I've been thinking a lot about Kanye West. I recently started listening to his music, really listening, and have noticed what many already have: He's actually that good. It pains me to admit this, because I'm so fundamentally against his type. To my core, the repulsively-arrogant alpha-male has always posed a problem. Being rather sensitive, I've always found men like this (the gym teacher, the aggressively masculine neighbour, Dennis Leary) to be altogether too much.
With an ego somewhere between Paris Hilton and Hitler, Kanye West has dominated the music scene for the last several years. He's been known to make obnoxious acceptance speeches at major awards telecasts (claiming the Grammy® stage as his home in February) and has even compared himself to Jesus Christ. Gross, right?
Entertainment Weekly recently gave his blockbuster new tour a very favourable review. Sure, they called him out on his self-proclaimed arrogance and showboating, but that's just good journalism. In response to this glowing B+ review, Kanye posted an angry rebuttal on his blog asking why, "if they weren't fans of his" would they even bother reviewing the show? He continued, "You'll never gain credibility at this rate. You're fucking trash! I make art. You can't rate this. I'm a real person. I'm not a pop star. I don't care about anything but making great art. Never come to one of my shows ever again, you're not invited and if you see me . . . BOW!! This is not pop, it's pop art!"
Pardon me, young man? How is it that a person with such universal traits of the storybook poor sport - someone no one likes - can be such a superstar? Kanye managed what seemed impossible - He made Eminem look humble like the Dalai Lama. He wasn't satisfied with a B+? Grade-grubbers are the worst kind of people, everyone knows that! Why are people charmed by it?
Is it because he actually has the talent to back it up? Are the masses smarter than I thought? Pop music tells us nothing much, mostly to stand under my umbrella or to touch my body - so in the heaps of garbage (while fun and frothy for summertime!) Kanye does rise above. His songs are candid and honest, fascinating four minute exposés of his peers in the music industry or odes to his Mama and his upbringing. His success gives me a newfound respect for the average music consumer - In a world where artists are controlled and constructed from the moment they're plucked off a Bahamian island, it's refreshing to see something close to reality, however unattractive. Kanye and others like Amy Winehouse are brutally honest and they lay it all on the line, which might be something. The idea that we're drawn to truth as well as fiction sets my mind at ease.
But the conflict remains. I try to keep my shoulders from moving, try to quell my sing-along tendencies. But I can't. Almost every single track on his newest album (Graduation) is fantastic the way you wish all music could be. Sometimes the lyrics make you cringe, anger rises up at the brazen lack of humility, but . . . it is that good.