Strange Fruit: How Yeezus Broke My Heart
In a world where Disney stars like Demi Lovatto are in and out of rehab and Michael Jackson is put on trial for child molestation, I am not by any measure naieve enough to believe my celebrities should be held to a higher moral standard that the rest of us. That is a recipe for disappointment. You know what else is super disappointing? Yeezus. Yeezus took all of the love in my heart for Mr. West and crushed it like so many Oxycontin pills in Lindsay Lohan’s bathroom. Kanye teased me with his remarks about making music for smart white people, lured me in by writing an entire album of Dashboard Confessional-worhty break up ballads, and had me daring to dream of a world where my hip hop icons could be sensitive. Aware. Maybe even a little bit feminist. Never one to conform to anyone’s standards, Yeezus doesn’t even live up to his own musical standards.
By now you’ve heard all about the one-liners on Yeezus. Yes, there is a joke about using sweet and sour sauce to aid in performing oral sex on an Asian woman. Yes, Kanye demands croissants. Croissants are delicious, who wouldn’t demand them? There are plenty of easy, throwaway jokes that are perfect for being re-tweeted and used as slogans on t-shirts. Go ahead and make an ironic joke on Facebook about how you only speak Swaghili. Remember, Kanye’s twitter account was made into ironic throw pillows on Etsy before most of us even knew what Etsy was. The man can write a good one-liner, but I’m not interested in talking about that.
The problem with Yeezus is that I’m not particularly interested in talking about any of it. I got teased with song titles like “New Slaves”, but was left with a shallow commentary about how people really like buying expensive things. Expensive things is a running theme in Yeezus, but don’t think that limits Kanye. He shows his expansive taste by mentioning Porsche, Mercedes Benz, Bentley, Range Rover and Maybach. Forgive me if I’m hesitant to accept a critique about excessive spending from someone who names more luxury car brands on a single album than many people know exist.
When I heard Nina Simone’s “Strange Fruit” would be sampled on Yeezus I got excited. Simone is a powerful early African American blues singer and her voice has a smooth, haunting quality that would lend itself perfectly to Kanye’s minimal, atmospheric sound. “Strange Fruit” paints a picture of a lynching that is both gorgeous in sound and horrifying in description. Surely given such rich source material Kanye could manage to say something meaningful! But, no. “Blood on the Leaves” is just another instance of Kanye talking about women trapping men and their wallets in relationships by having children, but this one is much more damning than “Golddigger”. Since “you can’t abort that”, Kanye says, you’ll have to go easy on the cocaine in order to pay child support. Such profound life lessons from the messiah of our time.
Kanye is capable of much better than cheap jokes about oral sex. It’s too bad we don’t get to see any of his talents as a writer on Yeezus. Maybe Kanye will let me borrow one of his luxury cars to console myself.