Unless you just crash landed your spaceship you’ve no doubt heard what happened at the Grammy’s with Kanye West and Beck. Kanye stormed the stage after Beck picked up Album of the Year, presumably in protest of Beck’s win. Beck was up against Kanye’s friend (and woman he is obviously secretly in love with) Beyonce, who Kanye believed should win every award ever. It was six years ago that Kanye showed the world the depths of his douchebaggery when he did this very same thing to Taylor Swift at the 2009 Music Video Awards. Just as she was about to give her acceptance speech, Kanye grabbed the mike and spouted off about how Beyonce’s video was way better. A dick move that generated so much outrage even the president called him a jackass. Kanye believed so strongly Beyonce should have won; it was a grave injustice that she didn’t. He wanted the world to know the mistake it was making. Beck’s only mistaken, in this case, was being in the same category as his girl, Beyonce.
When Kanye first jumped on stage at the Grammys, people hoped he was making fun of himself. People wanted to believe Kanye West was capable of the humility it takes to poke fun at one’s self. Soon enough, he set the record straight in an interview with Ryan Seacrest that Beck’s win was “disrespectful to inspiration.â€ He failed to mention that he is secretly in love with Beyonce and is trying to impress her with assbackward attempts at chivalry.
Was what Kanye did the absolutely height of asshole-edness? Yes. Is he mistaken about the world wanting his opinion on the choices of the herpes-sore riddled, crusty billionaires that make up the Grammy’s Academy of voters? Dramatically so. Did Kanye bring awareness to a very talented and deserving artist? Yes, he absolutely did.
First of all, Beck is awesome. Sea Change is one of the best albums of all time. Morning Phase is intricate and complex and yet incredibly, wonderfully listenable. As soon as I saw that doofus rush the stage, I became excited for Beck. The hashtag #whoisbeck immediately blew up and people became interested in this skinny, wide-eyed, pasty, Scientologist (he absolutely is, look it up.) There is this saying in the biz that there is no such thing as bad publicity. And it’s true, if people are talking about you, even to say something negative, it’s net value is positive because it means you are relevant. That doesn’t mean all publicity is created equally. There is some decidedly choice publicity; being the victim of an self-obsessed rapper stepping on your big moment because of his own megalomania is Grade-A, grass fed, free-range publicity. Just ask Taylor Swift.
Since the 2009 VMAs, there has been an atmospheric shift in Taylor Swift’s image. Initially, Taylor Swift seemed like a spacy teenager with negligible talent who would not only sleep with, but give her heart away to, anyone famous enough. She annoyed people. Recently, Swift has emerged as America’s Sweetheart. What happened? Well, a lot of it has to do with her latest album, 1989, which has been pretty widely regarded as really a very good record. It’s catchy, fun, and a departure from her usual M.O of whining about whoever broke her heart that week. Swift’s song writing in 1989 is a mixture of a demonstrative maturity with moments of such painful self-awareness that its hard to not find impressive, even if you don’t like it. So while giving credit where credit is due, I find it hard to believe that this album would enjoy the success it has had Kanye not tipped the scales in favor of Swift all those years ago. After Kanye stepped on her moment and left her stunned and heartbroken on stage, it created a narrative of an injustice being done against a pretty white woman, complete with a villain. Let’s be real, America can’t get enough of that kind of thing. The public felt sorry for Swift: the wronged, the victimized. That incident did something that Swift was unable to do with her music: illicit wide-scale public empathy. You cannot buy publicity like that. If this had not happened mainstream audiences might not have been as receptive to the sea-change in Swift’s image. By the way, she’s all good with Kanye now.
Here’s the thing no one is admitting: Kanye acts out methodically and on purpose. While he gains nothing helping the careers of others, he does gain something when people talk about his behavior. And for the past week and a half it’s been impossible to avoid discussion of what Kanye did at the Grammys. What happened to Swift, and what’s happening to Beck, are side effects of more self-serving behaviors. That’s how polarizing and monumental Kanye’s influence is. Kanye does things that are in direct compliance with the kind of attention he wants. Kanye, if you are reading this, I am on to you-and I call shenanigans.
If you want definitive proof that that Kanye’s behavior is part of an act, check him out at the Saturday Night Live’s 40’s Anniversary Special where he participates in a Wayne’s World sketch. Hulu is a bunch of jerks who won’t let us embed this clip, so you’ll have to follow the link here.
Look at Kanye. He is smiling. Smiling at the joke about himself. He’s totally able to make fun of himself. Egomaniacs typically think everything they do is utterly necessary and highly important so they have no sense of humor about themselves. There have even been times where West dropped the act completely and was honest about his image. Here’s a quote from Kanye responding to South Park’s portrayal of him (which slammed and ridiculed him.) “South Park murdered me last night, and it’s pretty funny. It hurts my feelings, but what can you expect from South Park? I just wanna be a doper person, which starts with me not always telling people how dope I think I am…
…I need to just get past myself. Drop the bravado and just make dope product….As long as I act like a bitch, this type of shit will happen to me. … I’m not actually a huge douche. I’m sure the writers at South Park are really nice people in real life. Thanks for taking the time to draw my crew. That was pretty funny also.â€ He said that the creators of South Park were probably REALLY NICE PEOPLE even know they hurt his feelings. That doesn’t sound like the words of an true egomaniac. Here’s the issue: have you ever heard that quote? Or anything like it? Chances are no or rarely, and it’s because it’s not interesting to talk about. People don’t care when someone is decent or real.We, as a society, have taught this man how to be. We have conditioned him to respond to situations like a complete asshat because he gets rewarded with relevance and attention. He’s simply a businessman who knows his business.
Perhaps Kanye’s true genius is marketing, not rapping.