We need to talk about Kanye

Kanye West performing in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Image via Wikipedia

Let’s quickly talk about Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, which has been deemed a Great Record, worthy of perfect scores and critical fawning.

It’s somewhat depressing in that regard, how much the obsession over MBDTF is like any other tired consumerist hand job. The reaction to it has effectively been a culture-wide exercise in giving head, where everyone gets off at once, and nobody worries about whether anyone was faking it, because of course they were.

And for the most part when that happens, we know that it’s bullshit. We can usually draw the line: on one side is maybe Ke$ha, and on the other, maybe Radiohead. But with Kanye it’s different. It’s not just lazy, bored, mechanical fucking to pass the time until something exciting happens. With Kanye, the boring is the exciting. With Kanye, life is porno.

Kanye is basically our Dirk Diggler, jerking himself off in some quiet back room while he waits to be called to the set, and where the only sound is his own voice reminding himself that he’s a big, bright, shining star. It doesn’t actually matter if what he’s making this time is a masterpiece; it just matters if it’s this week’s masterpiece: always another (long) succession of carefully constructed homages to his own pseudo-reality - an insular consumerist wasteland of abstracted and tiresome cultural memes, crushed together by an oppressive ego entertained by daydreams of materially-gifted grandeur, and weighed down by an overbearing sense of self-appointed gravitas.

And fueling his narcissistic sense of thrusting machismo-driven greatness are loving, wanking, fans, eager for the next episode to fill their heads, and who are soon nodding along en masse as he gives them exactly what they wanted every time just the way they wanted to see it, without any kind of challenge. More of the same, over and over and over again; a continual, memoryless, circling back for the newest Now. And it doesn’t matter that the rabbit hole that dives into Kanye’s Twisted Fantasy leads to a dead end, because the logo in front of you that slowly recycles itself in an endless loop and occasionally replays a Kanye Brand marketing slogan, ensures that you never know whether you’ve actually hit the wall. You’re lost in the void.

Then it’s all one big wank to the finish line where everyone gets theirs just as they like it: Kanye gets to believe he’s great, and we get to congratulate ourselves on recognizing the greatness that we each already decided he had because he told us earlier that he had it. In the end, though, there’s never any direct contact; we just carry on with our mutually-assisted fantasies. Kanye dives further and further into his perpetually static echo chamber, and we move on to the next star until he’s ready to perform again. We coexist, but the rule is no touching. Which might feel a little strange at first, but eventually it’s the norm, and then we can forget how to be bored, and we can happily believe instead that waiting for the next exciting thing is as simple as just waiting for the next thing - that is, that it will always be like it is with Kanye.

And while we wait we gradually convince ourselves that, because of a brief appearance of exactly what we expected in exactly the form we expected it, our culture as a whole is still vibrant and interesting and shiny and oh-so-new. Because the longer we tell ourselves that, the longer we get to pretend that our culture isn’t, in fact, a lumbering headache of post-postmodernist mutually-assured contempt, sitting silently at its own grave site, chipping the words We’ve Still Got It, Guys! onto the headstone.

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