Upon reading this I fear that the Kanye secret service will be deployed, and my body will never be found and you’ll never hear from me again…so read quickly.
I have to address the Grammy Awards and the absolute disgrace of a man known as Kanye West. I say man, rather than artist, because I want to be very careful in how I distinguish him. An artist is someone who creates original work which is to be enjoyed by others, hopefully inspiring them to create something original themselves, ultimately making this world a better place. While this isn’t the standard Webster’s dictionary definition…I’ll stick to it. A man is someone who respects others, defends others, loves others and leads by example. Kanye West is no man.
Beck won Album of the Year, and I must admit these things before I continue so that there isn’t any confusion. I didn’t watch the Grammy’s, I don’t own a Beck album, I don’t own a Kayne West album, I don’t own a Beyonce album. I’ve listened to songs from all albums (I teach high school, for the love of God. Even if I didn’t want to hear, they get rubbed off on me by proxy, like some weird audio mono) and I want to make the bold statement that all three artists in my opinion are talented, creative, worthy-of-an-award artists. I would also like to recognize that Beyonce (who has won 20 career Grammy’s, more than any other woman) and Kanye West has won 21 career Grammy’s (at the young age of 36). With that said, I must subject you to Kanye’s comments to Vanity Fair after he stormed the stage (ala: his embarrassing, most-likely-drunk, moment when Taylor Swift won the Grammy in 2009) as a “joke” to protest Beck’s winning Album of the Year. He turned around and sat back down before saying anything this time…but the message was sent. Here are his comments:
KANYE WEST: “I just know that the Grammys, if they want real artists to keep coming back, they need to stop playing with us. We ain’t going to play with them no more. And Beck needs to respect artistry, and he should have given his award to Beyoncé. At this point, we tired of it. What happens is, when you keep on diminishing art, and not respecting the craft, and smacking people in the face after they deliver monumental feats of music, you’re disrespectful to inspiration. We, as musicians, have to inspire people who go to work every day, and they listen to that Beyoncé album, and they feel like it takes them to another place. Then they do this promotional event, and they’ll run the music over somebody’s speech, the artist, because they want commercial advertising. No. We not playing with them anymore. And by the way, I got my wife, my daughter, and I got my clothing line, so I’m not going to do nothing that would put my daughter at risk, but I am here to fight for creativity. That’s the reason why I didn’t say anything tonight. But you all knew what it meant when ‘Ye walked on that stage.”
Here’s what I’d like to address: the messiah complex. From a simple drama teacher’s perspective, who is desperately attempting to nurture and foster a working relationship with young artists everyday, these comments and attitudes, create a sort of status symbol that, by virtue of Kayne’s mere influence in the music industry alone, woos young impressionable minds into thinking that these actions and comments are okay. Justified even. Mr. West refers to respecting artistry. What about Beck’s art? Mr. West refers to the Grammys not respecting the craft. What about respecting the awards ceremony that has blessed Mr. West with 21 previous awards? He says Beyonce was smacked in the face after delivering a monumental feat of of music. Isn’t that merely one man’s opinion? Apparently the governing, voting board thought otherwise. Isn’t that okay? (After all this is just another man or woman’s opinion. Why does your opinion carry more gravity than another’s, Mr. West?)
The problem is not the awards ceremony, not the Best Album of the Year award, not Beck, not Beyonce….the problem is the mainstream media and the music industry. This sort of behavior is unacceptable and to use a word that Kanye loves to use: “DISRESPECTFUL.” This is nothing more than a powerful producer’s little-boy tantrum…and he knows he can get away with it. (After all, he’s done it before without repercussion. Hell, his and Taylor Swift’s career THRIVED after the outburst in 2009. Even more testament to the fact that the world lives and breaths based on what is fed to them.)
People who get SO powerful, so big, so untouchable (people like Oprah Winfrey, Tom Cruise, Kanye West…etc.) they forget what it is to be a human being, someone who must RELATE with others…someone “in the trenches” dealing with life on an everyday basis. How are we supposed to co-exsist, if mega-stars like this refuse to live by simple, thoughtful morality-based rules that we hold each other to every day. If anyone else rushed that stage during Taylor Swift or Beck’s acceptance speech….ANYONE at all….security would have pounced on them. But, Kanye, he’s above the rules and law.
On a much watered-down level (although one might argue, equally as important, at least to them), this mentality is what plants the notion in students’ minds that when they aren’t cast in the role they believe they deserve, then it’s perfectly reasonable to BLAST the director or student who did get the role. (At least behind their backs, right?) It’s the same mentality that tells society, that a rule of order, especially a subjective / creative one, is not a strong-hold and subject to public scrutiny if any one individual so chooses. (Look at all the frivolous lawsuits out there! “I think they’re wrong, because I don’t think that’s the way it should be!!”) It’s nothing more than glorified, attention-seeking temper-tantrums and it’s ruining this generations perception of what it means to be a true artist.
No one has the right to an award. No one has the right to assume that their agenda is more important than another. And certainly, no one should use someone’s celebrated achievement or recognition to float their own agenda or demand attention. That’s nothing short of being a sore loser. (With an emphasis on “loser.”)
I asked a few of my students what they thought of the matter. They responded “I thought it was hilarious. I don’t know Beck…but it’s just Kayne. It’s something he would do.” *Sigh*
For the record, I have nothing against Kanye West or Beyonce…and I’m not a Beck fanatic. I merely think that young artists today have very few role models…someone to demonstrate that it’s the ART that’s important, not the exposure or attention or legacy or power or money or awards or clothing line AROUND the art.
No doubt Kayne will be all over the news today because of his actions. He’s the mainstream media’s babydoll. I betch we’ll hear about Kim Kardasian’s thoughts on the matter as well. And we’ve all seen the Vine of Jay Z’s reaction…because that’s important too. I’m sure that word will spread about Beck’s Album of the Year win, as well…but I doubt there will be any coverage that won’t feature news about West “pulling another Kanye.” I suppose that’s what makes me sick to my stomach the most.
I’d better go. I must get back to my world and a job I take great pride in, and one that gets harder and harder with every year as this world shape-shifts into a land of right-fighters and Google-schooled know-it-alls. It’s a world of high school theatre where impressionable visionaries are born and discover hidden treasures within themselves. It’s an Indiana Jones 4-year window and it’s my duty to ensure they use their powers for good, not evil. It’s a privilege of directing, nurturing and mentoring…or as I call it, shaping little Kanye’s into selfless artists.