The Macklemore Theory

January 29, 2014 / by , / 54 Comments

We used to love Macklemore. Now people aren’t so sure. What happened? And why? The answer, perhaps, can be explained with the Macklemore Theory.

What is the Macklemore Theory?

The Macklemore Theory is a proposition that states that certain successful pop cultural icons take a four-part journey throughout their careers. The stages are as follows, as evidenced by the meteoric rise of Macklemore and Macklemore-blasting over the last half-decade:

1. The icon is liked only by hipsters and hardcore fans.

Typically way out of the eye of the mainstream, such as Macklemore’s early Seattle-based career, the icon gains dedicated adherents who go out of the way to inform their friends of their recent commitment to this new discovery. Keep in mind that it was cool to put Macklemore songs on mixtapes as late as like 2012, and that in a world where the Black Keys are considered “indie,” Macklemore still feels compelled to write diss tracks about record producers.1

2. The icon becomes famous and universally revered.

Suddenly, this thing is everywhere. You hear “Can’t Hold Us” at every party. Your parents know the words to “Thrift Shop,” and all of the sudden you’re the guy who has to explain to his mother what a “skeet blanket” is. The New York Times wrote a think piece, for God’s sake.

3. The icon is famous and universally revered for so long that people start getting annoyed.

You may be starting to wonder if it’s really such a good idea for a song about a kid getting killed over a pair of Nikes to play during NBA ads. Or maybe you’re tired of seeing the hundredth person on Facebook posting “Same Love” while launching an invective against homophobia. Either way, things are starting to get old.

4. The icon unwittingly becomes a symbol of an unfavorable sociopolitical trend.

Also known as Stage Jezebel, this is when something that most of America was pretty cool with is now perceived (correctly or incorrectly) as standing for the absolute worst qualities of American culture. Problematic aspects of the icon are brought to the fore, and people who you heard sing every word of “And We Danced” now heap their scorn onto their once beloved song. Rich white people’s enjoyment of “Thrift Shop” is revealed to show some pretty yucky things about class in America, one example of how Stage Jezebel occurs everywhere from race (Miley Cyrus), to gender (Robin Thicke), to people realizing you’re an abject asshole (Michael Jordan). People change their minds all the time–it’s the rapidity of the flipflop that’s striking.

Why does the Macklemore Theory exist?

Because we can’t have nice things.

What are some popular examples of the Macklemore Theory?

The Macklemore Theory is a theorem that can be applied to a wide variety of pop cultural icons, including, but not limited, to:

  • Dubstep
  • Barack Obama
  • Kony 2012
  • Blurred Lines
  • Quinoa
  • Girls
  • Disco
  • The United States of America
  • The ShamWow Guy
  • Unprotected sex
  • Cocaine
  • Anthony Weiner
  • The New Deal

Are there any weird loopholes in the Macklemore Theory?

Throughout the course of drunken debate, one addition, dubbed by Stephen Rees to be the “Allen Iverson Addendum,” emerged. Similar in idea to the Macklemore Theory, the Allen Iverson Addendum posits that criticism of a cultural figurehead can experience a similar trajectory, in which professing to hate an icon becomes universally accepted, until thinking in such a way becomes not just frowned upon but considered demonstrative of a more invidious sociopolitical trend.

The Allen Iverson Addendum typically applies to items of black cultural aesthetics or figures like hip hop and Richard Sherman, but need not be if we’ve learned anything from the career of One Direction. Perhaps, maybe one day the AI Addendum will apply to even hating on Macklemore, as it becomes passe and commonplace to express your displeasure with his white privilege.

How can I predict who will fall prey to the Macklemore Theory?

The same way Dennis Quaid discovers the existence of a desalinated oceanic jetstream in the iconic film The Day After Tomorrow: by noticing a series of peculiar events and connecting the dots to realize the larger trend at hand. Let’s take Macklemore as a case study. He’s a white rapper — peculiar. He sings about empowerment and equality, and publicly opposes drug use — peculiar. He has numerous popular singles that are parodies of themselves — peculiar. He’s from Seattle and appears to be proud of it — peculiar. Most peculiar of all, Macklemore became wildly successful in spite of (or, perhaps, because of) his peculiarities.

So by observing similar sequences of oddities, you may be able to predict the next adherent to the Macklemore Theory. You know, oddities like the guy who made the #Kony2012 video getting arrested for jerkin’ the gherkin in public.

Who invented the Macklemore Theory?

Who invented the Macklemore Theory? Really? Let me guess, you were the same kid who ran home from elementary school to tell your parents about how Benjamin Franklin invented electricity. Like all inherent and self-evident truths, the Macklemore Theory was not invented, but rather discovered. To be honest, it’s kind of like how I always envision the first episode of anal sex happened — a sudden realization, followed by a brief bout of self-doubting, capped by a lot more questions than there were before.

What is the value of the Macklemore Theory?

What happens to those afflicted with the Macklemore Theory after they have completed all four stages?

No one man (or two jackass bloggers) can say for sure, but a few possibilities can ensue, none of which are mutually exclusive. First, we know from the fate of disco that there’s always the kitsch graveyard, coupled with a later resurgence in popular culture after the phenomenon original detractors fade away or think they’ve won. Second, such icons are repurposed by the next generation of hipsters, allowing them to claim that something we currently think of as lame or overplayed (the discography of Pitbull or the 50 Shades series) is actually an underappreciated stroke of genius. Last, there’s always the possibility of what we call the Amelia Earhart Effect, in which the icon disappears from the national imagination with little fanfare, although a retrospective resurfaces every couple of years for shits and giggles.