This is taken from The Heist, the largely extraordinary first full length album by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. Years ago, on Band Aid, Bono was described as singing like he’d just been released from prison. Macklemore raps the same way, especially this, a tribute to legendary sports broadcaster Dave Niehaus that had such an impact when it was first played in Seattle, the station had calls from Mariners fans who pulled over to the side of the road to listen.
I’ve never played, or seen, a full game of baseball but I love this. It’s quietly, politely, one of the oddest rap numbers I’ve ever heard. Firstly, it’s about baseball. Secondly it’s about Dave Niehaus. Thirdly, it’s about Macklemore’s childhood and fourthly? Fourthly it’s about America. Or rather, an idea which is very important to America.
Listen to that piano line under ‘We had just made history.’ There’s a lump in my throat just writing about it. It’s perfect, image, lyric and music combining to hit you not with aggression or posturing, but joy. The message is obvious;
Everyone gave up on these guys.
They made it anyway.
So can you.
‘My Oh My’ is about the passionate love America, one of the original underdogs, still has for the underdog ideal; coming from behind, winning against the odds, making something of yourself. It’s an idea Macklemore embodies. This is a man who dragged himself through rehab not once but twice and, instead of covering it up or putting it behind him, nails his past to the table and dissects it so he, and we, can learn from it.
It’s an extraordinary song, one that wraps the romance of the underdog, and the basic, cheerful assertiveness that’s one of the best aspects of America’s national character in childhood reminiscences, Macklemore’s trademark humour (Look at how happy he looks in the video) and one of the best pieces of production Ryan Lewis has ever done. But where it really shines is the third verse. Listen to how it builds and builds and BUILDS, that quiet, slightly mournful horn line that’s somehow proud and tired and mischievous all at once, underscoring Macklemore throwing himself harder and harder at the words. There’s one line in particular that hits me right between the eyes;
And compete against the fear that is in me that’s my only barrier and I swear I’m going to break that
That’s the moment where the two men tie it all together; baseball, Seattle, the underdog, the possibly celestial voice of Dave Niehaus, their impossibly unlikely careers, success, failure and everything in between. It’s a mission statement and an ideal, a life line and a target all at once. It’s amazing, an extraordinary piece of music near the end of an extraordinary album and one which, despite never having been to a baseball game, means a huge amount to me. The sheer love for what he’s doing, what Dave Niehaus’ voice means to him, for the story of his life wrapped around the story of what was, for a while, a magnificently dreadful baseball team all comes belting out of him. It’s a song about heroes, written by a man who can’t quite see that his actions are themselves heroic. It’s also your Sunday moment of Zen.