Taylor’s privilege and Kanye’s ego
When I wrote about Taylor Swift winning her second Album of the Year Grammy and her subsequent acceptance speech, which was directed at Kanye West, I noted that in doing so, she linked that award to him forever. Taylor Swift + Kanye West. FOREVER. Click here for a refresher. I’m not sure he’s OK with that. But I’m pretty sure she’s more not OK with it than he is.
It’s been two weeks. And Kanye continues to rant on Twitter and more and more – most? – people continue to hate him. A couple of days ago, however, the Daily Beast published a piece about their influence – who’s more influential, Taylor or Kanye, after a poll of 1000 Americans revealed that they think Taylor is almost 50% more influential than Kanye is even though he insists he’s 50% more influential than almost everyone. The writer then goes on to not so much defend Kanye but put Kanye’s career and achievement in perspective by comparison to Taylor, “the living embodiment of white privilege”. Click here to read it.
Taylor’s parents were affluent, well connected, when she was growing up. There’s a disconnect between the adolescent suckage and struggle she claims to have experienced and the actual trajectory of her career. And that’s a fair point. What’s unfair about that, however, is that while focusing on Taylor’s undeniable privilege and entitlement is important, we can’t undermine her talent. She is a very, very talented songwriter. She is a very, very determined businesswoman. These are the qualities I admire most about her. These are the qualities I wish she’d focus on more.
That said, in the ongoing Taylor vs Kanye situation, and whose side you are on, the reason it’s become Taylor + Kanye = FOREVER is because…well… don’t they do the same thing? Aren’t they, when you think about it, actually the same?
Kanye is all about Kanye. All the time. Yes. Of course. Totally.
Taylor is all about Taylor too. ALL THE TIME. As the writer notes:
More worrisome, then, is the way Swift approaches current issues, not by shining a light on the issue itself, but by redirecting the focus back on her. When the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage throughout the U.S., Swift rejoiced by quoting a line from her own song; in her video for “Bad Blood,” she claimed to promote “sisterhood” by assembling a squad of heavily armed A-list friends to vanquish a Katy Perry surrogate; and when Nicki Minaj criticized the VMAs for its historical bias against black artists—which has been well-documented- Swift made it all about herself, accusing Minaj of not supporting other women (reminder: Swift’s nominated video was about recruiting a group of celebrity pals to destroy Katy Perry). Recently, she donated $250,000 to Kesha—while broadcasting the act, and the dollar amount, to the public. It’s a fine gesture, of course, but also a calculated one that’s deflected attention away from Kesha’s horrifying case and toward Swift’s altruism.
You could say then that Kanye’s bombastic narcissism, while annoying, is, at the very least, honest. It’s not narcissism in sheep’s clothing. It’s narcissism straight up, without disguise. Whereas Taylor’s narcissism is insidiously disguised. Doesn’t mean it’s not there though. And in that sense, they’re more alike than they are different. Kanye loves Kanye a lot. Taylor loves Taylor a lot too. It’s a lot easier though for Taylor to love Taylor, isn’t it? And it’s a lot easier for US to love Taylor. Think about the “living embodiment of white privilege”. OF COURSE she’s feeling herself. Of course we’re feeling her too. We’ve been systematically programmed to.
By contrast, Kanye loving himself is almost an act of defiance. A few years ago, I read a great article written by Heben Nigatu called In Defence Of Kanye’s Vanity: The Politics Of Black Self-Love. She posits that Kanye’s ego is a challenge to institutionalised racism. Because not too long ago, a black person not only wasn’t given opportunities to love herself/himself, s/he wasn’t even accepted as a whole person, worthy of being loved. I think often about this piece when Kanye is being Kanye. This is not to say that I support all of what Kanye does/says. He is a f-ckwad so much of the time. He is almost always his own worst enemy. But let’s not pretend that he’s the only megalomaniac. Let’s not pretend that his self-worship is exclusive.
Here’s Taylor out last night with Jack Antonoff and also shopping the day before. Did you know it’s her one year anniversary with Calvin Harris?
It's been one year since Ellie Goulding introduced Taylor Swift to Calvin Harris at the Elle Style Awards 👀 pic.twitter.com/TLbrQGmSGn— Shady Music Facts (@musicnews_shade) February 26, 2016