Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Why Kanye West is the pop star of the year

Pop star of the year? Ladies and gentlemen, give it up one more time for Kanye West. Before we hand over the gong and give Yeezy the microphone for a speech which will undoubtedly go on for some time, time …

Fri, Dec 17, 2010, 10:00

   

Pop star of the year? Ladies and gentlemen, give it up one more time for Kanye West.

Before we hand over the gong and give Yeezy the microphone for a speech which will undoubtedly go on for some time, time for a rewind.

Yes, we know you’ve read the Top 10 album lists the other week and yes, we know you’re fuming because we didn’t include Emeralds or Darkstar or Tinie Tempah or Adebisi Shank, but hold tight, hold your fire. Time for a dollop of context and some Venn diagrams to explain how we got here.

2010 was the year when pop finally digested what happened when it ate itself a while back. 2010 was a year when joining the dots between pop’s various staging posts was like embarking on a game of Twister. In 2010, keeping track of where pop was coming from and going to was nearly impossible to do. In 2010, you listened to music. It didn’t matter if it was hip-hop or alternative or dubstep or pop or indie – it was music. And there was lots of it.

Yet the doom and gloom merchants railed on and on about the death of the music industry. Sales of recorded music are down and fans aren’t too happy about shelling out for over-priced concert tickets. Every new technological innovation chips another shard from the infrastructure.

But such doom and gloom has had no bearing on those who hear wild sounds in their head that they want to get out to the world. Yes, of course, it may have an effect on the long-term who, what, why, where, when and how of the process, but it doesn’t stop the music.

At every turn, you found musicians, producers and singers crafting tracks which took everything we knew from the past, rejigged the component parts and brewed up something new. You could call it po-mo, but let’s leave that to the Barthes’ groupies.

Into this wonderful ball of confusion strode Kanye West. Traditionalists may wonder why he left it until so late in the year to release the game-changing “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” album, but traditionalists probably weren’t paying attention to West’s G.O.O.D. Friday scheme. Every week from the summer on, West supplied clues to what he was doing in a studio in Hawaii. Once West began to hook us up with those tunes, all eyes were on him. The Twitter and Ustream feeds? Just promo gravy.

The album is big, bigger than Godzilla. I’m still finding new lines and hooks even after unpteen listens. Marshalling a larger cast than you’ll find on the stage of an average Broadway musical with impeccable aplomb, West takes the notion of a pop album to a new whole level. It’s not just in the imagination and ambition on show – it’s in how tunes like “All Of the Lights” and “Monster” are pitched and realised. He can do it. Time to listen to Yeezy.