The best thing a person in a dark place could ever hope for is the release of a new Kanye West album coinciding with their despair. I would easily choose knowing for sure that my life was going to feel terrible and ugly a bunch more times over the course of it yet have all those times correspond to new Kanye album release dates than never be sad again.
The first week of March was one of the most hideous weeks of my life and I spent every available second of it listening to The Life of Pablo. It was a weird time. Almost all the darkness in my life stemmed from external factors; I was bummed because life was a bummer, one bummer event after the other. Struggling to find replacement tenants for the flat my ex-boyfriend and I were abandoning and then smashing the fuck out of my head on a brick archway in the middle of working a private dinner for corporate AOL, waking up the next morning with a minor concussion and having to be guilt-tripped about my lifestyle by the nurse at the hospital who diagnosed me with it. She really wanted it to be true about me that I hit my head in the middle of being on a coke-fueled bender but, unfortunately for her, I am a mere klutz.
My friend Matt King first sent me TLOP on Valentine’s Day. He emailed it to me as a zip file and I emailed him back "It's a Valentine's Day miracle!" I opened it up at work, sitting alone in my empty restaurant, and listened to Ultralight Beam. He’d tweeted earlier that TLOP was the Sandinista! of Kanye so based on that tweet my expectations were impossibly high. And then the first song on the album is Ultralight Beam; I don’t like Ultralight Beam. It's still my least-favourite song on the album that isn't, like, a skit.
Kanye West’s relationship to the Christian God is tied with the part of Kanye West’s personality that compels him to write sentences like “This good dick will put your ass to sleep” for being the aspect of Kanye West I relate to least. I’d be down to listen to a cool Kanye song about Christianity, but I just don’t think “This is a God dream” is as good of a sentence as I’m sure Kanye West does, or a good sentence at all. So I gave up on listening to The Life of Pablo that day.
I started listening to The Life of Pablo again a couple weeks later, when a girl I know from home Instagrammed a selfie about listening to Waves, captioned with a sentence about how she’d listened to Waves a thousand times that day, and I thought that Waves was such a chill beautiful name for a song and I felt jealous of her relationship to Waves. I didn’t know what Waves was but I pictured the colour blue in my head and I wanted to listen to Waves a thousand times that day too.
I listened to it in bed. I was sitting up with my laptop in my lap. My eyes were crusty and felt like little raisins in my head. I didn’t have a concussion yet. I was cold. I could hear my roommate faffing about in the next room and I hated the sound of it. I hate the sound of people opening up cabinets and boiling water and toasting things, all that regular around the house shit that I really need to train myself to be less soul-destroyingly annoyed by. That whole week was so stupid. We were always having flat viewings and my ex-boyfriend made so much of that type of noise. He was obsessed with touching all my shit and moving it from one place in the room to another. I wasn’t very helpful about finding new flatmates. I just wanted to sit cross-legged on my bedroom floor and listen to Waves a thousand times and think about what colour the waves in Waves would be, which is: dark bluish grey, like a bruise. He came into the room to make the bed and he started to tell me tips about how best to make a bed and I said “It’s okay, it’s fine, I’m never planning to make a bed once in my entire life,” which was pretty rude of me, I’ll admit. But I was in a Kanye headspace and I felt backed up by Kanye in my choices. Kanye wouldn’t want me to make a bed either. He’d want me to do me and get rich and in the future pay somebody else to do it. But that’s not really part of it; Kanye doesn’t get me either. (On this level, only Mick Jagger does. I’ve always had an aversion to making beds, a fundamental aspect of myself that I decided to fully go with and embrace in the middle of a brief affair with the Rolling Stones song Monkey Man I once had; “I’m a sack of broken eggs; I always have an unmade bed; don’t you?” he sings. It’s important to me that I always be a person who answers “Yes” to that question. I’m sorry. I just don’t care if my bed is made or not.)
