The Bound 2 video is great. Kanye is great. A lack of appreciation for either is a lack of appreciation for pop culture. I don’t have patience for the mentality that pop should be dismissed, that there are ways to quantify art, that things can be Real or Fake, Authentic or Commercial, Genuine or Performative. That mentality is simultaneously adolescent yet bygone—lazy reductions that afford idiots the impression of cultural expertise. If you wanna talk about how auto-tuned songs shouldn’t win Grammys then please just whisper your philosophy into my patient swampy ass.
The Bound 2 video is disgusting. Layers of Windows backgrounds, time-lapse bullshit, glowing green screen stages, and Thomas Kinkade landscapes.
"Thomas Kinkade" is how I would describe the whole video (if I’m only allowed to use 2 words and they can’t be "Kanye West"). Thomas Kinkade is in many ways all the evil things in the human race. The fact that anything he’s ever done was met with anything more than a sobering, stubborn attempt to hold back vomit is truly depressing to me, but then again I am a giant douche. We live in a world where Thomas Kinkade can make people think "ah, yes, beauty" and maybe we should embrace that vast nebula of philistinism. Not to say that this is Kanye’s embrace, since he is familiar enough with the Kinkade aesthetic to be aware of the fact that Kinkade himself is a White America thing, just as vast Western landscapes and the
exploration theft of new lands is a White America thing. In that Breakfast Club interview, Kanye said he wanted the video to look phony, fake, “take white trash t-shirts and make it into a video.” Both the sincere and ironic wearing of white trash t-shirts is a white people thing, albeit a difference in class. The landscapes, airbrushed backgrounds, forest animals and feathers evokes (proudly, in the bizarre case of the wearers) a whitewashed, summarized version of Native American culture—the version white Americans prefer, the version that downplays the blind exploitation of three entire continents. This version celebrates the purity of the mythic America that we magically discovered cleansed; natural beauty becomes distorted, cheap and fake and polished. White trash = the lower class = the expressed forms of violent and vocal racism made more visible by classist ideas that aim to disguise the quiet, institutional, rich people racism as somehow less racist. An eagle cresting Mt. Hood under a lunar dreamcatcher. A tig ol’ bitties blonde on a dirt bike. A confederate flag.
West co-opted a white trash aesthetic for the video (and on his back), knowing that people wouldn’t like it. Great, because any major pop work is unfinished at the release. The public reception and digestion is as much part of the Bound 2 video as its production (if not more). The general consensus seemed to be “it looks cheap” and “Kanye fucks Kim on a motorcycle,” which is weird because she’s wearing pants. If you told me that music video cost $2,500 I would be like yeah sure that makes sense. If you told me Kanye spent $300 million to specifically recreate time-lapse stock videos I would be like yeah sure that makes sense.
It’s worth noting that the creative liberty I just assumed he had comes from the fact that yes he’s been very vocal about his creative particularities, but he’s also a man, and the public seems way more accepting of the idea that a male pop star is actually a Rock Star, is actually in control, and is actually producing “real art” compared to the “fake music” that female pop stars (not artists) perform rather than write. Everything Kanye does, Ke$ha and Lana Del Rey do too. Miley, idk.
As a/the pop figure, Kanye West has demonstrated that Realness doesn’t matter. Everything is an image. When the image says you’re riding through the desert at a thousand miles an hour (or like, 1 mile an hour because otherwise how would the time-lapse clouds be moving so fast??), that’s what’s happening. What are time-lapsed landscapes and wild animals and mechanically moving machines other than depictions of the real? At some point, notions of “reality” and “realness” oversaturate their own depiction. The real becomes fake, phony, cheap, kitsch.
It would be weirder if the video looked “better,” with loads of CGI used to show Kimye flying through the southwest on a motorcycle while the environment changes around them. It would be an attempt to recreate an “actual” event, something that could be witnessed, something that could interrupt your life. Kanye doesn’t do that. He doesn’t go for looking real. There is no real. There is no fake.