As the tweets, ‘grams, Snaps, etc. rolled in from Kanye West’s self-celebrating orgy on Thursday, I felt my disgust wax as my interest waned. Having been a Kanye apologizer since he first began spewing egotistical nonsense, this was new for me and felt a bit like defeat—perhaps the haters were right all along. I’d really given up on him the night prior, when he inexplicably tweeted that Bill Cosby was innocent, prompting me to send an e-mail to my mom conceding that she was “right all along” about Mr. West. Yes, he had factored into our arguments so significantly that such a note was necessary.
That says a lot about Kanye’s power, which I don’t think anyone (even the long-standing haters) doubts at this point, though you wouldn’t know it based on his endlessly defensive behavior. It’s inarguable that he is the zeitgeist—but that fact feels cloying now, where it once felt like a thrill. Despite his talk of revolution, it’s become glaringly apparent that to celebrate Kanye is to do that alone—factoring in his perfectly-contoured entourage, of course. His proposed celebration of artistry, and an overthrow of of those who dictate what that encompasses, holds little weight when he fails to lift up anyone beneath him. The reality is that Kanye wants free reign for Kanye, despite how he sprinkles his speeches with all-encompassing lingo. He wants to lead the group, and let the rest of us fall prey to groupthink.
I wish this wasn’t the case—I loved the idea of Kanye as some sort of legitimate savior, infusing music and fashion with the democracy they both pretend to dance in. Instead, we’ve gotten Kanye as self-satisfying prophet, a man whose often spastic vagueries promise plenty but result in little more than an ego stroke on repeat.
He’s not alone in manipulating his mass appeal, of course—he just happens to take it the furthest, for now. Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, Justin Bieber and Rihanna all tread in waters that are similarly self-serving, making everything about them with the release of a song, a video or a simple teaser on Instagram. Do they deserve it? Well, they are talented as hell. But is it gross? It’s starting to feel that way. Kudos to Beyoncé, at least, for drawing attention to causes larger than herself, and on a regular basis. I can’t say the same for the others.
Of course this poses the question of whether or not that’s their job, and, no, it’s not what they “signed up for.” Must music and the hubbub around it always have a deeper meaning, must it always work towards awareness, or salve? Given the times I’ve danced naked in my bedroom to Leon Bridges or giggled happily at the non-groundbreaking wit of Father John Misty, I’d like to say no. But there’s something increasingly icky about an artist whose massive platform is used for no greater good than uplifting their own presence, gifting it to the world to ogle and friendly-pet, and pulling fans’ attention away from anything else in turn.