The second song from TLOP I fell in love with was No More Parties In LA because it’s fast, it’s the hit. I always love the fast hit. I can't listen to it without imagining myself dancing to in it. (Here is my dancing to No More Parties in LA outfit the inside of my head made up for me: tiny black shift dress and a plaid flannel shirt, maybe tied around my waist in semi-homage to the scene from Clueless where Tai is alone at the club and keeps trying to repurpose her flannel in weirder and weirder ways so she feels less like shit about herself, my red low-top Vans and whatever my perfect LJ baseball cap ends up being for the summertime. I just bought myself a red LJF monogrammed baby blue one off Etsy but now I’m thinking I might just want a navy New York Yankees snapback? I'm classic.) I got home from work one night and my ex was at his new flat in Elephant & Castle and I decided to practice dancing to No More Parties in LA in my bedroom just to double-check that I’d be as good at it in real life as I was in my dream in my head and I was thrilled to discover that I’m even better! I’ve done a lot of squats and lunges since the last time I danced.
I love the part of No More Parties in LA when in slides Kendrick. His voice sounds like granite. He has an interesting relationship with syllables, with rhythm I guess. He raps like when you listen to an exceptional bass player play bass and it seemingly has nothing to do with anything else that’s going on in the world of the singer or drummer or guitar player yet makes total sense regardless. He’s such a chill and gentle presence on that song. It’s both jarrring and exciting when it turns back into Kanye. His voice is so much rounder and louder and bigger and makes me think of furry zoo animals, mammals, big-eyed dogs and pandas and bears. What bears would sound like if they rapped.
He hates parties in LA, this guy, this Kanye. He's into realer shit, like parenting and sneaker design. I guess it’s Kim’s fault, I guess she’s the one who keeps dragging him to all the parties; I don’t get why she’s even into it at all. She doesn’t even drink.
I love Kim. I used to be a little bit sad that Kanye ended up with Kim because I’d wanted him to end up a weirder chick, I wanted him to have a Yoko. But maybe I had the whole thing backwards. Maybe Kanye is actually Kim’s Yoko! It’s a beautiful thought, I know.I love everything that Kim and Kanye have been doing lately. I love how they’re both aggressive Internet feminists now. I am very much pro-that Kanye & Kim development. Sometimes Kanye says things like “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex; why? I made that bitch famous,” and you think “No, there’s no way this guy’s a feminist,” but I think he is, and is just an idiot. That lyric's just a stupid joke, to Kanye West in Kanye’s own head. He gets off a little bit too hard on being provocative and the crassness of that lyric is part of it. (I wish Kanye would self-edit just the tiniest bit more. Obviously the crux of Kanye’s charm steps from his refusal to self-edit ever, but I wish he would channel, like, three extra percent of his creative energy into self-editing: he would still fully come across as a guy who never self-edits, but his art would be about 50% less sloppy, and infinitely more successful.)
There are tons of gorgeously pro-woman moments on TLOP, and most of them relate to Kim: it’s so cool when he shouts out the fact that the E! entertainment network is bankrolling his entire family, and “Kimoji just shut down the app store” is an absolutely stunning sentence, almost humbly so, in the exact way that “This is a God dream” isn’t. And despite its being home to that gross Taylor Swift lyric that I don’t care about, Famous is definitely TLOP's most blatantly feminist moment, in that its excellence is entirely dependent on the three women who E!-style bankroll it. Kanye chips in to make it into a Kanye song and I think his Puerto Rican Day Parade references are really playful, really sweet, but the last minute and twenty-three seconds? Sister Nancy fades into Nina Simone and it's the most beautiful thing you've ever heard. Kanye raps about the sun's in his eyes and Kanye goes away and the mood slinks into something more sultry, Sister Nancy fades into Nina Simone and it sounds like a sunset. These are two women who mean something and stand for something: it sounds like sunshine, only sadder. A sunset.
