Kanye the Heartless Artist
Yeah, Kanye got to me.
I admit it. The guy’s such a giant tool it’s unbelievable. I’ve already vented about the Taylor Swift, MTV fiasco over at Writer Dad, and asked children to express their thoughts on the topic over at Children Write the Future. Here at the Inkwell I would like to focus on Kanye’s creative merit.
About six weeks ago I had an idea for a post that ended up keeping about thirty-two thousand others company in a file marked “ideas for someday.” The thought was to compare the two versions of Kanye’s Heartless. I’m glad the day has given me reason to dig the idea up.
I find Kanye’s version rather vapid and lacking any real emotion or genuine soul. It is overproduced to the point of diminished perfection, trying way too hard to rinse the radio ready single of Kanye’s awkward style of rapping. Heartless is also the third or fourth song (I’ve lost count) where he has sung a set of vocals in place of the usual rhyme scheme, pushing him ever closer toward the category of Pop music where I believe he clearly belongs.
The single itself is sad, carrying a downbeat melody on the shoulders of a weary backbeat. Kanye sings about “the coldest story ever told” because of “a woman so heartless.” Throughout every synth echo, Kanye begs the question, “How could you be so heartless?”
This is a question asked throughout the history of music in every genre going back to when they were banging keys in the palaces of Vienna.
What makes this particular piece of music especially disposable, at least to me, is that I don’t believe a word. Kanye isn’t singing the song so much as he’s singing at it. It is Kanye’s delivery of the material I find most heartless of all.
I would have written the song off entirely, but then I heard the Fray’s version.
This version of Heartless done by the Fray feels raw, and rather remarkable. It somehow manages to twist a trite piece of commercial chart grabbing crap into something that resonates. The way the song is delivered in the quieter version, you feel the notes and understand the hurt. You are there while the feelings linger.
Anton Chekhov said, “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass…”
This is what the Fray have done and what Kanye doesn’t know how to do. Listen to each of the versions below and let me know what you think in the comments. Not just which is better, though I am curious to see the consensus, but I also wonder about the bigger question. Do the elements of the Fray’s version exist in Kanye’s? Would they be there if the Fray hadn’t been around to retrieve them from the dirt and dust them with their brush?
Let me know what you think.
If you head on over to Ghostwriter Dad I ask, “What can Kanye teach you about business?“