Has the Kanye West Comeback Officially Arrived?
By Jason Newman Posted Jun 28th 2010 05:15PM
Give Chris Brown credit for something at Sunday night's BET Awards: It's damn near impossible, under normal circumstances, to upstage the bravado, hubris and personality of Kanye West. But while Brown's (contrived?) breakdown has dominated coverage of the event, the awards show may have served as the official comeback of Kanye West, not seen on stage since bumrushing Taylor Swift at last year's MTV Video Music Awards.
The rapper had been relatively quiet since the incident, airing out personal grievances and self-reflection on his blog, but generally avoiding major media appearances to focus on 'Good Ass Job', his fifth studio album. Last month, the King Crimson-sampling West track 'Power' was leaked, hinting at the start of West's musical re-ascendancy.
But an Internet leak is nothing compared to West's performance at the awards. Standing defiantly atop a smoke-billowing volcano with flashes of lightning periodically lighting up the stage, Kanye, consciously or not, stood like Zeus surveying the heavens, rhyming more in proclamations than mere sentences. With what looked like an IMAX nature doc film in the background, West barreled through the track, displaying the charisma that helped propel him to one of music's most polarizing and entertaining figures in the past ten years.
Check out Kanye's performance of 'Power' at the BET Awards:
Kanye has always been one to value speaking his mind over the consequences of his actions, though in retrospect, it's bizarre to admit the Taylor Swift incident was the one that forced him into hiding. West has said and done more inflammatory things but, more importantly, other celebrities have done far worse. Kanye was shunned for interrupting an acceptance speech at an awards show. Chris Brown, the other comeback story of the night, pled guilty to felony assault on his then-girlfriend Rihanna. Selection bias aside, the crowd's thunderous applause for each puts what Kanye did (and didn't do) in perspective and says, "If America can forgive Chris Brown -- or R. Kelly or any other celebrity who does the PR shame/redemption dance -- Kanye shouldn't have any problem getting his career back on track."
So the question now is, what should Kanye do from here? Exactly what he would've done had the VMAs never happened. Kanye's popularity, in part, has always been based on his own personality's duality; the public visualization of his battle between id and ego that most of us wrestle with internally. He admitted that alcohol fueled, at least partly, his outburst, so that's a tangible thing to control in the future. But in the end, it's hard to imagine anyone not buying a Kanye album because of lingering feelings over a silly non-controversy from last year. Whether 'Good Ass Job' passes the musical test is what should be the focus on West's continued longevity, or lack thereof.
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