Monday, February 09, 2015

Kanye West, award hipster

Last night, Kanye West hijacked the Grammys once again.

(I didn’t watch, but I get on the Internet, so I didn’t have to.)

This time, Beck was his unwitting target. When the decidedly non-loser musician won Album of the Year, West jumped on stage, but then he left without saying a word, garnering laughter — and brownie points over the presumed self-deprecation (or at least, what passes for self-deprecation for him, because not poaching someone else’s moment is apparently too much to ask).

He really should have left it there. But he didn’t, saying after the ceremony that Beck “should have given his award to Beyoncé.”

OK, I realize at this point that awards-show douchebaggery is kind of a calling card for Kanye (whose outspokenness is refreshing when aimed right). But last night, he had redeemed himself (if unwittingly), and he blew it. It’s like when you think someone made a sophisticated and funny joke but then you realize they weren’t joking, and in fact they’re utterly oblivious. And not only that, but they had a chance to play it off, and they refused to seize it.

The only reason I care about this is because of the singular idiocy of it, which I (and presumably most people) have seen in life. It’s less Kanye’s words themselves that are compelling than the almost hilarious lack of perspective that drives them. To break it down:

Arbiters of taste are arbitrary. Everybody knows somebody who insists that their interests and tastes are the sole barometer of importance on the planet. It’s not just that they prefer certain things, but that those preferences are treated as absolute givens against which all must be judged.

One example is the aging baby boomer who not only pines for the 1960s, but can’t comprehend why anyone wouldn’t, even if they were born in 1992. Another is the pompous teacher who thinks their class — and subject matter — is all that matters in the universe, and how dare people enjoy football and not-homework!

Oh, and Kanye West. What he likes should naturally win awards every year, because he has correct taste. And if it doesn’t, to paraphrase him, the awards shows lose credibility. Which segues into the next point of pointlessness:

Awards, on a macro level, are not that significant. Awards can be personally gratifying and perhaps they’re a selling point, but other than that they’re an arbitrary indicator of merit. Even where awards are definitive, it’s simple math that not everything can win one. Anyway, winning an award doesn’t guarantee everyone will love your work, nor does not winning an award mean your work vanishes into the ether, unloved for all time. Like with most things, an award (or lack thereof) is what you make of it. In his case, Kanye apparently can’t listen to a Beyoncé album if it doesn’t get all the accolades, instead of just a lot. That poor, poor, award-starved artist! Speaking of …

It’s Beyoncé, for bleep’s sake. She’s an accomplished musician and actress, has tons of talent, fame, fortune and acclaim and she’s universally likable. I love her. You love her. Everybody loves her! She needs no defending from Kanye or anyone else (just ask her). I think she’ll be OK.

Anyway, it’s only music. I can’t for the life of me figure out why people are so fanatically blindered about music, as if a favorite song is like a Rigma from Saved By the Bell — you can only hang out with other Rigmas.

In early-career interview, Eminem said hip-hop was the only important form of music. Likewise, I’ve known country fans who can’t even be in the same room as non-country music, and will make those objections crystal-clear. (Actually, there are few genres of music I haven’t heard this about.)

Personally, I respect all forms of music, even if I don’t care for them, because I know to someone, somewhere, that sequence of notes is art. I like all kinds of different music (including Kanye West’s) for all kinds of reasons. I might like a song because it’s a stone-cold jam, or because it’s profound, or just because I was doing something cool the first time I heard it. It isn’t solely because of how it’s filed or because it’s an award-winner, for sure.

It can be a mystery why certain people like certain songs. But why even bother to untangle it, or care what others think? To quote a ’60s classic, “different strokes for different folks.”

It’s hard to argue with that.

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