Saturday 4 May 2013

A critical deconstruction of the song "Thrift Shop"

I'm gonna pop some tags
Only got twenty dollars in my pocket
I - I - I'm hunting, looking for a come-up
This is fucking awesome

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past year, you've probably heard the song "Thrift Shop" by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. In this post we ask: are the artists promoting Tight Fist principles or simply making fun of frugality?

Upon a first listen, the answer isn't totally clear. The song is all about shopping around for deals and getting bargains, which is generally positive. But it also promotes unnecessary consumption, and could be interpreted as trying to score humor points on being poor. (The latter criticism can be squarely aimed at the TV show "Two Broke Girls", which simply sucks and deserves no deconstruction.)

As have written here, a common pitfall is for people to be tricked into purchasing things they don't need in the name of a discount. It would certainly be difficult to justify Macklemore's "need" to purchase some of the items he mentions:

They had a broken keyboard, I bought a broken keyboard
I bought a skeet blanket, then I bought a kneeboard

The song also explains that Macklemore wants to look great, and cares heavily about how he is perceived by others. It would be easy to accuse him of Kanye-esque self-doubt, compensated by consumption:

Nah, walk up to the club like, "What up? I got a big cock!"
I'm so pumped about some shit from the thrift shop

Under this interpretation, Macklemore wants to look as good as he can but is simply constrained by resources and is taking some humor out of his poor circumstance.

They key lies in analyzing the counter-factual: if Macklemore had more than $20 in his pocket, would he still shop at the thrift shop? Fortunately, the second verse provides some insight:

They be like, "Oh, that Gucci - that's hella tight."
I'm like, "Yo - that's fifty dollars for a T-shirt."
Limited edition, let's do some simple addition
Fifty dollars for a T-shirt - that's just some ignorant bitch (shit)
I call that getting swindled and pimped (shit)
I call that getting tricked by a business

I'd say this proves that Macklemore's love of his thrift shop finds is genuine, and that he'll continue to rock his "flannel zebra jammies" once he has more income (which he definitely does now that "Thift Shop" became a runaway hit).

Overall, the conclusion is that although it does promote a bit of overconsumption, "Thift Shop" is mostly consistent with Tight Fist principles, and actually might have the ability to influence some young minds. And for those young minds still worried about the costs of a Tight Fist lifestye, don't forget this gem of wisdom:

Peep game, come take a look through my telescope
Tryna get girls from a brand? Man you hella won't