Forget a set age range, or a specific year or event — where you stand on Kanye West is what makes you either a young millennial or an old millennial.
All of that was in high def over the last week, when Kanye debuted his new album, showed some raggedy clothing at Fashion Week, and tweeted a bunch of unhinged stuff at Mark Zuckerberg and about Bill Cosby for all our attention.
All of this stuff was Snapchatted and tweeted and shared all over the web to the entertainment of some — and the straight-up eye-roll of others.
And that is where Kanye divides us millennials — in whether he is entertainment or just a cliche.
The cliche camp
In 2004, when Kanye West released “The College Dropout,” he was a cocky but loveable fresh voice with a popped collar and an ego. His subsequent few albums were thoughtful musings on fame, family, and lesser rappers. Murakami happened, Kanye represented that in his style. Heartbreak happened, Kanye brought out a new sound.
And then things got dark. Kanye’s statements started getting more absurd. There was the Taylor Swift VMAs incident — one of those things where maybe the sentiment was in the right place but the message could’ve been communicated a lot better.
As Kanye’s success grew, so did his erratic, annoying behaviour. He became a cliche of the successful egomaniac who is never satisfied with praise. These people need constant attention and affirmation. Everything is done with bravado. These people are annoying, and they live under the mistaken perception that everything in their lives should matter to everyone.
In fact, they live to make everything in their life matter to everyone. It’s the only way they feel whole. So Kanye married the most followed person in the world, and there you go. The man screaming for attention gets more, still needs more.
Which brings us to the divide.
Kanye didn’t have to be this way. He didn’t have to be the kind of tantrum-throwing pop star who is angry while they’re on top, shouting about how no one understands him as people buy his album and sneakers and family life.
But he is. And to new eyes — to people who didn’t experience the sherbet-coloured polos of the early 2000s — he fits in the with the voyeurism of 2016. He’s married to the Kardashian phenomena, after all. He provides endless entertainment online for those seeking it.
And to these younger followers, perhaps the over-dramatic gestures, even the musical ones, are at least something to talk about. Having a meltdown on Twitter is just as ridiculous as using an iconic song about black struggle — “Strange Fruit,” which he sampled for “Blood on the Leaves” on the “Yeezus” album — to express how angry he is about someone hitting on his wife.
It’s the difference between the “Jesus Walks” video and the “Bound 2” video, really.
Kanye West is pop culture’s Putin, a king attention-seeker in a time when attention-seeking has become the norm. And that’s fine. That means he serves a bunch of people who are into that.
But they aren’t all people. And certainly not all millennials. The establishment is still raising an eyebrow at this behaviour and anyone who feeds it. For example, New York magazine called Anna Wintour, the most powerful woman in fashion, “a Kardashian accessory” for sitting in Kanye’s camp during his fashion show.
It’s a reflection of how nauseated Kanye’s behaviour makes some people feel. Some of them are millennials, too, because they know Yeezy didn’t really have to go down like this. They remember another possibility.
Sometimes it’s just too hard to watch.
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