Before we proceed with this de-facto review of Kanye West’s "Power," I want to make the most potentially and deliberately ignorant series of statements I might ever write quite clear. I do not care about sampling King Crimson in the slightest. Roughly a week ago, I was blissfully unaware of this band’s existence and was content to live in a universe where they did not exist. I do not have an opinion on King Crimson. I do not care about your opinion about King Crimson. In fact, I’m kind of resentful of being forced to live in a world where I’m forced to think about the implications of a King Crimson sample. Why? Because King Crimson does not matter. If they did, I most assuredly would have, at least, have HEARD of them. But I haven’t. So I can be reasonably be assured that a King Crimson sample is irrelevant to any possible enjoyment or hatred of a Kanye West song. Act accordingly, music geeks.
As for the offending song, Kanye West’s "Power", I like it more than I hate it. The song sounds like the mutant off-spring of Kanye’s production on "The Takeover" and Kanye’s (ghost producer’s) more bombastic production on "Swagger Like Us." This is a good thing. I thought "808s and Heartbreak" was a unique if slightly undercooked excursion into emo synth pop & b but it was not the Kanye West, I signed up for when I bought into the "College Dropout" hype. A return to the sample driven bombast of his earlier work would not only be welcome but a logical progression in the wake of his recent career missteps. I welcome this sound.
The song falls apart in terms of an attempt to address those aforementioned career missteps. "Power" is meant to be a defiant stand against those who vilified Kanye for his VMA disaster, his rampant, unchecked ego and his growing lack of self-awareness and humor about himself. He wants people to know that he’s not changing and is upset that you would even question his greatness. The problem is that he manages to undercut his entire message by wasting time battering limp pop culture institutions like Saturday Night Live. The song almost comes across as self-parody when he wastes 8 bars going after the venerable late night comedy program. Is Kanye really so thin skinned that he would attack a program that’s spent nearly four decades lampooning every relevant pop culture figure and institution? Does he not realize how sad and humorless that makes him look? If there is a reason to hate this song, it’s that.
Just know, I do not care about King Crimson. And never will.