RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Kanye West is still trying to live down being rude to teenage country and pop star Taylor Swift. At last year's MTV Award Show, she was giving her acceptance speech and he jumped on stage to declare that the award should have gone to Beyonce.

(Soundbite of cheering and applause)

Mr. KANYE WEST (Rap Artist): Yo, Taylor. I'm really happy for you, I'm going to let you finish, but Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time.

(Soundbite of cheering and booing)

MONTAGNE: Kanye West immediately became the butt of jokes. He cancelled his tour and he slipped out of the public eye for months. Now he's just released his comeback single, "Power."

Jay Smooth and Maura Johnston of our Pop Off Team, are talking about Kanye West's complex pop star persona.

Mr. JAY SMOOTH (Host, Illdoctrine.com): So it looks like Kanye West is back after his banishment from the pop kingdom.

Ms. MAURA JOHNSTON (Music Writer): But Im not sure if other people will be as endeared to the fact that he is ready to reclaim his throne in such a bombastic way.

(Soundbite of song, "Power")

Mr. WEST: (Singing) No one man should have all that power, the clocks tickin, I just count the hours. Stop trippin, Im trippin off the power...

SMOOTH: He's definitely getting back to his business as usual. But for Kanye West, his usual business is this grandiose megalomania, so I guess it may come across a little awkward.

JOHNSTON: Yeah, do you - I mean do you think people need to have their apologies, you know, reiterated over and over again? You know, I mean he sort of apologized in the wake of that MTV incident; which personally, when I saw it happen live, I actually thought it was just a sort of wrestling thing, where he was just, you know, doing the run-in - which is the time-honored wrestling tradition where the heel always runs in and messes everything up.

SMOOTH: Right. But he happened to pick Taylor Swift, who is this sort of innocent, squeaky clean girl next door, who would never harm a fly. So when he ran up and grabbed the mic from her and she looked totally dumbstruck and heartbroken, it looks like the captain of the football team is picking on one of the freshmen.

JOHNSTON: See, I actually think that he has a different place in the high school pantheon of pop. I see him as more of like the really, really smart kid who cries in the lunchroom, and who everyone is like, did you see that kid crying in the lunchroom. And then the one grand gesture that he makes to prove his cool backfires.

SMOOTH: His one grand stroke to impress the prom queen...

JOHNSTON: Exactly.

(Soundbite of laughter)

JOHNSTON: Beyonce.

SMOOTH: Beyonce.

JOHNSTON: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of sample from King Crimsons "21st Century Schizoid Man")

Mr. GREG LAKE (Singer, King Crimson): (Singing) 21st Century Schizoid Man.

JOHNSTON: You know, sampling King Crimson, who is this British rock band from the depths of the classic rock era, is a statement in itself. It says: Im ready to take the biggest, most grandiose statements and re-appropriate them for myself.

SMOOTH: He is pop music's 21st century schizoid man...

JOHNSTON: He is.

SMOOTH: ...I mean you could say, so it was a good choice. But are people ready to accept his schizoid self after his last bout of antics?

JOHNSTON: I dont know if they are. I think people really, right now, want their celebrities to be not that multifaceted. Because that way it's easier to fit them into the storylines. In the classic narratives, duplicity or, you know, even just having two faces, is the sign of the villain.

SMOOTH: Right.

JOHNSTON: Right?

SMOOTH: Right, I mean to a certain extent, being conflicted can be compelling and draw people in. But it's usually easiest if you have a persona thats easily identifiable: Im the good guy; Im the sweetheart; Im the rebel...

JOHNSTON: Im the brain.

SMOOTH: ...I'm the brain; Im the villain; Im the nerd.

JOHNSTON: Right.

SMOOTH: And Kanye has a few of those elements wrapped into one, and he kind of alternates between them. So it might be a little trickier for him to get back on track with a balance that was always difficult to maintain, showing these different sides of him.

(Soundbite of song, "Power):

Mr. WEST: (Singing) Im letting everything go...

MONTAGNE: That's Jay Smooth and Maura Johnston from our Pop Off Team.

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Im Renee Montagne.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, host:

And Im Mary Louise Kelly.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.