Sunday, June 28, 2015

the kanye conundrum

hi there

i do, dear reader, wonder if there's any point at all to this post. over the years for some reason, look you see, anything i've written about the ways of Glastonbury seems to have been looked upon with interest (thanks), so i suppose it's apt that i have a gander at yesterday's talking point. i somehow doubt that anything i have to add, however, will win favour with either the lovers or haters of Saturday's headline act, but then again i suppose it's rather rare that i in favour with anyone.

booking Kanye West was, of course, the Glastonbury Festival organizers latest half-arsed, random attempt to project an image of being relevant, 'controversial' and embracing multiculturalism. in respect of the latter, every year now seems to feature a random black american act selected on the basis that one of the Eavis family has noticed them in Horse & Hound or some other such publication.

the backlash - online petitions and what have you - was well documented, and were based partially on the basis that this Kanye is not a particularly pleasant person (i know little of him so i have no idea) but mostly because his music is, shall we say, "not festival material".

well, he turned up, he "performed", and it's all over now. there was no no-show, there was no storming off, there were no mass protests visible in the crowd that turned up to see him.

of all the 'controversy' around his booking, i still feel the very worst came from the Eavis family in justifying his booking. they issued, as i've mentioned somewhere here before, an audacious right wing, Thatcher like statement in which they demanded everyone accept that they knew what was best and should be respected without question. the best, as in most amusing, part of their defence statement was "why can't everyone just say how amazing it is we have Kanye West coming to our farm in Somerset?". yes, brilliant - it must have been a tough sell, that. if you assume there are not many acts in the world that could be tempted with a fee of $250,000 for 90 minutes work, plus worldwide broadcasting (advertising) via the BBC. 

on to the set, or performance, then. the thing which surprised me the most, to be honest, was how many of his songs i had heard before - i think that's thanks to Ben at verk playing them.

the other surprise, more relevant to the actual show he did, was just what an astonishing lack of ability he has as a showman.

if you're going to walk out on a stage mostly alone, then best you have the courage of your convictions to be the centre of attention. Kanye talks like he has that, but his show says that he does not.

the set was a whole load of stage lights positioned ludicrously low, cutting the height of the stage lower than half of usual. masses of smoke generators more or less obscured him, but ultimately they were not necessary to hide him as he for the most part lurked as far back on the stage as he could. is he really that shy?

here's a little video of his act, then. a snippet in which, between the mumbles, he seems to go all potty mouthed. so you've been warned in advance before you click play.

i appreciate that, being over 40, a honky and quite English, i am not exactly the target or intended audience for Kanye. that said, with the BBC opting to offer this to me as entertainment paid for via the licence fee, and him booked for a festival most commonly associated with rock, i thought i had better have a watch and a listen to see what it was all about, then. and herein lies the problem with Kanye.

his music, and let's just for the sake of argument call it that, doesn't really ever do anything. instrumentally, or rather sampled, wise, it's unimaginative and far removed from what creativity is in fact possible, whether you use computers or traditional instruments. the lack of creativity stems into the lyrics, which for the most part seem to be about nothing at all. i mean, there's no anger, no social commentary, no humour, no entertainment, not real interest sparked by any of it.

it's not that his potty mouth ways are the problem, either. i am pretty sure i, and most music fans, can handle casual obscenities as and when they arise, but here they are just thrust in as if they mean something in themselves. his much vaunted, thanks to Johnnie Cochran for the way to word it, use of the "n word" isn't all that much either - it's not passive, dynamic, provocative or meaningful, instead just appearing as a sort of "oh yeah, i am a black american hip hop rap sort of thing, best i use the word" thing.

yes, the above is once again mostly what you saw on tv of Kanye's Glastonbury stage design. i am not at all sure if this is standard for him. as far as a festival goes, it's kind of hard for the many thousands of fans to see the stage as it is, so making it more compact and covered isn't really being fair to them.

a bit more video? sure, here he is doing whatever it is he does.

a great many people, and if we are honest i am included in that, were watching on the off chance that the whole thing did end in the massive trainwreck people were predicting. early on, it has to be said, it looked very close to happening.

a lot of the early stages of the set featured Kanye - or what you could see of him - looking confused, bewildered and baffled by one of the two earpieces he had in. one song needed to be restarted at least twice, perhaps three times, due to technical faults and, of course, due to some sort of stage invader bothering Mr West as he did his thing.

Kanye's the one that likes going on stage and taking awards away from white people, saying they should have gone to black people that he likes, isn't he? if that's the one, then i suppose there's some wry, borderline irony to this comedian fella getting in on the act. although the whole thing looked and felt far too contrived not to be entirely staged.

a bit more of the smoke and shadows that Kanye hid behind? in a video? sure.

another thing which took me by surprise as i watched was his startling lack of interaction or engagement with his audience. other than trying to be as invisible as possible on stage, he didn't acknowledge the crowd at all. no hello, no cheers, no waves. the only dialogue between tracks was aimed at the stage crew, demanding (with profanities) that the lighting rigs be lowered or raised, and suggesting that certain songs be started again. in regards of the latter, i am unsure if it was technical faults or a more astonishing than anyone thought lack of talent and professionalism. as the songs were frequently out of synch with the lights and effects, however, i am going to assume technical.

here he is having a nice lie down. not sure why, certainly not from exhaustion.

when he did engage with the audience, however, it gave every sense of someone out of their depth. his musings and mumblings scream "little boy lost", lacking all of this confidence and supremacy i had been led to believe he oozed in abundance.

here, if you can make it out, is some of the mumbling he condescended to share with the audience.

from what i could work out he was saying that the next song would go on as long as it had to, and not the "two minutes" it usually gets on radio. he was also explaining how the song was the epic love poetry thing he phoned his now-wife with to swoon and seduce her. to that end, i had no idea that socialites were so easily swayed and now that i do know it makes little difference to me.

it was around about this point that i discovered Suede, one of several bands who perhaps should have been headlining the main stage instead, was on another channel, so i switched to them.

my experience of Kanye's music was that it relies far, far, far too much on that autotune, voice synthesiser thing that Cher used on her Believe single. it's as nauseating here as it can be, and the sharp, tinny sounds he generates with it ensure a headache is never far away from the audience. i very much doubt i shall be exploring the Kanye catalogue in the future, then.

here is a bit of him, and someone i have never heard of that Kanye reckons is "the coolest white guy in the music industry", channelling Cher with some annoying voice synthesiser tricks.

i am tired of this argument that people who object to Kanye, or protested against him being at Glastonbury, are somewhat racist as a consequence. no, they are not. black dudes that don't dig U2, or Springsteen, or even Motorhead, are not declared racist. people who don't like the music of Elton John or George Michael are not automatically homophobic. and on and on. the insane amount of money Kanye has made through album sales suggests there is a market for whatever he is doing. the point is, as his lack of charisma and wanting performance underlined, that he's not really effective on a stage at a festival.

i'm glad i saw what i did of him, as now i know. i am disappointed to find that there really is next to no value, interest or entertainment in what he does, alas. it would have been splendid if this had kicked open the door to some new vibes for me, but not to be. long may he speak to those who like to hear what he has to say, and congratulations to him for being a success at it.
i can't think who this post might be of interest or use to, but if the clips and pictures have been of interest then nice one, and thanks for reading.

for the record, yes i love The Who, yes i will probably watch them tonight and i really think that it's going to be a disappointment. hopefully i am wrong.

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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