Kanye West was the musical guest on the holiday episode of Saturday Night Live, and his performance of “Love Lockdown” and “Heartless” resulted in catcalling from the usual suspects: “Disturbingly like a quiet man during bad karaoke”; “It sounded off… maybe just too much bragging about his sheer talent?”; “No surprise that Kanye West is the latest singer to sound like crap on SNL.” (OK, at least that last bit recognizes that all the musical guests this year have had serious technical issues, but still.)
Kanye himself didn’t seem all that distraught with his performances, posting them both on his blog shortly after they were bootlegged online. And why should he? Sure, the mixing of his voice was a little high in the grand scheme of things, but both performances were compelling, with Kanye seemingly becoming possessed by the tracks as he sang them. The struggle between his imperfect voice and the trying-its-damndest-to-fix-it Autotune was uncomfortable, but that was in many ways the point; hey, heartbreak ain’t a pretty thing, even when you have the newest creature comforts (pills! fancy couches! beautiful women! luxury brands!) to “make it all better.”
Perhaps it was because I saw both these performances in a grander context the night before the SNL taping (about which more later), but what I saw on SNL when I watched it bleary-eyed on Sunday morning was a man trying to work through demons by creating something. Sure, 808s And Heartbreak is, despite the focus-grouping of its first singles, a statement taken almost-directly off the cuff, but isn’t anger one of the stages of grief? What Kanye’s doing here, as Eric Harvey puts it, “writing songs in the manner of conversation fragments and flustered, late-night voicemail messages”—you know, the type that I’m sure every one of you have left, and regretted. That he’s crafting pop art out of the drunk dial is something that should be examined, and not “LOL”ed at right out.
Also, I find it kinda funny that quite a few of the people calling Kanye out aren’t afraid to embrace other bands where technical prowess is trumped by “really feeling it, man”—the Vivian Girls, etc., etc. Is this something else that we can blame on the CSNoozY stylings of Fleet Foxes, or is there a troubling double standard going on here?
Kanye West – Heartless / Pinocchio Story – SNL – 12/13/2008 [Dailymotion]
Kanye West – Love Lockdown – SNL – 12/13/2008 [Dailymotion]
[via kanYe West: Blog]