Passing Opinion Off As Fact Since 2009

Passing Opinion Off As Fact Since 2009

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

My Favorite Thing: November 2010 - Part I

Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

The Lead-Up

Last Spring I was generally hating my job at William Morris Endeavor - a great big monolith of a talent agency/wasteland of underemployed overeducated decent looking ex-suburbanites – when I was given a chance to interview for a “good desk.” Desk is SUPERCOOL slang for being someone’s assistant, a good desk means the agent actually has influence (unsurprisingly, there are few good desks). The agent was Sara Newkirk*, who handled the branding for many of the agency’s highest profile clients. This included helping to build a core of legitimacy that has since allowed Lady Gaga to call herself an artist and, most importantly to me, help guide the pop culture behemoth that is Kanye West. Needless to say, I was actually excited at a job that is traditional void of upside-down frowns.

The interview went quite well; we spoke a lot about my interest in online branding. Kanye’s blog came up a lot, as I believed at the time it provided a backdrop to his artistically ambitious pronouncements. We spoke briefly about Twitter and how powerful of a tool it could be, allowing him to circumvent traditional media and dictate the conversation as he sees fit.

I did not get the job but 75 days later Kanye did join Twitter. Do I deserve credit for the new media juggernaut that was the promotion for My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy? Probably not but I am still oddly proud. Whether it was Kanye intuitively or a particularly savvy member of his camp, some one was able to manipulate the social media landscape to create an omnipresent happening at a time where such events no longer exist.

Read the quotes NY Magazine collected from artists involved with the album; there was no one unaware that they were making a masterpiece. And like an Expressionist painter, Kanye West let the audience into the process. Every Friday came another song that was less a finished product as much as a study for the eventual album cut.

Then there was his assault on more traditional media; ballerinas at the VMAs, whiting out the SNL stage, and most importantly the “Runaway” short-film. The film premiered on MTV, VH1, and BET (and youtube) at the same time. There was a clear message; Team Kanye wanted this to be the biggest album release ever.

Sure, sales matter, and my gut feels they will eclipse half-a-million, but there is a grander scale at play. The reviews are in and the pull quote is that it is the first record to receive a perfect score from both Rolling Stone and Pitchfork. As irrelevant as that appears to be, the fact is they are the people writing the history.

History is really what matters here. In my estimation, this is the biggest popular release since Nevermind. I have written many words about how there is no longer a monoculture and I am now forced to reconcile that with this release. Is it the exception that proves the rule? Is Kanye West the outlier? I really have no answer, at least not yet. What I do have is regret in that I did not get that desk and the opportunity to see this manifest itself from the frontlines.

* I am not sure if it is cool to say her real name here but whatever. Here is an mini article about her, I still think she is super awesome.

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