I had some other descriptors in that headline about Kanye West. Descriptors carefully chosen to get your attention and invite you all to snicker along with me at this man who has said so many jaw-droppingly unbelievable things. But in light of the nature of this phenomenal interview Kanye West gave Jimmy Kimmel last night (and Kimmel’s damning indictment of “click through” internet headlines), I dropped them. But “megalomaniac?” That stays. Because that’s just accurate.
In the wake of a highly visible and self-described “high school” spat between Kimmel and West, Kanye appeared on Kimmel’s show to clear the air and to talk about the nature of celebrity, materialism, his hurt feelings and our nasty tabloid culture. I’m not a Kanye fan, not by a long shot. I’m not eager to defend him when he’s said so many eye-roll worthy things. But here’s what I will say about this interview. It felt earnest and passionate and vulnerable (while retaining that trademark megalomania). How often can you say that about a late night interview? Hell, how often can you say that about any celebrity interview? This is my favorite part:
I can go and let out everything I feel about every single bogus weekly cover. Every single bogus skit. Every single rumor in barber shop. Every thing that people feel it’s okay to treat celebrities like zoo animals or act like what they’re saying isn’t that serious or their life isn’t that serious or their dreams aren’t that serious…So when I can come on here I can laugh and I can joke and I can say a skit and everyone can say ‘okay we love Kanye’ or ‘we think his baby’s cute’ or whatever.
What it boils down to, this whole rambling interview, is the question of what, exactly, celebrities owe us. If we take Kanye’s metaphor of animals in a zoo, then, of course, on this site, Anna Kendrick, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Jennifer Lawrence are three of the all-time greats. They are the cuddliest, most excitable penguins. Every slip and fall, every adorable waddle delights us. And there’s nothing wrong with that. With liking penguins. Kanye West, on the other hand. Well he’s a sh*t-flinger. No one likes a sh*t-flinger, right? But is it his job to make us like him? To always know how to say the right thing? Presumably his job is to create great music. (Your mileage may vary.) What else does he owe us?
So when he says the following…
…yes I sort of gasp a little. Did he really just call himself a creative genius?!? The sh*t just got flung. He’s not supposed to do that. He’s supposed to look humble and “aw shucks” at his great fortune so we don’t resent his success. That’s his job, isn’t it? Well no, it’s not. He knows it’s the wrong thing to say. And he says it anyway. Because his commitment to the truth and being true to himself is more important than his like-ability. And that’s rare. That’s brave. Who among us can say the same? I urge you to watch the whole interview. As I mentioned above, that kind of raw honesty is almost poignant and should be celebrated.
But I can admire the honesty and still not really like the man, right? He may be true to himself but it’s a self I don’t really enjoy that much. I mean, he doesn’t really seem to care if I like him, so why should I?