What did we think of Kayne’s “Runaway” video? High art or pretentious self indulgence? Here’s what we got from it….
The opening scene finds Mr. West driving his Tatra MTX V8 through the woods. This represents a version of Kanye before his mother passed, before Taylorgate. The wilderness represents society as a whole, and Kanye’s speeding through it with complete disregard for anyone or anything in it’s path. The Phoenix crashing to earth is a physical manifestation of his career, his art, or even deeper, his soul, crashing and burning. This is a wake-up call suggesting he is living his life too fast. When he stops and gets out of his vehicle to approach it, he realizes he must slow down and re-examine things. “Runaway” is about Kanye rediscovering himself and finding his place in the world.
After she crashes, Kanye must nurse her back to health. And taking the form of Selita Ebanks, who wouldn’t want to? Appropriately, Kanye begins to play a bare-bones version of “Power” on the MPC, literally injecting power back into his career. She begins to feel invigorated and the music – even in it’s most stripped down form – helps her stand again, making way for her eventual resurrection. What he is trying to say here is that despite his personal shortcomings, his music is true art that speaks for itself.
The Michael Jackson imagery, yes, is Kanye comparing himself to MJ. In his interview with Sway, Ye described this scene as introducing the Phoenix to his world – the flashing lights, the fame, the glory that comes with celebrity. He is introducing the music to the music industry. Taken more symbolically, what this scene represents are the hooded masses praising Michael Jackson in death, when they crucified him in his life. Kanye feels this way. What he is trying to say here is, like Michael, one day people will overlook his flaws and celebrate his musical genius, but only after he is gone. The Phoenix is allured by the prospects of fame and glory.
The dinner scene represents Kanye’s relationship with the hip-hop industry and audience. Here, he attempts to revive his art by reintroducing himself after a long hiatus, as he brings the Phoenix to dinner with him. The Phoenix, as a manifestation of his music, looks different than everyone else at the table. This represents Kanye’s sound, which implements soul samples, live violins, and heavy lyrics, as opposed to the monochromatic, formulaic approach to hip-hop music that many others are taking. The other people at the table point and whisper in awe at Kanye’s take on the art form, suggesting that yes, it is beautiful, but it goes against the grain of what the usual commercial hip-hop record should sound like. The line, “Do you know she’s a bird?”, suggests that you can’t make hip-hop the way he does, as it does not apply to today’s trends. A toast to the douche-bags is appropriate here.
Once dinner is served, the Phoenix begins to panic, because she is shocked that everyone at the table has no problem eating one of her kind. This represents the cannibalistic nature of hip-hop and the industry. An art form that once had a set of rules is now indifferent to commercialization and has no problem eating itself. The Phoenix is shocked at the table guests’ nonchalant attitude to selling it’s soul. Everyone leaves, and Kanye is frustrated and afraid nobody will accept his art in it’s true form. The flames appear again, suggesting there is no hope and his career/soul/art will continue to burn.
After the ill-fated dinner party, we find the Phoenix distraught. She tells Kanye, “Do you know what I hate most about your world? Anything that is different you try change. You try to tear it down.” She realizes that she must “burn”, otherwise she will turn to stone. Kanye is confused, he just came from an industry party that told him that he cannot make music the way he wants to. His art tells him that it must be fully realized, otherwise it will be forgotten, and eventually shit upon by pigeons. Kanye realizes that ultimately, what he believed to be his career crashing and burning were just obstacles in his path. These events, while they brought him down temporarily, were integral to reigniting the creative fire that would shape his art to come. The Phoenix ascends to the sky, showing that his art speaks for itself, rising high above any industry set standards. Coming to this realization, he runs back to through the woods, with a new found sense of purpose.
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