It’s been an infuriating week for anybody who isn’t a total bellend. The news that the Glastonbury Saturday night headline spot would belong to Kanye West unleashed a torrent of coded criticism online that inevitably channelled itself into 2015's equivalent to the open letter: a change.org petition. This petition was, of course, guaranteed to achieve no change whatsoever except for the order of the news agenda, as journalists hastened to interview the joyless cretin who created it.
I mean, this is Glastonbury we’re talking about, right? The ultimate “celebration of talent, open-mindedness and diversity”, as Emily Eavis recently described it? The one place on earth where Dolly Parton, Danny Brown and fire poi can legitimately co-exist? Not once in the history of the festival has a headliner been so strongly contested, and one of last year’s headline spots was awarded to Metallica - surely the antithesis of the “peace and love” mantra that comprises it’s very foundations.
So, what are the charges against Kanye? What misdemeanours and character flaws have got almost 130,000 people so riled up that they want his slot cancelled and replaced by a rock band rather than just, you know, going to see another act on a different stage instead? And when they say "rock band" I think we can safely assume they don't mean Mercury Rev - they basically mean Oasis or similar. Neil Lonsdale, the petitions creator, even suggested Oasis as potential alternative headliners. What integral qualities does Yeezy lack that Liam Gallagher possess in abundance? Let's find out.
OFFENCE 1: “He’s obnoxious!”
Absolutely, he is. You find me an artist worth two minutes of anyone’s attention that isn’t. By their very nature artists have to be some level of abrasive - even Taylor Swift’s saccharine sweetness teeters constantly on the brink of overwhelming smugness. But is Kanye really all that more obnoxious than, say, Liam Gallagher, who has been swaggering around pop culture for the last 20 years? Sneering and caterwauling, blaspheming, fighting, shagging around, making his opinions known even when no one asked for them; Liam Gallagher is Kanye West to the power of 10. But you can imagine there’d be no petition calling for his immediate axing from the line up should he be invited to headline with Beady Eye (or perhaps with Oasis), even though he famously stated he wouldn’t play Glastonbury again. And then famously reneged on that pledge. Clearly, being obnoxious isn’t the problem. Not the full problem anyway. So let’s look at another reason.
OFFENCE 2: “He slags off other artists!”
Yes. Yes he does. anye has notoriously spoken out at award shows when he feels the need to set the record straight. He’s snatched the mic from Taylor Swift, given away his own awards and provoked criticism from his peers for daring to speak his mind, but he continues to do so, regardless. You know who else does shit like that? Liam Gallagher. At least Kanye is not rude for the sake of rudeness. His sometimes misplaced obsession with “deserving winners” comes from frustration not malice (“I’ve never won a Grammy against a white artist. Did they think I wouldn’t notice?”) and a desire to combat the erasure of black influence on modern pop culture. On the other hand, Liam Gallagher has been so prolifically nasty towards other acts, NME have been able to compile a list of 30 of his “funniest insults", which reads like a laundry list of directionless animosity. Where Kanye would accuse Beck of not respecting artistry, Liam Gallagher said of Billy Joe Armstrong from Green Day: ""Fuck right off. I'm not having him. I just don't like his head."
So rudeness is okay when an archetype rock guy does it, so maybe that’s not the reason everyone is so opposed to Kanye after all?
OFFENCE 3: “Kanye doesn’t even write his own songs!”
Sure, there are scrolls and scrolls of co-writers, producers and collaborators in the credits for Kanye tracks, but that’s of the nature of hip-hop. You just have to so much as peep in the window of a studio to get your dues. Of all the criticisms levelled at Kanye West, this is the most foolish, because when it comes to musical talent and accomplishment, his rep sheet speaks for itself. He has been the architect of too many sounds and styles for this kind of thing to be said with any kind of seriousness. But said it is, and so we must balance it out by looking again to Liam Gallagher, and how it's his brother’s songwriting talent that has been putting food on his plate since the 90s. Never mind that they’re probably both struggling to sleep since the Gaye vs Thicke verdict, because who haven’t the Gallaghers ripped off?
OFFENCE 4: “He’s an egotistical maniac!”
Okay, fine. Kanye West is pretty high on himself. He pays himself compliments on the regular; he takes three days off to photoshop his wedding photos; he reprimands his staff on stage when they don't get the backdrop right; he called himself a God. Kanye West is pretty Kanye-oriented, but is the problem that he's self-obsessed or is the problem that he's self-obsessed in a positive way? There's just as much ego involved in being self-deprecating and negative about yourself as there is in gassing yourself up, but one is inherently more acceptable than the other. And for all Kanye may think he's the best, and act accordingly, again there's an absence of meanness and disparaging of others that colours the egotism of Liam "Beady Eye will be bigger than The Beatles" Gallagher. And speaking of The Beatles, who compared themselves to Jesus first anyway?
All things considered, there aren’t many things you can say about Kanye West that you can’t say about 90% of the biggest rock acts alive, and that's mainly because by nature, rock stars are obnoxious, egotistical and braggy. So what is it then, that Kanye has that Liam Gallagher and this myriad of other rock acts do not? What is the glaringly obvious visible difference between the two?
Bottom line: it’s black skin, that’s what it is. Excuse me for not dicking around the issue here and choosing carefully ambiguous words, but it’s just a tiresome waste of time. When you read comments such like, “When Jay Z was there it attracted a crowd that made me uncomfortable” or “Glastonbury should remain rock” (you mean “white”, mate). Neil Lonsdale's wildly alarm ringing comment about the BRIT Awards performance of “All Day” being “threatening”, asking why he has no “class” and referring to Kanye as a “pimp” before naming non-violent The Libertines, polite and classy Oasis, and faithful monogamists The Rolling Stones as part of his dream line up. That is racism at it’s most subtle and destructive. You can talk all day long day about how it’s not about colour, but it is. It fucking is, because you clearly have no problem with outspoken white guys with guitars, but heaven forbid a black man do the same.
Anyway. It’s a new week now. Hopefully the feverish reporting of this non-event petition will die out, and I can look forward to trying to Stubhub a ticket from one of these aggrieved festival goers incensed enough to boycott full stop. Bung your unwanted passes my way, you ungrateful bastards.
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