Sunday, January 24, 2016

Song of the Day #256 - Kanye West - Real Friends

I guess I get what I deserve, don't I?

Here's the second of the 2016 GOOD Friday tracks. I've been patiently waiting for #4, in a weird sort of "patience" that involves a lot of f5ing. But I know I'm not alone, I know that millions are f5ing with me, and that has a nice "communion" feeling to it. It really does feel like a special sort of patience. It really isn't even about it coming out when you have that (although it would be nice). It's just that wonderful feeling of everyone coming together... After the polarizing "Facts", seeing everyone unite in love for "Real Friends" was beautiful, too. People saying stuff like "Ye is back!!", possibly each referring to personal periods of distaste where he was "gone", or even just the week between tracks. This one I can believe actually coming from Swish, and if it's indicative of anything, it's a forerunner of the AOTY.

But although it's a celebratory occasion, this is a deeply sad song. Looking at his career on paper, you can see a problematic disconnect between the Kanye of old, who treasured his family first, and the Kanye of now, a titan of several creative industries, someone who's personal relationships are inherently complicated and constrained. That is to say, how can he be both "family reunion cousin Kanye" and "maybe I'll open a hotel lol Kanye"? It's the sort of struggle that usually manifests in deep internal pain, but Kanye bravely bares it all, in no uncertain terms, on this track. He's at once lamenting his inability to connect with those he cares for and the pain he feels when those very same people try to exploit him.

It really bugs me when people label Kanye a "douchebag" and point to things like the line "When was the last time I remembered a birthday", or the attitude they extrapolate from it, deliberately ignoring the attitude that made him deliberately express it in a song. He's basically saying "my celebrity status strains my relationships so I can't always be the person I want to be", and people are responding to that with "lol douche". Ahh, I shouldn't belabor this point, it is too sad. Kanye is well past these sort of external haters being able to bring him down. It is nothing compared to the real conflicts he deals with in his real life.

This song itself gives perhaps the most outrageous example ever: Kanye's cousin stole a laptop from him that had unreleased songs and sex tapes, and then extorted Kanye out of 250k to get it back. Now, to me, when Kanye paid up, that should have been the end of it, right? But because he mentioned it here, is it not sorta just... the situation he was already in? That he just paid his way out of? Does that seem crazy to you? I'm not sure if I can articulate how crazy it seems to me. It's just this weird intersection of vulnerability and power, of need and disregard, where it becomes unclear exactly why he's saying what he is. Sorta like a scene of someone drunkenly shouting "now I'm gonna tell you what I really think about you!" but then, within 10 minutes, breaking down and crying and saying "I still just love you all, I just want to do what's best for you".

It mirrors perfectly with the sound of the track, which is just this blissful underwater place, with that sonar-like kick and liquid piano... it is the sound of distant parties, of blurred thinking, of vague longing. The way he integrates Ty Dolla $ign is expert - he serves as the voice of the "other" making demands of Kanye, but then also the other side of Kanye's inner voice. His gravely voice contrasts super well with Kanye's, driving home this feeling of his saying what Kanye could not. And the ending, oh man, "I guess I get what I deserve, don't I?", how could haters say what they say if they heard that, heard the way he said it?

Fantastic track. And now I return to f5ing for the new track. Ideally the (crazy) rumours are true and it has Andre 3000, The Weeknd, and Drake. Second most wanted is the CDQ for "Wolves", which I'm still steadily listening to, and it turns out it's actually like 8 minutes long and we haven't even heard half. With Kanye, all these things are possible, but what's even more likely is that it'll be something even better than we can imagine.

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