Macklemore has burst onto the music scene with a popular album, a hot 100 and double platinum single with Thrift shop. His album is popular partially because of the messages within. Pro marriage equality, avoiding peer-pressure, and most evidently: Anti-commercialism. He has several songs that speak about being self-confident and not relying on brands for your identity and self-worth.
And now, one of his most feverent anthems against all of the sheep-like following of brands and the catching up of your self-worth with what you buy or wear… is being used by the NBA as a commercial for their All-Star Game.
The song is called Wing$. Yes, with the dollar sign. The messages in his original, unaltered song are very clear; people are buying things from companies, Nike in particular, that they don’t necessarily need, in the mistaken thought that these products will significantly improve their life, performance, and acceptance.
The song speaks of people being shot and killed for their popular Nike shoes. It says that he was mistaken to follow what Phil Knight said. He speaks of the evils of tying your self worth to what you buy. He makes fun of himself for truly believing that a particular brand of shoes would make him play better or be popular.
The video is dark. It is somber. It shows sad people decked out in Nike gear. Garages stacked to the roof with boxes of Nike shoes.
The lead image on this article shows a piece from the video that pictures people lining up in front of the Nike Store, heads down while they play on their phones. Waiting to buy the latest overpriced goods being released from the company that held their identities in check.
Watch the full video and listen to the lyrics here:
Got the idea? Macklemore thinks people are foolish to link their self-worth to the products they buy. They wont make you jump higher, they don’t make you cool. The chorus, sung by children, even says; “I bought these dreams… that all fall down.”
OK, so now, apparently, the NBA money was enough that they’ve convinced him to appear in an NBA All-Star Game commercial. The song is an edit of his original that takes out all of the negatives, the lessons, and the balance to the message of the song. The video is of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, in the All-Star jerseys, dancing and rapping along. It is in a gym with stained glass windows, a sort of combination of a church and a court.
Taking out the negatives leaves the song sounding like it is the ultimate sneakerhead theme song. It talks about how getting new shoes made him cool. It says he (as a kid) can now touch the net. He says he sticks his tongue out, as the video shows a picture of Jordan. He says he’s an individual, but he’s part of a movement. NBA stars’ highlights roll in between shots of Macklemore.
Awkward silences now exist in the song where the lyrics addressing the foolishness of believing the brand’s promises are turned instrumental. “And then my friend Carlos’ brother got murdered for his fours, whoa” is accompanied in the music with a very somber slowing and a down beat. Which is intact in the NBA’s version, just absent the lyrics. But very obviously absent. Very strange.
Also included in the NBA verison is the kid’s chorus. Not pictured in the original version, they are here for the NBA; a Rainbow Coalition of different races, sexes, and nationalities, all wearing the All-Star Logo tshirt.
The most unfathomable part is that the chorus is sung in its entirety. Including the lesson of the original song; “Stitch my wings, And pull the strings, I bought these dreams… That all fall down”
Watch the NBA’s version here:
I realize this is slightly off of our normal fare. But I believe it fits. Nothing in sport is as commercial as All Star games. Its all about the sales, of tickets, of specialty jerseys, or commercials. It doesn’t even matter for the season standings, its all marketing. This is both marketing and ANTI marketing…. being transformed into marketing.
I also know at this is far from being the first song appropriated by a company or a sports league for their own uses. It has happened hundreds of times. Often, they take a meaningful song, and strip the power, or steal it for their own message. (See Eminem’s 8 Mile and Chrysler.)
But never, in my recollection has it been a song so specifically against a brand, so directly anti-commercialism, so exactly the opposite of what the song ends up glorifying. And so poorly remixed.
One wonders, is this a piece of evil genius by Macklemore? Intentionally selling this particular song, complete with lengthy pauses, so people will look up his complete song and hear his true lesson against commercialism?
Or, is he simply selling out?
I prefer to think the former. I think this was intentional on his part. Maybe not his idea originally, but I think when they came to him, asking to use the song, the lightbulb went off and he changed the song in such a strange and awkward way that people couldn’t help but go find his original and get his lesson.
I wonder what the NBA was thinking. Perhaps they were thinking nothing, and a young intern brought up the song as a prank, a joke, just to see if i would slide through. I can’t imagine a suit even knowing who Macklemore is.
Seems very confusing that they wouldn’t find out more before buying the song. Or, perhaps it is all part of the “all press is good press” syndrome.
Personally, I think it was an idiotic move. For the NBA and a genius one for Macklemore. I love Macklemore’s messages and I hope this gets them more listens.
Just not by any NBA executives.