No, you didn’t hit your head and wake up in 1994 — an independent artist has topped the Billboard Hot 100 for the first time in nearly 20 years, and for only the second time in history. Thanks to their brassy, bargain-hunting hit “Thrift Shop,” Seattle hip-hop duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis join ’90s folk-pop singer Lisa Loeb in the elusive club of artists who reached number one without a label.
Macklemore, born Ben Haggerty, has been recording music since the early 2000s, only began getting noticed this fall with the release of The Heist, his full-length debut album, recorded with production partner Ryan Lewis. Macklemore makes his strong feelings about big labels no secret on the album: In a song titled “Jimmy Iovine” — named for the chairman of Interscope-Geffen-A&M who helped make another white rapper, Eminem, famous — Macklemore takes down record contract politics with the unequivocal closing line, “I’d rather be a starving artist than succeed at getting f—-ed.” Geez, Mack, tell us how you really feel.
Lisa Loeb, on the other hand, was an unknown, unsigned singer-songwriter when she got her big break courtesy of actor Ethan Hawke, her friend and then-neighbor who helped get her song “Stay (I Missed You)” onto the soundtrack for Reality Bites, Hawke’s 1994 film co-starring Winona Ryder. Though the song’s Hawke-directed music video is now semi-iconic for its simple, one-take shot of Loeb singing in an empty apartment, it has nothing on the “Thrift Shop” video, which finds Macklemore at one point doing what is essentially parkour through a secondhand clothing store while decked out in outrageous outerwear. (Then again, Macklemore hasn’t been covered by Taylor Swift, so his legacy still has much to prove.)
It’s not all fun and games when it comes to popping tags, though. In a harsh critique, SPIN writer Brandon Soderberg claimed the song’s celebration of cheapness “stinks of privilege” and mischaracterizes rap music as excessively materialistic. Macklemore is probably too busy frolicking in onesie pajamas to respond to his haters.
The real question, of course, is: What is Lisa Loeb is up to these days? Since “Stay” launched her career, she’s released more than half a dozen albums, starred in a reality show about finding love (aptly titled Number 1 Single) and started a family. She’s about to release a new album, No Fairy Tale, early next month. As far as we know, though, the only hand-me-down onesies in Loeb’s life are the ones her young children are rocking.