Is Kayne Entering Morrissey Status?
Updated: Apr 6, 2022
Artists have always been controversial people, whether it be Van Gogh cutting off his ear or William Burroughs writing about the junky slums he inhabited, it’s often the case that the most interesting stuff comes from the people willing to go to extremes to find the catalyst of inspiration that no one else has seen. This narrative weaves its way through the landscape of music ever so prevalently that it’s almost commonplace to see these artists who are willing to push the limits hit a melting point, whether it be Jim Morrison or Brittney Spears. The state of media coverage surely has contributed to this in some way but I think there is also an element of these people also being the people who are willing to push the limits which is why they are able to create such original and meaningful art in the first place.
We’ve recently seen Kanye West in the headlines for some less than flattering remarks and I don’t mean to make light of it but they are almost so over the top that they become laughable because nobody in known history has decided to criticize Harriet Tubman, it’s comparable to the Rosa Parks rant that Cedric the Entertainer gives in Barbershop which is a truly hilariously bad take but that was the point, it was comedy there. The thing I struggle with when it comes to Kayne is that he has made such transformative music. I’m honestly not the biggest Yeezy fan but I have to admit that he made some amazing music from The College Drop Out to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and songs like “Power” really blew my mind. I guess what I would say is I have a healthy respect for Kayne West musically but, at this point, I have had to separate the musician from his personal matter. It’s the same way I feel about Morrissey.
I grew to love the Smiths some years ago and I’m really not sure why. I guess I was probably depressed about something but, at some point, I found them and the unique vocal and lyrical identity that Morrissey possessed. It’s maybe in a larger sense that the Smiths culturally impacted music moving forward because they proved that it was possible to be an independent cult band and still grow to be a huge success. The fact is, the Smiths aren’t just important to me, they’re important to music. The comparison to Kayne comes when you start to Google the comments Morrissey has made about various social distinctions because he leaves you wondering how a guy so profound, could be such a douche. He actually has his own Rolling Stone list (Morrissey’s 15 Most Outrageous Quotes) and he’s hated on everyone from Beyoncé to Margaret Thatcher but it’s in the way he so condemningly disperses his hate, “The rhino is now more or less extinct, and it’s not because of global warming or shrinking habitats. It’s because of Beyoncé’s handbags” and “The sorrow of the IRA Brighton bombing is that Thatcher escaped unscathed”, it’s no wonder his comments have basically become that of humor, at this point, and I’m afraid so have Kayne’s.
It really is hard to think that someone was possible of making such good and meaningful music but is now someone that you totally disregard (unless they release a new piece of music) but that’s become the reality for these two. I think the explanation for this is partially that people change but also that a song doesn’t necessarily represent a person’s views on the world. Like a song about a “Gold Digger” wasn’t reflective of Kayne’s policies as a presidential candidate. Likewise, the music or art someone creates at a time may not reflect their perspective ten years later, rather an idea at a time or a feeling they once had. For the listener though, a song can be a time capsule, something listened to on repeat until those melodies and words are the thing they identify that musician with. So if an artist is able to make enough of these songs, we feel we know them, when the reality is those songs may only be a portion of them or the person they are for only a slight period of time. We tend to gravitate towards these moments and, in turn, the artists who give us these moments and it can truly be special. That’s why it is tough and confusing to see artists we respect make complete asses of themselves. For the most part, these are genuine mistakes and I think that’s something we need to get better at forgiving, but in the cases of Morrissey and Kayne, I think it’s clearly past the point of mistake. Their public personas have moved to the category of people we no longer consider credible and their music is viewed as essentially a different, separate person and for one which we give the deserved recognition. I think this is acceptable. I think we can separate art from artists, to an extent, because recognizing the way something happens, rather than the way it has come to be perceived is equally essential to it’s understanding.