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AMAs: Macklemore reaches for big issue on new song ‘Kevin,’ but falls short

Macklemore, Leon Bridges

Macklemore, left, and Leon Bridges perform at the American Music Awards at the Microsoft Theater on Sunday.

(Matt Sayles/Invision/Associated Press)

With 2012’s “Thrift Shop,” a fur-clad Seattle rapper known as Macklemore and his partner Ryan Lewis rocketed to Grammy glory in a celebration of recycled fashion.

But as Macklemore and Ryan Lewis showed with the timely same-sex marriage-supporting anthem “Same Love,” the duo carried in its lyrics a vein of social consciousness, and that’s the well they drew from with the new song “Kevin,” which presumably comes from a still-untitled follow-up album.

The song carries all the signifiers of a capital-I important message track (complete with gospel choir and stormy background visuals) and features a plaintive chorus from R&B throwback artist Leon Bridges. While Bridges can soar on his breakout debut, “Coming Home,” here his contributions remained grounded with a dreary chorus that included a clumsy plea toward an over-prescribing doctor, “put down the pen and look in my eyes.”

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His scruffy fur coat set aside for a sharply tailored suit, Macklemore reached for earnest outrage with “Kevin,” even recalling Eminem’s breathless flow in rattling off pill brands before building to the heavy-handed question, “Now America, is it really worth it?” There are songs where addressing the country at large feels natural, but this didn’t feel like one of them.

Macklemore deserves credit for again trying to address a real issue through music -- it’s not something that happens often in 2015. But capturing that issue in a way that’s also interesting to hear is the real challenge.

Want to read more 140-characters at a time? Follow me @chrisbarton.

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