This won't be the first think piece with Kanye in the title and it won't be the last but in 2018 Kanye is still controlling the conversation of popular culture.
He's not the celebrity we want; but in 2018 he's the celebrity we deserve.
Celebrity is on its last legs. YouTube stars are more popular than Beyoncé with millions of hits from videos filmed on a camera. Meanwhile titans of the entertainment industry are dropping like flies and the scales are falling from our eyes. And honestly? We're at least partly to blame.
Why do we care about celebrity? This isn't asking why we care about great musicians or great performers, athletes, creators whatever; no this is discussing the idolisation aspect. Why can't we simply enjoy the music and appreciate it in the same way you would when receiving good service and a restaurant? An attentive waiter and timely courses certainly wouldn't result in their name being graffitied on schoolbooks and a multi million dollar fortune.
Celebrity is just us sanding down the raw edges of a personality.
Take your friends; they have their good and bad points. A best friend now? That's if not 'all good'; it's at least the majority. This is someone who's a joy to be around and you want to spend all your time with. This is what a celebrity is. The reason you like a celebrity is rooted in a product. They haven't just given you one song you like, but they gave you a collection of songs; more than once! They also seem like someone you'd be friends with, despite very likely never having been in the same room as them. They're great in interviews and always look immaculate. They're the best friend you could possibly ask for and they never bore you to death moaning about their personal problems over and over again. They're never in a bad mood and they never outstay their welcome; when you've had enough, you simply turn them off.
An all killer no filler friendship.
But that relationship isn’t remotely real. It’s a relationship that costs millions to maintain. An entire industry with employees in the hundreds geared towards convincing you that the singer you like isn't just perfect but also your best friend.
We know these people can’t possibly appear to be who they are but we’ve become so comfortable with that we’ve come to accept the illusion. The reason is simply because the entertainment you take part in is a reflection of yourself; just as the books on your shelf. So this leads to us feeling responsible for the people who create our media and if we can't change their controversial opinions; then we'll defend them. Because we're really defending ourselves.
Trump is an objectively bad person. And regardless of how many people try to convince him of this Kanye still refuses to withdraw his support for Trump. So this must make him a bad person too. But how? He's the guy who talked about the government introducing crack into the Black community in 'Crack Music'; racism on 'New Slaves' and of course his criticism of George Bush is infamous. So how then does that man go on to support the most openly racist president in the history of modern America?
Pretty easily actually. Once you accept the fact that talent doesn't have any bearing on personality; all the signs were there: his slut shaming of Amber Rose; his proclaiming Cobsy innocent (despite Cosby himself admitting to his guilt) his complete lack of education on topics he's discussing and of course both he AND Trump are proud 'non- readers' of books.
There was a time you'd only hear from a celebrity was when they had something to promote. But now celebrities have Twitter. So on or off shoot; in studio or out; they will be reacting to the news or just tweeting their problematic thoughts all day. Having unlimited access to a free platform is harmful to the millions that are spent on maintaining an image. And cancel culture is coming for every poster you used to have on your wall.
The surrogate father to many a black 80's baby is a prolific rapist. The male feminist multi millionaire comic has been sexually assaulting women for years and no celeb is safe.
Kanye? He's been problematic for a minute; but it's always down to Kanye throwing himself under the bus. So really in this era Kanye should be fine; yet he's despised more than most with actual charges. Kanye has always been part of the cultural zeitgeist. He's never dropped a project that didn't change the sound of popular music or at least reflect it. And his Yeezy's as awful as they are to many (well...me) have had a definite impact on street wear. And once again, Kanye is at he centre of the zeitgeist.
But this time he's introducing us to a trend no one wants to jump on:
See celebrities? YOU. DO. NOT. KNOW. THEM.
I don't care how many documentaries you've watched; how many lyrics you've memorised; how many times you've seen them live; how many times you've 'felt' a connection. Whatever connection you feel to them, is due to a dedicated industry doing its job well.
Our ideas of celebrity are deeply entrenched and harder to remove than you think. Where were you when you heard Michael Jackson died? Correction: where were you when you heard a man you used to watch on TV as a child, died? See? It's strange right? Even disrespectful. But once we can accept these people as fictional characters; closer to your favourite Avenger than a BFF; then we'll finally be able to stop bending over backward to explain their problematic and in many cases criminal behaviour.
It's time to find other methods of defining ourselves. Because celebrities ain't it.