Hamish MacBain on why Kanye – but not ‘Kimye’ – was the pop star of 2013
Reminder: Kanye West released an album in 2013. The reason you may not remember it is because for every last second of the rest of this year, Kanye West was also busy doing things, on a one-man mission to remind the world that a pop star’s job does not end with making a few half-decent songs. A pop star’s job is to be a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year barrage of glorious, ridiculous acts and pronouncements (and occasionally tunes) through which we mere mortals can live vicariously. Bastille did not provide this. Yes, they and plenty more people sold more records, played bigger gigs and won more pointless awards, but in truth, Kanye West was the only pop star who mattered in 2013.
His newsworthy actions are way too numerous to list here – ‘Kanye West takes over stadium for rap proposal to Kim Kardashian’ is one of many headlines – but special mention must go to that appearance on Zane Lowe’s radio show in September. With the notable exception of the ever-genial Gallagher brothers, the musician interview as an artform in itself seemed a thing of the long-distant past. Dead. Pop’s contemporary players were – are – a snooze-inducing, media-trained procession of ‘um’s and ‘kind of like, y’know’s and ‘I don’t feel informed enough to comment’s. Apart, it transpired, from one guy. On a grey Monday night, West exploded into a rant that veered uncontrollably between unsayable truths and hyper-egotistical bullsh*t, often in the same sentence.
He stopped the world – or at the very least the internet – on its axis for an hour. You had to hear it, and then tell everyone you knew that they had to hear it. And suddenly, out of nothing, a mere interview became the media event of the year.
Also, even if it was just “all about the music”, Yeezus wiped the floor with everything anyway, hip-hop or otherwise. To compare Jay-Z’s lumpen Magna Carta Holy Grail with the sizzling, abrasive blasts of electronic noise that comprised the likes of Black Skinhead or I Am A God is to compare getting a facial scrub with being in a bare-knuckle fist fight. To compare it with any critically lauded, supposedly ‘innovative’ indie record is to compare Stockhausen to Stereophonics.
And most importantly of all: who else this year wrote a lyric as brilliant as “Hurry up with my damn croissants”?