools prank, because his latest music video would have easily blown away the competition. 

He released a video in the early afternoon of April 17 for “Can’t Hold Us,” just one in his canon of phenomenal songs, summed up in a masterpiece known as The Heist.

The launch of his independent album and the release of “Thrift Shop” in the fall propelled Macklemore, whose birth name is Ben Haggerty, and his producer/co-creator Ryan Lewis to stardom.

You might have seen them performing live last week, as part of the Coke Zero Concerts downtown, and you have certainly danced to his upbeat ode to second-hand stores at any party you’ve attended in the last eight months

His other songs, though not as popular, brilliantly deal with some remarkably profound subjects – drug abuse, commercialism, white privilege, religion and gay rights.

“Can’t Hold Us,” whose music video I had been awaiting since the first week of senior year in high school, can best be described as an expression of pure joy.

The lyrics, rapped as fast as humanly possible it seems, loosely describe the artist’s own rise to fame – he mentions his love for music, his goals as a performer and the independent spirit with which he and his crew are climbing the charts.

His last year on the stage has proved that he is indeed a powerhouse in the music industry and can’t be held down. It’s near-impossible to listen to the track and not feel happier by the time it ends.

The video, appropriately, is a piece of artwork, filmed on six continents in over three months.

The plot is that of a robbery itself, a reclaiming of what has been lost. It intertwines several classic narratives in a beautifully visual metaphor for the rapper’s own triumph – a rapid ascent to popularity. As an amateur vexillologist, I was captivated by the flag – the central image of the production, personally recovered from the Arctic by a wolf-clad Macklemore and quite clearly inspired by Old Glory.

He, Ryan Lewis, vocalist Ray Dalton and trumpet player Owuor Arunga proceed to carry the flag from continent to continent, spreading their message by way of planes, boats and automobiles.

There are multiple ways to interpret the de-saturated wavy stripes and the phrase “The Heist,” scrawled on black fabric.

I see this image as just one of the ways he subverts classic American archetypes – also depicted are a cozy ’50’s home on the back of a flatbed trailer, a cowboy on a camel, a barbershop on the beach and a wild spirit rejecting nature to embrace modernity.

The flag points out what has been stolen and from whom.

Ryan Lewis deserves a fair share of the credit for his work on the track as well as the video.

He crafts slow violin melodies and electronic sounds to complement the lively lyrics and gorgeous visuals, depicting the many frontiers mankind has conquered.

Landscapes and cityscapes and most importantly, the trumpet twirl. 1080P is the only way to enjoy something so overwhelming.

Macklemore has earned that final shot in the video – a view of the Heist flag flying proudly on top of the Space Needle.His success as a performer and brilliance as an artist have helped him conquer the U.S., and his flag is quickly finding new soil in the rest of the world.

– By Georgi Hristozov 

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons