Watch: Does the final version of Kanye West's 'Monster' cross the line?
Hey, it's his "Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy": Who are we to judge?
Of course we can judge. It's Kanye West, and his final version of his "Monster" video. This shortened version lacks the Rick Ross cameo -- which, to this writer, was the laziest portion of the original. But we're not talking about the original: here's "art." Yeezy wants to make sure we call it that, because somehow that protects it from the original criticisms lodged against it to begin with. Namely? It depicts the brutalization of women, frequently unclothed. It's meant to be gross -- but beautiful -- in all its monster-ly glory.
And ironic, considering that Jay-Z's "Achilles Heel" is, in fact, "love," not "naked models draped on furniture."
[More after the jump...]
Read my original, very positive review of "Dark Twisted Fantasy" here.
This touches on a few music videos of recent memory. Of course -- how could we forget! -- Rihanna's "Man Down," with its depiction of rape and murder. The former is directly implied in the Barbadian singer's clip, but here it's almost the means to an end (serial killing), either before the murders or as necrophilia. Either way, I don't think the point here was to discuss consent... (Fun fact: there is no federal law prohibiting sex with a corpse, only state laws in select few [!!]).
In both cases, I'd say that the songs don't match their videos, content-wise. But a major difference between these may lie in the intent with the vids: where I argue that Rihanna's video is intended as a very sad fictional narrative to a very real scenario, West's is illustrative, of a violent mental nature. And the violence looks absolutely fabulous. It glorifies it, where Rihanna's does not.
Which leads us to 30 Seconds to Mars' "Hurricane," as it laps, ball-gags and stirs up the many sexual fantasies of Jared Leto and Co. And the key there is "fantasy": the actor-turned-musician's depiction of consented sadomasochism is set in a dreamscape, somewhat similar to West's, Hov's and Nicki MInaj's fantasy world. Is "Monster" West's sexual fantasy, or a castigation of such fantasies into the realm of "Monsters"-only? Minaj's self-flagellation and torture -- as HitFix cohort Melinda Newman said in her review of the first video -- could be considered at least more interesting than the straight-up grossness of decapitated heads and a deathly ménage à trois.
"Monster" could be another take on the Angel Face character in "Fight Club," coincidentally played by Leto in the film adaptation: West "wanted to destroy something beautiful I'd never have." Destruction as creation...
Or destruction as fetishism? Which leads us to Lady Gaga's "Paparazzi," which similarly features mannequin types beautifully deceased. But like Minaj's version of brutalization, it's self-inflicted, each case a suicide. When we visited the video for the first time all the way back in 2009, I noted David LaChapelle's influence, on the sexual preoccupation with the disabled or emotionally disturbed. It's an objectification either way, though self-destruction and an omnipresent third carries a different weight than a grown man making playthings out of dead young women.
It's no surprise that LaChapelle has worked with both. And Gaga is known as a "Monster" too.
West's art-piece doesn't flirt with the lines of art and virtue, it intentionally rapes them. Certainly it's provocative, but what's the point?
"I cross the line," he chants. "And I let God decide." Yeah, well, you started it.