Macklemore and Ryan Lewis met in 2006 but for two years Lewis worked only as the rapper’s photographer. It was in 2008 that he would pick up the production duties that led to the formation of the duo. Can’t Hold Us was originally released in 2011 as the duo’s second single, but topped the charts only two years later due to a resurgence in sales caused by the success of the fourth single, Thrift Shop. Both songs are off their yet to be followed album, The Heist.
Digital Spy praised the song’s production, calling the beat “more vibrant than Rio de Janeiro’s finest carnival floats”. Singer Ray Dalton sings the chorus which Allmusic felt could’ve been “ripped straight out of will.i.am‘s playbook” due to its infectious and uplifting character. The Edge felt Can’t Hold Us simply is “what every catchy hip hop song should be”.
The shooting of the song’s video took 3 months and was done in 2 continents and 16 different shoots. It won MTV’s Video Music Awards for the Best Hip-Hop Video and it was came at number 8 in a top made by Rolling Stone with 2013’s Best Music Videos. The magazine called it “an epic video journey to end all epic video journeys” while also noting that it “featured more different kinds of weather than any other video this year”.
Can’t Hold Us spent 5 consecutive weeks at number one in Billboard Top 100 before being dethroned by Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines (featuring Pharrell and T.I.).