Pop Cult: Kanye West, Cezar, Roy Kim

Allen Huang / May 24, 2013

Pop Cult: Lost In The World

Screen shot from bystander video of Kanye West’s “Face” stunt

Kanye West – “New Slaves” : A

The thing with Kanye is that it’s never been about the accessories or the cash. It’s always clearly about legacy, and the representation of wealth is just the biggest part of that. So when Kanye drives his Porche with his celebrity girlfriend in tow, and then debuts his highly anticipated album with a blistering rant about consumerism, capitalism, and the absurdity of wealth, it’s not hypocritical. It’s necessarily dissonant. Introspection is a continuum, and Kanye lives on the edge where the polar ends meet. This is all very consistent with the things he said back on Graduation and College Dropout, but instead of theorizing what it would be like to be rich and famous and still unfulfilled, he is now actually rich and famous and, yes, unfulfilled.

Many people wish he’d go away, use slivers of his personality to dismiss him, cherry-pick instances of his self-exposed history to frame him as unimportant, as deluded. But I argue that it’s his level of self-exposure, his very relatable, uniquely African-American life and desires that make him THE most compelling artist in the world right now. Rather than fleeing to a farm in Ohio, or producing a bunch of failed boy bands, or buying a piece of the Nets and getting chummy with LeBron, Kanye chooses to stand his ground and point out how the world was built to reward egomaniacal ambition like his.


Cezar – “It’s My Life” : B+

I love Eurovision so much. One part World Cup, one part American Idol and one part Gong Show —  it’s simply one of the most surreal events of the year. And while the top songs this year were fairly unconventional ballads (Denmark won by basically photocopying “Viva la Vida”), there were more than a few gems to be found in the qualifiers. But none shone brighter than Romania’s Cezar.

There must be a rule that says all songs with “It’s My Life” in the title have to be strangely compelling. Cezar’s self-affirming tour de force is an EDM-opera that channels Freddy Mercury and Bjork at the same time, through a door that is much too small for either of them to fit through alone. Cezar is an accomplished artist in his own right, a high-concept countertenor who has performed at operahouses all over the world. But this really takes it to the next level. He’s going to be performing with Andrea Bocelli and his next single is composed by Vangelis. So, thank you Eurovision for introducing him to me.


Roy Kim – “Bom Bom Bom” : B

Roy Kim is the winner of Superstar K4, yet another Korean talent show. He beat the hilariously named DickPunks who thankfully were also signed and are also promoting their newest single. Roy is the real package, though: handsome face, vocals meant for ballads, familiarity with America (he went to Georgetown). It seems the rest of Korea agrees as his song is #1 on the K-Pop Billboard chart and third only to Lee Hyori and 4Minute on the Gaon Chart.

“Bom Bom Bom” slides right into place alongside VH1 nutjerkers like Jason Mraz and Jack Johnson. But unlike the cloying hippie vibe/in-your-face musicianship of that sector, Kim’s tune is more subtle and thus more listenable. He lives in that high range comfortably, and the vocal melody is not content to just sit around and simply exist. The country tinges are interesting too, not something you see in Korean balladry normally.

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