Last week began like any other, with the world talking about what an asshole Kanye West is. Kanye approached the Grammy stage that Sunday as a clueless Beck accepted the award for Album of the Year, then exited stage left before repeating his Taylor Swift stunt from a few years earlier at the MTV VMAs. But the night went on, the liquor flowed, and Kanye appeared on E! later that evening to voice his dismay with the Grammys. But you knew all of this already.
Looking back, it’s now clear that Kanye’s actions were less a spur-of-the-moment, drunken decision, but instead a calculated effort to set up the events of the next week, which would include the launch of his new Adidas Yeezy Boost shoe and release of his new single. Despite his “I’m a changed man” interview on Ellen less than a month ago, Kanye took a 50 Cent-esque approach to courting controversy, not coincidentally around the same time he was about to release new product.
On Thursday February 12th, at approximately 6:00 PM in New York, Kanye’s moment had finally arrived. NBA All-Star weekend had taken over the city, and Mr. West planted his flag by unveiling his new sneaker via live stream. The shoe’s reveal was accompanied by his new high-art song “Wolves,” a collaboration with another talk-of-the-Grammys, Sia, and buzzworthy next generation Chicago rapper Vic Mensa. Soon the world would tremble in his presence and kneel at his feet. They would excuse the fact that he acted like a dick at the Grammys just a few days earlier. “Brilliant,” they’d cry, forgiving all of his past transgressions.
Or so he thought. Like “Only One” with Paul McCartney released a month earlier, the response to the new song was considerably lukewarm. “Wolves” found Kanye somewhere at the crossroads of his 808s & Heartbreak and Yeezus albums; an incoherent, repetitive, autotuned mess, that would end up as just a blip in the ongoing 24 hour entertainment news cycle, ironically getting the “Kanye shrug” from both his fans and detractors.
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