Mack is back

Macklemore releases comeback album “BEN”


Fair use from Spotify

Eliah Fink

Macklemore, aka Ben Haggerty, released “BEN” on March 3, his first album since his 2017 release, “GEMINI.” Unlike many of his previous albums, “BEN” does not feature Macklemore’s producer, Ryan Lewis, although he still produced “BEN.” Macklemore has released several singles since “GEMINI,” some of them re-released in the BEN album. The majority of these singles just didn’t quite embody the Macklemore “sound” many listeners are used to. For this reason, some were skeptical if “BEN” would capture this “sound.” 

The album “BEN” was written over a long period of time as it has been nearly 2000 days or five-and-a-half years since “GEMINI” was released. The album begins with more upbeat, lighthearted songs like “NO BAD DAYS” and “1984,” both themed around living life to the fullest. As the album goes on it progresses towards less upbeat songs like “FAITHFUL,” “TEARS” and “SORRY,” each of these songs begins to delve deeper into specific themes such as depression and losing sobriety. These themes, all coming directly from Haggerty’s life experiences, show the progression of his life over the five years in which this album was developed.

A central theme in Macklemore’s music over the years has been finding a deep meaning in his life experiences. He tells stories in his lyrics of many struggles he has gone through, touching on subjects like those mentioned earlier, of his own depression and sobriety along with themes like racial inequality and LGBTQ rights. These themes are part of what brings his fans to his music and are incorporated well in many of his songs. However, as he has continued to make music, Macklemore has received much criticism claiming he explores too far very personal content and social justice themes in his songs. Critics claim that with so much personal information and somewhat repetitive concepts, eventually this song style has become viewed as more repetitive and shallow than inspiring and compelling. In this album it follows this pattern but it really isn’t overdone.

With features in “BEN” ranging from popular radio music artist Tones and I to loud, bass-heavy trap rapper NLE Choppa, this album had a wide variety of music. Some of these artists seemed to fit better on the album than others. Featured on “NO BAD DAYS,” unknown artist Collett sings the chorus. Collett’s singing makes the song sound more childish, and the concept of the song in general is a little bit cheesy. This, in addition to the fact that Macklemore let his daughter Sloane direct the music video for the song, makes one think the target audience might be younger children. While being a sweet gesture for his daughter, the song just doesn’t fit with the album at all and I think might have been much better off as a single. On the flip side of the album’s features, in “FAITHFUL,” NLE Choppa incorporated his verse well to complement Macklemore’s flow. NLE Choppa adapted extremely well to Macklemore’s style, even though that meant straying somewhat from his normal style of music. 

In addition to “FAITHFUL,” there are definitely some highlights of the album sound and flow-wise including “HEROES.” Featuring DJ Premier, it was originally released as a single in January, using heavy drums and a loud rapping style to achieve a sound similar to 2000s–early 2010s rap music. There are also other highlights, “GRIME,” “I NEED” and “LOST/SUN COMES UP” being some of the better songs on the album. These songs have ranging lyrical and musical styles — some being more meaningful than others, and some being more melodic than others. 

There are a few weak points in the album: some individual songs that just don’t ‘hit’ the same as the others, some songs that just didn’t fit with the album. There are also a few high points, some enjoyable, meaningful songs worth listening to. The music Macklemore makes now will likely never perform, or sound, quite like his older more popular songs, but for a comeback album, “BEN” was pretty solid.

“BEN”: ★★★☆☆