‘Yeezus’ is rubbished by almost everyone – that’s the point. It’s very different to ‘The College Dropout, ‘Graduation’, but it is inseparable from them. Someone said it’s a bit like Stockholm syndrome, I thought that was cool. Kanye West is so gigantic and, in an odd way, supervisory. He’s been there long enough for us to feel a strange, unwarranted sense of attachment. I’m glad it’s all worked out for him.
I can’t hate West. If someone’s narcissistic and I don’t care then by God, something’s not right! I’m just not used to terrific music being this egotistical. ‘Yeezus’ charms people it oughtn’t and, if magnificently stirring music is going to be this intravenous all-of-a-sudden, I pray my Pearl Jam phase wasn’t for nothing.
Lou Reed said Kanye West doesn’t “think of music as a challenge”. I think he does. I think that, being as un-confused and un-despairing as he is, he’s a whole lot cleverer than anyone else at his end of the peculiarity spectrum. I think he hates almost every ‘Late Registration’ listener because, while they might write-off excellent music as being too avant-garde, they don’t misunderstand it. I think West can’t stand people misinterpreting his ‘pushed so far it’s toppled-over’ madcap normality for plain old straightforwardness. That’s why he did it, why he chose the screeching drill, washing machine thing – critics dig ‘Yeezus’ and pretty much no one else does, his ‘challenge’ acts as a filter he’s impudent enough to design, one that we’ll either fall for or begrudgingly respect. Now, when he says he doesn’t care about what people think, he’s only half lying.
It’s thrilling, I think, because it’s bizarre but nothing like madness. It’s the contrary: ‘Yeezus’ is an avant-garde, low-fi industrial paroxysm that, at its heart, is never counter-cultural. It’s so delightfully incongruous because it is curiously regular – ego, not mutinous snivel, is pushed as far as it can be. I’m scraping a bunch from what is only a facet I know, but it takes titanic self-esteem to coordinate lurches, as Kanye West does, across these sonic mountain ranges. Examples are good – how about that shadowy, palpitating bit as ‘New Slaves’ winds down. That’s a devastating cataclysm, a beautiful over-frazzling, and isn’t there some shimmering ‘808s & Heartbreak’ in there? Half the time I’m listening to music I’m after a brilliance that tells me at least something’s in safe hands. If creative deterioration can be put on hold for 6 albums then I’ll swap pyrrhic reassurance for actual optimism. He bolts some glistening autotune onto a grinding opera thing but gets it right because, as Broadway guys (probably don’t) say, he has got it.
‘Yeezus’ was always going to be funny, it’s called Yeezus, for God’s sake. But we’re sophisticated enough to hold two incompatible opinions, and that I can lionise Kanye West whilst ironically wearing a pair of bright yellow Shutter Shades says a tonne about celebrity.