The Bottom 40: #2

[Sorry for the gap in posting.]

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2. Kanye West, Gold Digger (2005, 10 weeks at #1)

Where to begin, where to begin…

Okay, so. Some background: I hated Kanye West from day one, or at least from day one as a performer. Without knowing his name, I admired the Jackson Five sample in Jay-Z’s Izzo (H.O.V.A.) for its sheer clunkiness, with that little bit of Michael sneaking in every few seconds. And ’03 Bonnie and Clyde is a good song, too.

But West’s seemingly out-of-the-blue emergence as a performer was really annoying. Through The Wire, a song recorded while West’s mouth was literally wired shut, made for an interesting story, but it’s still a horrible song, and I resent that it launched a deluge of crappy hip-hop songs with sped-up samples of songs that were pretty terrible to begin with.

West followed Through The Wire up with the even more annoying All Falls Down and the offensively self-serving Jesus Walks. In that one he complained about how nobody would play a song about Jesus on the radio which, I’m sorry, is very irritating for someone to say on their first album.  West for some reason presented himself as a college dropout, but his mom was a professor and to date he is the only mainstream artist I’ve ever heard of who played the campus of my not-particularly-notable alma mater.  So who cares?

But as much as The College Dropout tormented me, the follow-up Late Registration was worse. The first single, Diamonds From Sierra Leone, used blood diamonds as an excuse for Kanye West to tell the world how awesome Kanye West is. It also mauls Shirley Bassey’s Diamonds Are Forever* in a way I could shed tears over. That awful song would surely have topped the bottom 40, had it not (thankfully) only reached #43 on the Hot 100.

So, that’s out then. But still, there’s the other hit from Graduation Day, Gold Digger. If you’ve forgotten since that song’s ten-week run at the top of the charts, Gold Digger’s the one where Jamie Foxx pretended to be Ray Charles and Kanye rapped about how women are materialistic hos. Oddly, Jon Brion co-produced it.

The flaws of materialistic women is a theme West returns to a lot. Girlfriend troubles are necessarily poor subject matter for a song, mind you.  But it’s really irritating when someone–especially someone whose songs mostly sound like self-absorbed diary entries–raps unironically about money-grubbing women when all of his other songs are about all the shit he buys with all his damn money.

West became a very popular personality to follow in the last couple of years, throwing childlike tantrums at the likes of Justice and Taylor Swift and George Bush. Surprisingly, though, his songs got better.  Though I hate admitting it, some of the singles from 808s & Heartbreak were actually pretty good.  Heartless, for instance, is just as much about girlfriend-hating as Gold Digger is, but the newer song has actual emotion and doesn’t completely rely on an actor doing an impression of a popular yet dead pianist.

As much as I want Kanye to go away forever, I know he won’t.  So let’s just hope that he continues to step further away from sped-up slow jam samples and dreadful interpolations.

[*I once had a conversation with a defensive West fan who asked me how often I really listened to Shirley Bassey. A lot, actually. In addition to a Bond fetish, I’ve got a boyfriend who’s very into easy listening hits of the seventies.]

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