Aging not so gracefully
Published: Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 23:01
I’ll never forget the 2006 Superbowl. While I can’t recall which teams played in the game, or even who won, the halftime show will remain forever engrained into my brain.
“Dad! Why the hell are these senior citizens running around with long hair and skinny leather pants?”
The 2006 Superbowl Halftime show was the first time I had ever seen a live performance of The Rolling Stones. I’ve never been a big British Invasion guy, but when the Stones come on the radio, I don’t dare turn the tuner dial. Their music isn’t my favorite, but it certainly isn’t bad.
Their halftime performance however, was worse than bad – it was horrific. The music was bad, the band’s outfits were worse, and their mannerisms were puzzling.
Between their loss of sex appeal, diminishing ability and countless line-up changes, The Rolling Stones were, and are, a shell of their former selves. Their refusal to recognize or embrace their age leaves fans in a state of nostalgic chagrin and their critics in a permanent state of disgust.
In the entertainment industry, particularly in music, old usually means boring, and boring always means death. Like the Stones, many aging artists embarrass themselves under industry pressure to remain relevant and young. Few artists embrace their age and instead opt to fight wrinkles, weight gain and a family oriented lifestyle in a battle to preserve a youthful, ‘cool’ image.
But listeners and viewers aren’t stupid. The Rolling Stones didn’t fool anyone in 2006. Despite their best effort, the world plainly saw The Rolling Stones for what they are – an aging, albeit legendary rock band.
Like The Rolling Stones, Kanye West has aged poorly. At age 35, West acts like he’s not a day over twenty. His public antics and increasingly shallow lyrics depict a man growing in age, but not in maturity.
West’s latest work, while extremely polished, lacks depth, sincerity and focus. Take for example his verse on “Mercy.” He sloppily moves from suicide doors to his reputation at Def Jam to his ability to buy entire buildings. This verse, like most of his more recent raps, lacks a cohesive topic and flows like a cross between a grade-school boast and a child’s Christmas list. West brags about his wealth and public stature through lyrics hardly differentiable from a myriad of other rappers with high salaries and large lifestyles.
But West’s lyrics weren’t always so shallow. His debut album, “The College Dropout,” introduced the world to an artist who succeeded by the sounds of his own beats. His soulful production, and socially aware, yet brutally sincere and personal lyrics on “Dropout” made it one of the previous decade’s best releases.
West continued to tackle personal topics in a meaningful way on his next four releases. While his production skills only improved, becoming more visionary and experimental over time, his voice has never been as crisp, and his message never as clear or accessible as it was on “Dropout.”
Kanye West is, for all intensive purposes, aging backwards. A once strikingly mature, promising young rapper seems to be purposefully transforming himselfinto a laughable character, devoid of both substance and maturity. West’s early work was intelligent, raw and unique. His more recent material – loud, obnoxious and simple – follows hip-hops worst trends. Though age 35, West’s music was smarter, more soulful, and wiser when he was 27.
Faced with growing older, West is struggling and unless something changes very quickly, he will soon, like The Rolling Stones, embarrass himself in front of fans and critics alike.