Kanye West is a creative genius. Nobody is doubting that. He is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime-caliber artist whose contributions to the music and fashion worlds are innovative. So it’s completely appropriate that people are excited about the releases of his seventh studio album titled Waves (as of now) and latest fashion line this Thursday, February 11. The marketing and promotion for the work, however, is just tired and pointless.
Last week it was announced that West will be debuting his album and Yeezy Season 3 fashion line at Madison Square Garden in spectacular, over-the-top fashion, featuring over 1,200 extras and a performance by conceptual artist Vanessa Beecroft. Considering this event mostly revolves around his new album, we can only assume the scenes we saw from the Yeezy Season 1 and Yeezy Season 2 shows will pale in comparison. That much seems fine and well. There’s no reason West shouldn’t put his artwork on a pedestal in front of a sold-out MSG audience. Where the ridiculousness kicks in is in the livestreaming of the event to theaters around the world.
In a way, this effort should be executed better than the guerrilla-style marketing West did preceding the release of Yeezus in 2013. A month before the release of that album, West sent out teams across the globe — but not in Dallas — to project footage for the single “New Slaves,” which was just a black and white, tight shot of West’s face performing the track, projected on random city walls. The edgy, progressive song, which challenged institutional racism and materialism, was fantastic, and the ploy was a fitting way to deliver his message.
But for the most part his method didn’t work out as he would’ve liked, since a large number of the projections were shut down by police before they happened. The same happened for the Dallas projections a month later. The day the album leaked in June, the majority of the five planned projections around downtown and Deep Ellum were either shut down or never happened. This time, though, the chances of the theater showings in North Texas getting shut down are slim to none unless some bad weather interferes with the livestream or some other far-fetched set of circumstances, but it’s still an absurd idea. It’s hard to comprehend the demand people have to see West’s unveiling in a movie theater.
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And this isn’t a free event: Tickets to the livestream start at $25 and work their way up to a foolish $581. Yeah, you read that right. That upper echelon package gets you one general admission ticket, a digital album download (not a hardcopy CD or vinyl), T-shirt, hoodie, and jean jacket eight to 12 weeks after purchase. The environment in the theater seems like an unbearable situation as well; hundreds of thirsty hypebeasts in such a tight environment is the stuff of nightmares.
West has done a great job of stirring up this type of hysteria of late. The inconsistent return of G.O.O.D. Fridays generated a ton of buzz with the release of “Real Friends” and “No More Parties in L.A." featuring Kendrick Lamar, as well as his epic rant and tear down of Wiz Khalifa a couple weeks ago, which produced a huge response on Twitter and memorable moments after. But it’s just a lot to take in, so much so that it's pointless to keep up with. Even worse, people get so caught up in buzz that it’s almost impossible for an album to live up to such a heightened standard.
Which is why, although it seems like a played-out trend, it makes a really strong case for the “surprise album” tactic that artists such as Beyoncé, Drake, Jay Z and D’Angelo have successfully employed in recent years. With the surprise album, all the focus is on the music —none of the bullshit. West would never admit it but for someone who hates to smile, hates the paparazzi and is so fond of his privacy and creative process, he sure does love creating a spectacle.
Maybe once all this superfluous marketing is over with, we can talk about the music that most likely features locals Symbolic One, The World Famous Tony Williams and Post Malone. Until then we’ll have to continue to put up with the hype machine.