10 Kanye West Songs Amazingly Not About Kanye West

Kanye West looking at other people is usually good news.
Kanye West looking at other people is usually good news.
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Kanye West’s “Bound 2” video is the kind of thing we would normally cover on this blog, but we didn’t, and here’s why: It’s completely unhinged. If Kanye West is a happy, sane person I don’t want to encourage him to continue making videos with the same viral-video template Insane Clown Posse patented; if he’s truly so deluded as to believe the world needed to see Kim Khardashian have poorly simulated motorcycle sex with him inside a Thomas Kinkade painting it doesn’t seem sporting to keep making fun of him, even though he is a fantastically successful artist and entertainer and I have an IKEA nightstand on my desk to stave off repetitive stress injury.

I love Kanye West. I didn’t like Yeezus, which seemed like a desperate formal move by somebody who’s run out of compelling things to say to people like me, with broken desks and no motorcycle, but even there his willingness to try new things left me hopeful he’d find a more productive direction next time around. It’s in that spirit that I’d like to offer this list of 10 Kanye West songs that were not directly, thank god (and sometimes God), about how weird and bitchin’ it is to be Kanye West and how heavy hangs the crown of the guy who won’t stop talking about how much he love-hates being King. I don't tread lightly on these Upworthy headline adverbs--this is important. Okay, a little important.

“All of the Lights” - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

I’m starting from the end because this isn’t one of those posts about how Kanye West needs to be a Conscious Rapper like he threatened in The College Dropout. This is a post about Kanye West’s need to feel empathy toward literally any other human being in the world in at least a few of his songs per record.

“All of the Lights,” where he finally reaches peak bombast in a bombastic album, is storyteller-Kanye at his best. These stories don’t have to be about Issues; they don’t even have to be about sympathetic people.

In “All of the Lights” he tells--in some of his most concise verses ever--the story of a guy who can’t see his kid and is beginning to come to grips with that. It takes the emotions and regrets that are all over his later songs and it transmutes them into a new character, one who’s unemployed and in debt and frequenting Borders. Every story is ultimately about its author, on some level, but the difference between “All of the Lights” and Yeezus is the distance he’s able to get from his hero.

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