Up late, caught Kanye on Letterman, then the Killers on Jimmy Kimmel.
Last night, at the American Music Awards, one of Kanye’s acceptance speeches was a mumbled something or other about wanting more ambition from pop stars, and pushing himself to fill an Elvis-type role in pop. He’s definitely got the ambition thing down, but the delivery is his big question mark. We know from his blog that he’s into design, and his collaborations show a range of curiosity and taste, but the dude might just be too human to ever make girls scream until they faint. Tonight on Letterman, he played Love Lockdown surrounded by masked guys playing a dozen taiko drums, and the sonic effect was menacingly clattery. Impressive. But he had no idea what to do with himself on that little stage, and mostly just rocked forward and back, smiling awkwardly, bending at the waist when he pushed his voice hard enough to make the distortion on that auto-tone filter really peak.
He can make it work when he stretches the scale. At the VMAs in September, Kanye closed the show with the same song, only he was alone on a huge stage, wearing a fitted gray suit with a small flashing heart over his left breast. The landscape and ridiculous costume brought out the theatrical ache in the song; in this context, the auto-tune made sense. Here was a guy, a celebrity at the height of his popularity and powers, leading an army of drums and yet so hurt and lonely and falling apart that he’s coats his voice in the most un-feeling, robotic noise possible. Up close, the cracks in the facade make Kanye compelling on a certain level, but they’re going to make it tough for him to bust through that swirl of contradictions and rise to icon status.
Brandon Flowers chases icon status as much as Kanye does, but in performance he’s like a robot trying to come off as a real boy. He’s stiff, he never blinks and he only looks comfortable from behind his keyboard. Flowers has a voice like balsa wood, dry and brittle, able to bend slightly but constantly threatening to break. Flowers needs some help with his presentation too (moustache+bolo, feathers); maybe Kanye can turn him into a project. How about an alternate version of 808 with Flowers instead of Auto-Tone?
Did anything happen while I was gone?
4 hours in the Louvre leads to tired, hungry Jacob leads to no small amount of crankiness. Maybe “Ain’t That Pretty At All” would have been better.
Stayed up until 6am to watch election returns and Obama’s speech in the little apartment. Now that this whole thing is over we can get back to what’s really important, like playing “Circulate” to death instead of “My President is Black.”
me: Ian says to say hi to wifey.
R: Who’s the one going to work? Tell Ian you’re the wifey.