The roll out for the 2nd collaborative album from Macklemore & Ryan Lewis has been so awkward, an unruly mess you might say. Australia aside, I don't think "Downtown" was quite the hit it was aiming to be, and ever since that came and went, it's become very easy to avoid the album, I can't say I've seen quite as many defenders of it as "The Heist".
I feel like triple j is in an awkward position with Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. They were possibly the first radio station in the world to give them a real bit of attention and it catapulted immensely in the year or so to follow. This of course warped perceptions, and suddenly there's huge outrage that "Thrift Shop", a song that at first seemed too outrageous and explicit for pop radio, was topping the station's annual music poll. triple j didn't stop playing Macklemore & Ryan Lewis's music, but you could feel the buzz wind down rapidly. It was most apparent when 6 months later, the station had another poll concerning favourite songs of the last 20 years. The dominant discussion on social media at the time was outrage at the belief that "Thrift Shop" would get voted in, even though it didn't. But much like with Taylor Swift 2 years later, the station played with the controversy on the day by blatantly tailering an announcement to indicate the song placing at #4. They started playing the song before abruptly switching to the Hilltop Hoods song which also fit all the vague descriptors given out.
You often see discussion on the way that triple j's directions and intentions are often very seperate from the artists they play. So they may have been playing Diplo's music with and without Major Lazer for almost a decade, but that doesn't mean Diplo works for them, and will readily collaborate with artists outside of triple j's wheelhouse like Ellie Goulding or Justin Bieber, leading to discussion on where the status of artists fit into their roles and whether or not they warrant airplay.
That example isn't the issue for Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, because Ed Sheeran aside, their two albums are loaded with lesser known artists from in and out of rap who are probably getting their biggest break by appearing on these albums. I don't even think there's anyone who's been featured more than once which is kind of impressive.
Macklemore's issue stems from a discussion of authenticity and credibility. History has after all taught us to be suspicious of when a white person enters a traditionally black culture and potentially reaps the most benefits from it. Whether or not you think he's earned it is subject to debate and I need not chime into it, but it's hard to argue against the fact that he did come out on top, and whether or not valid, he WAS subject to criticism for it. Macklemore is of course aware of this and goes to great lengths not to propagate it. I feel like with "This Unruly Mess I've Made", he's in no way trying to pretend he's something he's not. It has its fans, and while plenty of people don't like it, they've certainly settled down compared to 3 years ago.
With that I return to triple j, who are often put under a different pressure, the pressure that comes from artists and fans who spot when the station stops supporting an artist that they did previously. This can lead to extremely tough decisions, because we have to face it, it is simply impossible to perpetuate the airplay whether recurrent or current for every artist, particularly for a station like triple j that brands itself as a youth station that focuses on new music. For the artists, it's a fight for maintaining relevance amongst the shifting interests of the youth.
I've seen it best described as all popular artists having their phase where they're in the spotlight of discussion, winning over new fans regularly with their new music. That phase at some point stops, and the artist becomes a legacy act. They may release new albums, but they'll only be consumed by the major fans, as well as the music nerds & reviewers who'll listen to it once or twice when it comes out and never again. This happens when the artist ceases to be relevant to the general public. When the artist has nothing new to add to everyone's perception of them, or at least no one is interested in hearing what that might be. This is usually when triple j cuts off high rotation for artists and which is the cause of which can be subject to debate. I do often find though that BBC Radio 1 act in a similar mind with similar results mind you.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are at risk of this happening to them. When negative reaction continues to propagate, eventually the defenders who are keeping the artist relevant will themselves give up and it'll be over.
I feel like triple j are doing their best to help Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. For instance, had they stuck along the same path as the other stations, there'd be a mass of angry complaints every time the ridiculous "Dance Off" or "Brad Pitt's Cousin" got airplay. triple j have instead favoured this album cut, a much more dignified moment featuring a much loved collaborator.
I don't know how much impact the airplay is having, it doesn't seem to be selling well as a cherrypicked download though its streaming numbers are solid. Nonetheless, I've certainly not seen any outrage sparked from it, and from a personal perspective, it's made me write a Macklemore review in a much more positive light than I have in the recent past because I really quite like this song.
It has an odd distinction wherein the two rappers have somewhat similar tones and what you occasionally hear in this is that much of a meeting point that it's not always obvious (to me) who's at the mic. Both do well here, but Chance's verse is a definite highlight, managing to be fun and introspective in a way only he can. If conscious rap is something you're into, definitely cop this one.