Recently, the 20th Anniversary edition of In Utero was released. With every playback, all I can think about is the same thing that most people think about when they listen to Nirvana – talent. It’s something we all claim we wish we had – I can’t tell you the number of people I went to University with whose greatest struggle was that the more they learned, the less talented (read: unique, because that’s what they really wanted to be) they felt. But ultimately, how many humans with extraordinary talent convince themselves that that talent means nothing – so much so that they decide to throw it all away?
Frustrating? Definitely. The message after the tragic death of someone like Kurt Cobain always seems to be “how could this happen to someone so talented?”. A reasonable question – that is, until you consider the alternative.
The alternative being Kanye West.
I’ve had several conversations lately with people that just can’t stand to listen to Kanye. But to clarify, when I say this I don’t mean they can’t stand to listen to his music. In fact, there are very few people I’ve encountered that don’t have at least some place in their heart for Kanye (at the very least, Dark Twisted Fantasy, which ironically followed a period where he was condemned by enraged, MTV-award-watching Americans). But they cannot stand to listen to Kanye West…the person. The reasons are as numerous as the interviews – but usually it all boils down to one thing, and that thing is arrogance.
He has openly called himself a creative genius. A mastermind. A god.
And this angers people.
Which confuses me, because all that should really matter is how talented he is.
All of the interviews and the disorganized thought aside, it should truly excite society that pure, creative and confident talent like Kanye West can still thrive in a world where people are typically too afraid to be more. Numerous platitudes devote themselves to encouraging children to “be all they can be” and “go further”, but all we’re really talking about is being enough to get by. And if you do happen to be more than the average, you had better find a way to at least pretend like you think that you’re not.
See, we say that talent like Kurt Cobain is tragic, but if we’re being honest with ourselves, his story has become society’s wet dream. Someone so obsessed with not buying into his own image, that he ultimately lived and died only by the image that society was comfortable with him having. In Kurt’s case, this was a grungy punk rocker who refused to give in to materialistic needs. Which is ridiculous, especially when you consider how materialistically capable he was at taking care of himself and his family. He got caught up in being attached to that image of humility and teenage morality – an image which stifled his music and, ultimately, him.
In the event of an emergency, we want the creative, the talented and the innovative to put society’s air mask on before they put on their own. And if they aren’t willing to make that sacrifice – if they are aware enough to realize their own value – they are condemned as being self-centred and arrogant.
Thanks to the amount of information people are forced to consume on a daily basis, I believe we’re closer than ever to reaching a point where we are sick of all of the interviews, and the analysis, and the paparazzi-style journalism. I really want to believe we’ll soon reach the breaking point, where all that matters is the work that people produce. I just don’t know how many talented people we’re going to lose (or god forbid, ignore) in the meantime. If only they could all be as confident as Kanye…