It would be great if we could all ignore Kanye’s ‘Bound 2′ video.
But we can’t.
It’s taken me a while to get around to talking about the Nick Knight-directed mess of the video for ‘Bound 2′, debuted on Ellen’s talk show last week. That’s probably because I’m still trying to digest what a load of rubbish it is. It’s head-shakingly bad, and as a Kanye fan, makes me wish it just never happened. But West’s lust for celebrity is in danger of clouding his desire to create quality music. I hope he checks himself.
West’s aversion and obsession with celebrity is just one of the thousands of contradictions he exhibits as a musician. On ‘New Slaves’, he raps, “I’ll move my family out the country / So you can’t see where I stay / So go and grab the reporters / So I can smash their recorders” yet simultaneously appears on Keeping Up With The Kardashians mumbling in a way that is more Ozzy than Kourtney. He would be better off borrowing one of Jay-Z’s lyrics from their duet on ‘Otis’: “Photo shoot fresh, looking like wealth / I’m ’bout to call the paparazzi on myself.” He seems fiercely protective of his partner, yet rents a baseball park to propose.
West also takes every opportunity possible to reaffirm his heterosexuality, even if this involves something as ludicrous as releasing a music video of him writhing around a motorbike with the mother of his child. We get it dude. You like clothes and also women. That’s not a contradiction unless you consider it to be one.
With ‘Bound 2′, West is straying into Gaga territory, the territory where no one around says “that’s shit”. Yet Gaga has played the fact that ARTPOP isn’t great quite well. The album won’t be a hit, but even though she’s now left a little rudderless without her longtime manager, her interview with Howard Stern worked because she controlled the parameters of it, was honest in all the right places, and is rewriting her history as an edgy artist as opposed to a fun pop star.
Still, Kanye West comes across as someone with an urge to control. His BBC interview with Zane Lowe illustrated his frustration with being misinterpreted by the media, under-appreciated within the industry, and dismissed by the mainstream. Yet he surely fails to see that ‘celebrity’ exposure (and I mean ‘celebrity’ in the tabloid magazine, reality TV cesspit type stuff, not just ‘famous’) further erodes that control and ultimately takes it away. Becoming a tabloid celebrity – which West has done so willingly by appearing on Kris Jenner’s (the mother of the Kardashians) talk show and shoehorning his famous-for-being-famous fiancé into his music videos – is a decision that means you hand yourself over to the public. You can’t complain about invasions of privacy anymore, or about people making derisive remarks. Because you’re not just on the promo circuit anymore, you’re feeding the beast. You’re playing the game, and unfortunately, the rules are no longer yours.
The master of control in pop is of course Madonna. If Madonna was at her peak today, would she be like Kanye, popping up in reality TV shows and engaging in slightly maniacal publicity stunts? Probably not. Madonna invented her own slice of reality TV with ‘In Bed With Madonna’ / ‘Truth Or Dare’, opening up her life and relationships and fame only in the way she wanted to, offering the illusion of insight and pulling back the curtain herself, much in the same way Katy Perry did in her rather vanilla ‘Part Of Me’ documentary. Of course Madonna courted controversy, massively so, but she did it on her own terms. But Madonna never became a laughing stock, even when her latest albums didn’t do the business.
What the video ‘Bound 2′ shows is that Kanye has jumped the celebrity shark in embarrassing fashion. ‘Yeezus’ can only be viewed as a great piece of work if it’s not commodified in a way that West has now decided to do. He gave out about it not getting radio play – and seemed not to care, because he knew it wouldn’t – yet now is baiting people to watch the video by putting his partner in it. Naked. That’s cheap. No matter how West claims to revel in being an outsider, he wants to be the centre of attention. And if that means making a video that looks like something inspired by Tour America visuals on some kind of J1 ad USIT lobbed together, along with a frankly stupid and meaningless motorbike ride to a backdrop of Trapper Keeper art, while Kim Kardashian has the most uncomfortable commute ever – then that’s clearly what he’ll do.
If Paris Hilton released that video, she’d be laughed out of it, and rightly so. The problem is, the art can’t speak very loudly when you start to shout trash over it.