The most talked about image of Kanye West’s new music video “Famous” emulates Vincent Desiderio’s “Sleep”. It depicts the aftermath of what we can only assume to be one super awkward orgy (or just a super awkward, nude group rest). Kanye joins George W. Bush, Anna Wintour, Rihanna, Chris Brown, Taylor Swift, Kim Kardashian, Ray J, Amber Rose, Caitlyn Jenner and Bill Cosby – or at least wax figures of them – in a giant bed. Kanye said “Famous” isn’t dissing or supporting anyone. It’s a “comment on fame.”
Sure, whatever. It’s a better representation of 2016 Kanye, whose powerful musical ability has become inextricable, and threatens to be overshadowed by, his odd off-record antics. “Famous” (available exclusively on Tidal) seeks to bring these two things together, highlighting a host of Kanye’s past controversies via a collection of nude wax figures.
Kanye throws back to instances like his infamous declaration that Bush “doesn’t care about black people,” like when he tweeted Cosby’s innocence or when Wintour put her foot in her mouth. Exceptions to this rule of controversy include Rihanna and her abusive ex-boyfriend Chris Brown. Both have collaborated with Kanye and haven’t had any public issues with him. Rihanna joins the naked wax figure roster presumably because she’s featured on the track, and Chris Brown because….well, maybe because of the outrage of the two being placed side by side. Other odd inclusions are Caitlyn Jenner, who’s cool with Kanye as far as we know, and Ray J, whose sex tape with Kim has more to do with her than Kanye. But it’s Amber Rose and Taylor Swift who are the most memorable when it comes to Kanye Kontroversy – and who have publicly tussled with him more than once. While their links to Kanye are completely different – one of them dated him, the other was literally upstaged by him – Kanye perceives them the same: women whose fame was made possible by his attention.
Kanye literally says so of Taylor in “Famous” with, “I feel like me and Taylor may still have sex / Why? I made that bitch famous.” Cue Taylor’s offense, Kanye declaring he got her approval, Taylor saying otherwise, Kim chiming in, and Kanye making it all better by putting a naked Wax!Taylor Swift asleep next to him – in a video for the song that caused her offense in the first place. Of course, this all began at the 2009 VMA’s, when Kanye infamously crashed Taylor’s acceptance speech. Afterward Kanye was apologetic, and Taylor recorded the patronizing but forgiving “Innocent.” As she put out three successful albums, won more awards (that she’s accepted with uninterrupted speeches), and was photographed smiling with Kanye, it looked like the incident had faded into a still-amusing but ultimately squashed Kontroversy.
Then there was “Famous.”
Just as odd as Kanye’s rising obsession with recalling this Taylor Swift business, is his equally odd fixation on Amber Rose. Six years ago she appeared regularly with Kanye on red carpets, but they broke up after two years.
Since then, Amber’s had a four year relationship and a child with Wiz Khalifa, written How to be A Bad Bitch, advocated for the end of slut-shaming and become an actress and model. She has a life and a career that have nothing to do with Kanye, but this hasn’t stopped him from dragging her whenever possible. He said he needed to take “30 showers” after their split to be suitable for Kim, and in the same interview said, “If Kim had dated me when I first wanted to be with her, there would be no Amber Rose.”
Yes, Kanye made Amber Rose, a hypothesis he ran with during an unnecessary Twitter argument with Wiz where he slammed Amber for being a stripper and “trapping” Wiz by getting pregnant. Oh, and he also claimed that Wiz and Amber’s kid wouldn’t exist if not for him. Because Wiz was only into Amber because Kanye dated her first.
Kanye’s immense ego is well known, and it’s convinced him he’s the root of two women’s current and future success. Now he raps about Taylor Swift owing him sex because he “made her famous” while simultaneously resenting Amber’s rising star now that they’re no longer sleeping together. But Amber and Taylor progress, reaping the rewards of his attention, while he can’t even benefit from his own art. Kanye’s been vocal about the opportunities he’s missing out on, ambitions he’s struggling to achieve, and he’s pleaded for help to change that. Amber and Taylor? Not so much. Whether Kanye’s career is struggling or not (the attention being paid to “Famous,” including my writing this, proves he’s far from a has-been), it only matters that Kanye believes it is.
So far Kanye’s music hasn’t helped him, his fashion line hasn’t helped him, but maybe the “walking performance art” of his life (and his Twitter and his interviews) will do the job. If he reminds everyone that it was his touch that blessed Amber and Taylor and transformed them into the women they are (ugh) will he finally get the recognition he deserves? If he drags them down far enough will his blessings be returned to him? If he says more outlandish and offensive things, groups naked public figures together in a nude tableau, will he finally reach the heights he knows he can?
Maybe, maybe not.
All that’s certain is that Amber and Taylor don’t need Kanye. On the contrary, it seems more likely he needs them. After all they aren’t the ones who revived talk of their controversies with naked wax figures are they?
Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!