SNL Sound-Off: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

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Here's the thing: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis were an act I had intentionally avoided until this week's Saturday Night Live. It's not that I have anything against the meteoric hip-hop impresario, or that I wasn't interested in the songs that scored him one of the highest rankings on the Billboard charts for an unsigned artist. I do this occasionally with buzzier bands and wait until I have the opportunity to catch a live set in order to love/hate/feel indifferent towards any given performer, as I tend to get all scorned lover-like when a pop/electronic/hip-hop act turns out to be a genius in the studio but one of those lackluster "Here's a pre-recorded track I'm gonna hype the shit out of" musicians onstage. Taking all of this into consideration, I knew that Macklemore & Ryan Lewis would either confuse SNL viewers to high heaven or bowl them over with a memorable, kinetic set -- and based on the cheers that erupted in the room as soon as they threw up their hands after "Thrift Shop," it was clear that the Seattle rapper and his production partner-in-crime were facing the latter.

I just don't happen to agree with the in-studio audience this time around.

See also: Critics Need to Lay Off Macklemore

Things that irritate me: canned vocals, prop instruments in place of real ones, failing to stay on the beat. Things that popped up throughout Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' set: canned vocals, prop instruments in place of real ones, failing to stay on the beat. Macklemore himself ran around the stage like a nut job in the best possible way and truly sang (rapped) for his supper despite his tendency to slip up as far as timing's concerned, but the most distracting thing during "Thrift Shop" was the fact that a gaggle of horn players were dancing around in the back without actually playing their instruments over the song's signature loop or in place of it. They were mic-ed and put to good use during "Can't Hold Us" and for parts of "Thrift Shop," so why were they shelved for the majority of the rapper's biggest single when they would've been such an incredible addition? The "Thrift Shop" chorus sounded suspiciously taped as well, and again, if there's a sharp dressed man onstage with a mic in his hand, I want him to sing into it, especially if there's a dapper gent working his ass off (in a leather tank top and epaulets yanked from the costume closet of Michael Jackson, no less) to the left. Missed opportunities there, big time.

I acknowledge that the sound in the room could've been incredible and it may not have resonated on my television Saturday night, but something got lost in translation there, and it came across as a half-canned production. Whether or not it was doesn't really matter at this point.

"Cant Hold us" went over swimmingly and Macklemore and crew did their part in getting the room to clap until their hands bled. As riotous and uplifting as the song is, it was still fantastically refreshing (though unsurprising) to watch Macklemore and Lewis go ape over the breakdown of the track, treating the booth like a set of monkey bars while doing their best to get everyone on their adrenaline-gushing level. All in all Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' showing at SNL was a strong one that could've been stronger -- and one I look forward to watching them top.

And now for the entertaining as hell commentary provided by the Twitterati:

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2 comments
cashreve
cashreve

Not sure why they would use recorded horns that clearly miss notes a couple times...I think you may have been biased enough to assume they were layered in but I have to believe they were live. And knowing Owuar (lead trumpet) has been playing live with Mack for years. I assure you - nothing quite matches the excitement and feeling you get watching Macklemore + Ryan Lewis perform live!

anon55
anon55

I'm not a huge fan of Macklemore, but the horn players were visibly mic'd and audibly playing during the choruses of the song (when they had the horns to their lips). Thankfully, I decided to check out the video anyway after reading this article, but I'd imagine a number of readers were unfairly prejudiced against an artist they may never have heard because of an erroneous critique. I think it's incumbent on the writer to research and get the so-called "facts" right before maligning performers.

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