Macklemore’s “Gemini” contains both high and low points

Eric Nally’s screaming voice is bound to catch people off guard when they begin listening to Macklemore’s new solo album Gemini, which was released last Friday.

Nally’s chorus for the first song “Ain’t Gonna Die Tonight” invokes strong power, which he and the background choir infuse in the listener. The first verse only continues this intensity and invigoration, as Macklemore sings it with immense passion and intensity. The song displays a slower beat with hard-hitting vocals and signals a promising direction for Macklemore’s music.

The next song, “Glorious,” takes this a step further with Skylar Grey’s chorus, in which she makes a strong stance about starting again. Macklemore uses this song as a means of telling the world that he is ready to make his claim to the music industry, as his previous album This Unruly Mess I’ve Made was followed by a few underwhelming singles. He proves his point by including a pulse-pounding piano beat that is reminiscent of his big hit, “Can’t Hold Us.” This song is so upbeat that it might have been better if it was placed later in the album because there is a clear dive in its quality after this song.
A trailer for Gemini shows Macklemore talking with the rest of his crew, as he detailed his plans for this album.

“I want to come here every day with the blank slate, with the intention of just making something,” he said. “It could be dope. It could be garbage. We do a song a day. Next day, we start something completely different.”

While Gemini’s worst songs aren’t necessarily garbage, one can’t help but feel as if Macklemore failed to live up to his full potential. Perhaps if he had spent a little more time developing the songs’ caliber, the album quality could have been much higher. With that in mind, the album does at least improve following the drop in quality that occurred in This Unruly Mess I Made.

This rings true, as the two best songs are immediately followed by the worst, “Marmalade.” While the piano staccatos are a nice touch to the song, this is a return to the corny lyrics and an even worse chorus. Lil Yachty’s verse is fine, but the song is almost embarrassing to listen to.

Photo courtesy of Captured Tracks

Songs afterwards, such as “Levitate” and “Firebreather,” are not as bad, but they also fail to be memorable. Still, there are other songs that at least have one notable factor. “Willy Wonka” is another return to Macklemore rapping about whatever random topic comes to mind. However, he has also been known to rap lyrics incredibly fast, and this song has an impressive verse in which he displays this talent while being backed by a strange, yet suitable beat. “How to Play the Flute” has instrumentals that sound similar to that of Future’s “Mask Off” while a large part of “Zara” sounds like an upbeat version of Chance the Rapper’s “Juke Jam.”

Conversely, there are songs that could be great but are squandered by minor moments that can deter the listener from the song. Most of “Ten Million” is good. However, the autotuned chorus is irritating to listen to, and its frequency slowly removes any genuine likeability one would have when first listening to it. “Over It” has a nice chorus and set of verses. Unfortunately, most of these vocals are strangely mixed with violin instrumentals. It feels as if Macklemore was trying to fuse pop and classical music together, which resulted in a mismatched sound for the song.

While he can add unconventional ideas to rap songs with ease, Macklemore is also known for his quiet songs. “Intentions” and “Church” do not have much to offer apart from simple instrumentals and choruses by featured artists. “Miracle” provides a soothing guitar melody and interesting usage of outside audio. The best of the quiet songs, “Good Old Days,” begins with passionate vocals from Ke$ha that are complemented by a piano accompaniment. The song overall reaches the likes of “Same Love” because Macklemore succeeds in finding the right kind of energy needed for a quiet song while having genuine lyrics.

This valued characteristic is evident in the final song, “Excavate.” The hard-hitting beat and lyrics that look into Macklemore’s thoughts about the past and future are seamlessly integrated with his raw delivery. This is balanced out with Saint Claire’s soothing chorus about finding peace. The song ends with an outro that brings the album to a flowing close, both lyrically and musically.

Gemini’s tracklist order found an energized start that was never met again, despite the attempted gradual increase after the initial disappointment that was “Marmalade.” While it has its moments, such as the balance between a random idea and an unexpectedly appropriate beat in “Corner Store,” most of Gemini is just a passive listen with an inconsistent energy level. Overall, it proves that Macklemore has glimmers of originality, and the first two songs alone are some the best work he’s ever done. However, we may have to wait until he releases another album before we truly witness the “return of the Mack.”