Macklemore & Ryan Lewis took the music industry by storm with their 2013 independent release, “The Heist,” and fans have clamored for a follow-up album ever since. Macklemore himself promised a 2015 release by answering a seemingly disgruntled Twitter user’s call for new music.
We can rest assured an album is on the way, yet recent activity from Macklemore & Ryan Lewis proved something else was on their minds. In a moment of personal expression, they released “Growing Up (Sloane’s Song)” featuring Ed Sheeran. It’s not a single for an upcoming album, per se, but any time this duo releases something, it’s worth our attention.
Why the Gospel According to Macklemore?
Before they emerged into mainstream attention, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis released multiple albums, singles, and one-off projects. Undeniably, this duo loves to create—and not just mindless entertainment or ambiguous art. Macklemore’s lyrics provide rich, heartfelt commentary on his personal struggles with addiction, drug culture, social issues, consumerism, hard work, relationships, community, and everything in between.
Regardless of where your beliefs line up, Macklemore is a man who speaks boldly about his personal life and longings, many of which have a sincere spiritual bent. He may or may not identify as a Christian or portray a specific stream of Christian tradition, but there are still things we can learn from and appreciate about his artistry, vulnerability, and willingness to speak boldly about personal matters, including spirituality.
If all truth is God’s truth, then we can celebrate it wherever we find it, no matter whose lyrics or expression is the vehicle.
In that vein, I wrote a series of blog articles called The Gospel According to Macklemore to explore the lyrics of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis through the lens of faith in general and Jesus in specific.
The Gospel According to Macklemore: Growing Up (Sloane’s Song)
“Growing Up” Is Macklemore’s newest foray into a season of life with which he’s only just becoming familiar. Along with a free download of the song, Ben Haggerty (Macklemore’s real name) posted a painfully honest letter about the mental and emotional (and spiritual?) place he was in during the time he realized he was going to be a father.
Here are a few shadows of truth worth noting:
1. Fear leads to deeper trust in that which is beyond yourself.
“They say boys don’t cry
But your dad has shed a lot of tears
They say I should be a strong man
But baby, I’m still filled with fear
Sometimes I don’t know who I am
Sometimes I question why I’m here
I just wanna be a good dad
Will I be? I have no idea.”
Macklemore wrote about “praying to a god or spirit I hadn’t talked to in months” when he came to grips with the fact that he would be a father even if he wasn’t ready or comfortable. The very act of reaching out for help is the beginning of our trust in something bigger than ourselves. Yet that’s just the kind of state in which God finds so many of us—vulnerable, but expectant. God welcomes our honest, desperate prayers in the moments of our confusion or hopelessness (Psalm 142). He never expects us to get ourselves together before we talk to him.
2. The biggest transitions we face require us to change.
As soon as he realized he would be a father, responsible for another human life, Macklemore understood that a new season required a new approach, regardless of the unknowns and the doubts he had. And such challenges are what grow our endurance and faith (James 1:2-4).
Facing change in our lives requires a change in us. (tweet that)
3. Community provides invaluable connections.
“Get back to community that raised you up…
Watch the sun set with best friends from a rooftop.”
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are no strangers to the power of connections, belonging to a tribe that knows and supports each other. [See it in their song, The Town.] God’s heart beats for people in relationships to him and to each other (John 13:34).
4. Be less concerned about fulfilling expectations and more concerned about doing what matters.
“You put the work in, don’t worry about the praise, my love
Don’t try to change the world, find something that you love
And do it every day
Do that for the rest of your life
And eventually, the world will change.”
You can’t please everybody, but you can be true to yourself and true to God. He’s the one who changes people around us. We each have something to contribute (1 Corinthians 12:4-6). Seeing our work as a channel through which to point to God’s values of beauty, truth, justice, and the like matters if we want to provide the best influence within society.
5. There’s immense power in the presence of a parent.
“I’m gonna be there for your first breath
I don’t know if I’ll be there for your first step
I can promise you that I’ll try to work less
But the tour’s routed, and I got this album
Put in so many hours, and I just want the outcome
To be something that I can look back and I can be proud of
Don’t wanna be a dad that’s living in FaceTime
But I’ve got a world to sing to and you at the same time.”
Macklemore may be uncomfortable with the new territory that parenthood brings, but he knows there’s something special and profound about an involved, loving, supportive parent. Compared to work, wealth, fame, and life’s other accomplishments, he’s convinced his daughter is far more precious in the big scheme of things.
6. Don’t be afraid of risks and trying new things.
“Wear a helmet, don’t be stupid, jaywalk, but look before you do it
If it snows, go outside, build a jump, get some help
Get a sled, thrash the hill with your friends, ’til it melts
Go to festivals, camp, fall in love and dance
You’re only young once, my loved one, this is your chance
Take risks, cause life moves so fast
You’re only young once, my loved one, this is your chance.”
Macklemore’s life is a manifesto of innovation, hustle, and being willing to fail forward. From practical, daily choices to big ones that make significant marks on a person’s life, he provides his daughter with plenty of examples of taking calculated risks that offer greater rewards (Proverbs 22:6, Luke 14:28).
“Half of it is advice about growing up. The other half is trying to figure out how to grow up myself.” – Macklemore
7. Learn how to date.
“Take your girl to the prom
But don’t get too drunk hanging out the limo
Slow dance with your woman in your arms
Sneak her in after but boy, you better tiptoe.”
There’s certainly merit to parents giving children the freedom to date and figure out how they’re going to navigate romantic relationships. However, excessive drinking and sexual escapades often cause more emotional and relational damage than healthy growth aided by self-control (Proverbs 20:1, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5).
8. “Tell the truth, regardless of the consequence.”
A bold lesson in itself (Ephesians 4:25).
9. Explore spirituality.
“Don’t wake your mom up, do yoga, learn ’bout karma
Find God, but leave the dogma
The quickest way to happiness? Learning to be selfless
Ask more questions, talk about yourself less.”
While he makes no mention of Jesus in “Growing Up,” Macklemore does draw distinction to something he’s addressed before—the difference between the divine and the merely religious. I don’t think it’s by accident that he praises selflessness in the lines immediately following an encouragement to search for God. It is Jesus, fully God and fully man, who taught and lived out the profound truth that joy comes through selflessness, and love expressed by serving makes all the difference (John 15:12-14, Philippians 2:1-11).
All the best to Ben and Tricia as they raise their daughter, Sloane. Compared to his earliest lyrics and recordings, it’s certainly safe to say Macklemore has done his own growing up.
What’s one thing you’ve noticed about Macklemore’s lyrics in “Growing Up”? Leave your answer in the comments below.
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