The song at #38 on my list of 100 Best Songs of the 2010s is “Can’t Hold Us” by Seattle hip hop duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, featuring guest vocals by R&B singer Ray Dalton. On the heels of their worldwide smash hit “Thrift Shop” (which ranks at #89 on this list), the charismatic duo hit the jackpot again with “Can’t Hold Us”, although it took a while for the song to catch hold. The single was actually first released in August 2011, a full year before “Thrift Shop” (which instantly became their first big hit) but didn’t gain much traction or airplay until after the release of “Thrift Shop” and their debut album The Heist more than a year later. The song finally entered the Billboard Hot 100 in early 2013, and reached #1 that May.
“Can’t Hold Us” is a wonderful feel-good anthem of hope and perseverance that’s so joyously upbeat that I can’t help but get swept up in it’s euphoric celebratory vibe, wanting to jump up and down with glee! Macklemore freestyles the lyrics about overcoming naysayers and fighting onward in the pursuit of his dreams with a flow that’s truly impressive: “Chasing dreams since I was fourteen with the four-track, bussing halfway cross that city with the backpack / Fat cat, crushing labels out here, nah, they can’t tell me nothing. / We give that to the people, spread it across the country.” Dalton sings the hook “Can we go back, this is the moment / Tonight is the night, we’ll fight ’til it’s over /So we put our hands up like the ceiling can’t hold us / Like the ceiling can’t hold us.”
Musically, the song features an exuberant array of instruments, including a fantastic piano line, horns, strings, tambourine, guitar and drums, all accompanied by bold handclapping, foot stomping, and a soaring gospel-like chorus that make for a truly uplifting and electrifying track. The video produced for the song is a mini saga, filmed in several locations around the globe.
And here’s a terrific live performance in November 2011 of the song at their legendary hometown radio station KEXP. I almost prefer this, as it allows us to more fully appreciate the song’s greatness, as well as Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ joyful energy.