On Sept. 26, Macklemore released “Gemini”, an eclectic mix of tracks that are the artist’s first release since a break with long time producer Ryan Lewis.
Macklemore has a history of self-production beginning back in 2000 with a mixtape titled “Open Your Eyes”. After that he released his first studio album in 2005, “The Language of My World”.
Most fans know Macklemore from his meteoric rise with co-creator Ryan Lewis, a partnership in 2009 with the pair’s EP “The Vs. EP”.
“Gemini” is in many ways a distillation of the pair’s work more than a reduction back to his purely solo work. It’s obvious that Macklemore learned more about his style and production methods that have bled into the new album.
That’s apparent from the first track, “Ain’t Gonna Die Tonight”. Belting lyrics come from featured artist Eric Nally, soon joined by a blasting horn and a lifting chorus of choir vocals. Children’s chanting mixes in with a popping kick drum to provide the backdrop of Macklemore’s rap. The song is saccharine, saturated in boisterous, youthful fervor, the same fervor that turns listeners onto (or off of) Broadway tunes and sincere indie artists.
That sincerity is a running theme throughout the album. Whether reflecting on religion, relationships, lifestyles, or decisions Macklemore brings a certain veneer of authenticity to his sound and lyricism through earnestness.
The featuring of artists is something that shouldn’t be overlooked, every single track on the album, save for “Ten Million”, sees a new artist joining Macklemore. A majority of these artists are relative unknowns, save for a few front of the box names like Kesha, Lil Yachty and Skylar Grey. The unknowns are good though, if you like their vocal styles as you listen through “Gemini”, don’t neglect them.
The songs on the album are broken into thematic blocks for the most part.
“Ain’t Gonna Die Tonight”, “Glorious”, “Marmalade” and “Willy Wonka” lead off the hour-long album with a light atmosphere that at points alludes to the albums greater themes of purpose and value. Each one is up tempo and carries a boisterous quality that harkens back to the hits of past albums.
The next four, “Intentions”, “Good Old Days”, “Levitate” and “Firebreather”, are a quick dip and revival to the tempo of the album. The first two deal with wrestling with nostalgia, and present the idea that while living may seem disappointing at the time as time passes it sweetens. The next two are livelier, specific genres of party anthems. That’s what all four of these tracks carry amongst themselves, each is a commitment to a unique style of music. With heavier basslines and grooves that speak to the tradition of funk, these blend Macklemore’s lyricizing with the featured artists sound.
“How to Play the Flute”, “Ten Million”, “Over It” and “Zara” all deal with relationships, tying in the idea of how relating with significant others might play into the established questions from the last set of songs. The tempo of these songs starts high, continuing from “Firebreather”, and drifts down, leading to the culmination of the album.
“Corner Store”, “Miracle”, “Church” and “Excavate” draw in Macklemore’s ideas to as close a singular point as he manages in the album. “Corner Store” will be a hit, it has the most technically impressive rapping thanks to featured artist Dave B and Travis Thompson. It also is the last high note, celebrating the things Macklemore loves, the ‘good old days’ of relaxation and hedonistic revelry.
The last three songs are where Macklemore reckons with this sort of revelry. He takes on his approach to religion that has been teased in the album since “Glorious”. All three are slower, more thoughtful, and more melodically. They see Macklemore talking instead of yelling, reserved, and introspective.
The trio draws into focus the most important song on the album, “Intention”. “Intention” is a blueprint for the themes and styles of the album, while Macklemore wants one thing idealistically, he finds himself doing something else practically. That sort of dissonance is a defining style of his, and something that makes the artist’s style relatable to his contemporaries.
“Gemini” is an album that is interesting to approach as an examination of typical culture. It provides a number of unique and interesting songs, and plenty of heart. A few of the tracks will hold out as fan favorites and see continued radio play, but not the important ones. The important ones must be taken in with the whole product for them to stick.