Thaddeus Russell on Reason.com has some harsh criticism for the music of Lorde and Macklemore due to the supposed attack of these artists on what he calls the “pleasures of the poor.” Russell makes a huge leap by equating the message of songs like “Royals” and “Thrift Shop” to telling poor people that they shouldn’t desire to increase their material wealth or enjoy access to luxuries.

Russell goes on to specifically criticize Macklemore for making the point that designer labels shouldn’t matter so much. Since when are designer labels a pleasure of the poor, anyway? If the poor are wearing designer labels it is probably due to the cultural perception that they are important as some type of status symbol.

What these artists really do for the poor and others who don’t lead a life of luxury is say, “Hey, not being rich is ok, too.” There is nothing wrong with not giving a crap about “bling” or with questioning the high value that is sometimes placed on these things in society. These artists promote cultural acceptance of thrift and simplicity, rather than conformity to the excesses of unnecessary debt and impulse spending. That is a good thing for the poor who often feel pressure to own certain things just so they are not stigmatized in society.

Russell makes the common libertarian mistake of presuming that promoting a lifestyle that is not based on the accumulation of stuff is fundamentally at odds with free markets. Supporting free markets doesn’t have to equate to supporting materialism or excessive consumerism.

I am not saying there is anything wrong with having stuff if you want it, but there is nothing wrong with not having stuff, either, especially when you can’t afford it or you think there are more valuable things to seek. Personally, I think designer labels are a waste of money, but if that matters to you, go ahead and pay $50 dollars for your T-Shirt. Just don’t pretend that doing so or promoting it in music has anything to do with improving the lives of the poor.

Macklemore and Lorde are popular, not because of some Progressive conspiracy, but because their music is actually relatable to the people who listen to it. After all, most of us will never make enough money to have “jet planes” or “diamonds on our timepiece.” Why should we all spend our lives wishing we could and only listening to music about that lifestyle? There’s nothing wrong with music about the enjoyment of luxury, but it’s really nice to hear music about our actual lifestyle too. Liberty means being free to pursue your own values, whatever they are, but I’m with Lorde. That kind of luxe ain’t for me.

  • Boy do I feel old.

    Having been around for over half a century I can state categorically that not everyone is spellbound by labels.

    In fact from an early age I refused to wear anything with a logo on it. Take that li’l alligator!

    I also held a disdain for anything “fake.” Real gold and silver are all I’ve ever owned. Plating is akin to “fake” to my mind.

    Pop Culture is just that. Time will determine what is worth valuing over the long haul. The “stars” of today are the has-beens of tomorrow.

    Who were the stars of 2002? I don’t have a clue and neither do you unless it matters to you professionally. Does it?

    The Boot-Strap Expat
    http://7thpillar.wordpress.com/

    • Gay_for_Jesus

      Hey Kenny Powers I just wanted to say I’m a really big fan of your show.

    • Brittney Wheeler

      This whole time I thought that was a designer label on the hat in your picture! Just kidding. 🙂 I don’t follow pop culture closely. I don’t care what the stars are wearing, who they’re dating, or whatever else they do in their personal lives. I do love music, though, and I think the work of Macklemore and Lorde really stands out among other popular artists. I think the content is a refreshing change from what we usually hear in the top 40.

      • Joe Westphal

        I love Lorde too, she’s awesome. The complete opposite of Miley Cyrus.

  • When I saw the title talking about in defense of macklemore I thought it was going to be taking an opposing viewpoint to the issues of appropriation and such with his music. This was a completely unexpected perspective on the artist, both this post and the one you seem to be responding too.

  • Gay_for_Jesus

    It’s really a pleasure reading about pampered rich people being condescending to other pampered rich people about their pampered rich people pleasures.

    • Brittney Wheeler

      It was not my intention to be condescending to anyone.