Watching the Throne

A thought occurred to me a few weeks ago, and I haven’t been able to shake it since:

Why isn’t Kanye West more popular?

I’m aware that Kanye West is an extremely popular, and successful super-duper-star. I’m not going to attempt to compare him to a struggling indie star who makes great music that twelve people are aware of. He is literally one of the biggest stars the music world has to offer.

But why exactly is he just one of the biggest stars? Why is he not decisively our generation’s biggest star?

Kanye West has been in the public spotlight since the release of  his debut album in 2004. In that time he has put out three unanimous 5 star albums*, something that I don’t think has been done by a commercially successful artist/band since U2 in the 80’s.

He’s had 2 other 4 star albums, an incredible collaboration with Jay Z, and a countless amount of successful radio-hits. On top of that, he’s had a significant influence on the state of hip-hop: from the way it’s produced, to the stars that have emerged, even through a significant change in fashion.

Yet despite this long list of accolades he’s not quite as popular as say… Taylor Swift.

That comparison is coincidence. I’m a tremendous writer, and what I just did there was called a segway.

If you ask people why Kanye West isn’t more popular their immediate reaction is almost always “He’s an asshole.”

Because lord knows the greatest tragedy this country has seen in the past 20 years was when Kanye West interrupted what I’m sure was going to be a truly amazing speech at our nation’s most prestigious event.It shook this country to its core, and we’re just finally learning to recover from what a was a truly horrific event.

It was stupid for sure – even if he’s 1,000% right, the Taylor Swift video that beat  the iconic ‘Single Ladies’ is comically miserable video in every sense – it was an unwarranted interruption of what I’m sure was a nice moment for a (white!) teenage girl at an event that should’ve been fairly meaningless for everyone else. But does it really warrant the black cloud that’s been over his head since?

And while he certainly does say his fair share of arrogant, sometimes ‘asshole’ comments I’d like to remind everyone that he’s a musician, specifically hip hop star. Making arrogant comments isn’t exactly new ground.

While I’m in full-defense of his attitude, let me point out something I don’t think is brought up enough – He’s had a fairly traumatic life. It doesn’t cover make up for his behavior, but I don’t think its fair that its often ignored:

His parents divorced when he was 3, he was involved in a near fatal car accident in 2002, and his mother (the parent he had lived with) died at the age of 58 because of a botched plastic surgery.  It’s not the world’s toughest life, but it certainly has been filled with some major bumps.

That being said, I understand that regardless of all the things I’ve said I understand certain people have made up their minds, and his actions have rubbed them the wrong way.

But I don’t think being a jerk is the only reason why West isn’t more popular.

The fact is, music isn’t that popular anymore. That sounds like a pessimistic comment being made by a music snob whose too obsessed with music history (yes, yes, and no), but it’s true. Since the invasion of the Beatles each decade has been met with less and less interest. The Beatles and the Stones were bigger than Michael Jackson, Michael Jackson was bigger than Nirvana, Nirvana was bigger than whoever the 2000’s had, and whoever that was is probably bigger than Kanye West.

And I don’t think you need to look much further than the growing interest in Country music to prove the point.

Interest in music has hit a crossover. Your average music listener has become more interested in the promotion of a matching lifestyle (having fun with friends, grabbing a few beers, etc.) than the music itself. Suddenly the fact that Kanye West is perceived an asshole is more important than the fact that he’s an incredible talent. Him putting out a record that was album of the year according to Rolling Stone, Spin, Pitchfork, Stereo, Paste, and literally every other publication I could think of isn’t as big of a deal any longer.

To your average person, the fact that he interrupted the speech of a (white!) teenage girl does.


*College Dropout, Late Registration, My Dark Twisted Fantasy

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