Whenever I’m having a hard time putting my thoughts about music into words, I turn to Pitchfork. In their recent list of 50 Best Albums of 2010, Kanye West’s album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was number one. Their eloquent justification perfectly captured the recent antics of this dark and twisted star.
“Bearing witness to Kanye West’s very public 2010 has featured many joys, none greater than watching everyone unspool his myriad updates, achievements, and indiscretions into piles of meaning. His persona went to cataclysmic places this year— there were times when he deserved his own cable news ticker. But, somehow, West managed to transcend the preposterous talk show appearances, the too-good-to-be-true Twitter account, the live breakdowns, the Horus chain, the free-MP3 stunt(ing), the press blitz, the breakups, the make-ups, the dick pics, the furniture pornography, the Rosewood movement, the NO NEGATIVE BLOG VIEWING, the living paintings, the short film, and the rest of the lot. Through all that noise, we obsessed first and most deeply over the eye of the storm: the album.”
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, released in November of 2010, was truly the “eye of the storm” for Kanye. The album is catchy, easy to listen to, and creative. Featuring Indie Rock singer Justin Vernon of Bon Iver was unquestionably creative and successful, and geez, Nicki Minaj can get down. However, many music fans still questioned Kanye’s integrity, using the song “Runaway” (a.k.a. The Douchebag Song) as proof.
And then Kanye was reborn at Coachella 2011. Prior to Kanye’s performance of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and other hits, the Coachella crowd, exhausted from three days of hundred degree desert heat, joked about how late his show would start, and what dramatic entrance he would chose (my friend Evan hoped for a zip line from the top of the ferris wheel). And when he chose a light-up crane, we figured the next hour would be a big, melodramatic Kanye West show. However, his performance ended up being everything but that. Despite the hype pre-show, neither Kid Cudi nor Katy Perry joined Kanye on stage; he did it alone. And when he did bring up guests, it was Justin Vernon and modern dancers for “Lost in the World.” His voice alone captivated an audience of tens of thousands for almost two hours, and Kanye paused but briefly, not even taking a sip of water once. And his song choice did not disappoint: Kanye performed the majority of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, as well as other favorites off of each of his albums, and portions of his collaborations, including E.T. and Run This Town. It was a reminder of just how many top-of-the-charts hits Kanye has had.
Kanye also announced, during one of only a few quick pauses in the performance, that this performance was his most anticipated since his mother passed, and that he had dreamed of performing “Power” at Coachella since he wrote it. The concluding “Hey Mama” was a love letter to his mom. He closed the set in a similar way to the introduction: he was alone on stage but needed no one else.
Kanye said he was humbled to “be able to close the show and see you love me after everything you read and saw on TV said the opposite.” And the fans took notice. Even those ardently opposed to Kanye, only watching for shock factor, were converted. Thousands of comments on Twitter claimed Kanye was a genius and the best set of the weekend. Andrew Botres said, “Who ever has anything bad to say about @kanyewest watch his #coachella performance and tell me he isn’t a great performer.” Olivia Perez for Huffington Post summed it up perfectly: “West proved himself as a true, passionate artist.” Despite all of his pompous tweeting, awards show antics, and the overall public drama, Kanye’s performance was true artistry.
Coachella’s 2011 lineup provided a plethora of diverse and top-notch performers. But Kanye’s set rose to the top due to his creative performance, but mostly thanks to his raw passion and artistic talent.