Last Sunday afternoon my ex-boyfriend called to tell me some bad news about our apartment and I started crying in the front of the hipster taxidermy shop on Essex Road. My tears turned into sludge and stained the front of my glasses and I didn’t have anything to wipe them off with so I let them stay cruddy. I didn’t have anything to do except fucking deal with my life so I did. I didn’t buy anything at Starbucks but monopolized a table anyway. I sat at that table and solved my entire life at that table. Then I got my eyebrows threaded. My eyebrows looked sick. I walked back to Newington Green listening to the last minute and twenty-three seconds of Famous by Kanye West over and over again and had no idea how good my life was about to get beginning tomorrow so I just zoned into the sunsettiness of the song and thought, “This is as good as my vibe could possibly get today” and rolled with it. I wished I could be the sun but I couldn’t, so I settled for the sunset. And I was grateful that I’d found a way to be sunny at all.
LIZ'S THING OF THE WEEK: Brian Eno & Hair Responsibility
Here are my five favorite things this week:
i. PAULINA & FRAN BY RACHEL B. GLASER. I read Paulina & Fran a couple weeks ago and the other night I started reading it again. I wanted to be back in a place of constantly reading really great sentences about hair, such as: "She looked like a doll whose factory-made hair was not meant to be brushed but had been brushed violently." I love how Paulina is always deep-conditioning her hair and judging her friends' hair and viewing her curls as superior to other hair textures. I have curly hair and mostly it annoys me. But reading Paulina & Fran made me want to take greater responsibility for my hair. The concept of "hair responsibility" just lit up in my head while I was eating a fried egg and cinnamon-raisin bagel and reading the paper on Sunday afternoon-- I saw it as a sign lettered like John & Yoko's "Hair Peace" sign. So the other day I went out and bought some hair mask for deep-conditioning, and I dug up my bottle of argan oil and various other curly-hair-specific products. I want my hair to self-actualize into its highest level of lustrous magnificence, instead of being left all dull and dry and frizzed out and twisted into a boring clump at the back of my head. Let us never twist ourselves into boring clumps in any way at all, I guess is what I'm saying. And if I'm going to wear my hair up, I want it to be as amazing as my #1 hair idol of the week, Vanessa Williams on Broad City:
ii. BRIAN ENO. Brian Eno's my favorite person right now. Brian Peter George St. John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno: that's his real name. I still haven't made much progress in finding any non-stuffy music-dude writing that will educate me about early-'70s Brian Eno-- though I did learn that when he left Roxy Music, he danced down the street in celebration. I like that as a contrast to the story about Mick Jones getting fired from the Clash the week of the Notting Hill Carnival and then walking around the carnival crying. Both reactions are perfect. And I bet Brian Eno didn't stay in Roxy Music very much longer than he wanted to-- watching him play with them, he's so switched-on and in it. I love when boys are in love with their own bands, or even with the very idea of being a boy in a band. I talk to bands all the time for work, and one thing that always delights me is when guys tell me about learning to play guitar in fifth or sixth or seventh grade because they knew that girls would think it was cool. (Seriously half the guys in bands tell me that, including the ones who aren't even guitarists.) What I mean about Brian Eno is: for a long time I had this idea that he was a weird wizard dude who made inaccessible music and was really dour about it-- but he's not! Brian Eno's a firecracker. He wants all the light to shine on him, and it does. He got all the girls and looked better than anyone, despite having been balding forever. Another great role model in hair responsibility.
iii. "DO THE STRAND" BY ROXY MUSIC. This week I listened to "Do the Strand" by Roxy Music three thousand times and watched this video two thousand times:
Brian Eno is a Christmas tree but only the tinsel. Wearing an extravagant coat with no shirt is a great move. I wish we got more closeups of him, but I also like having the spotlight on Bryan Ferry being a total fantastic creep. Also I like watching Brian Eno in the background, singing along even though he's not the singer. To me that's the most graceful expression of exuberance in rock & roll.
iv. "DJ" BY DAVID BOWIE. At the end of January there was a David Bowie dance party at the Echo. It took up both floors of the club and the bass player from the Smiths DJ'd and there were these screens on almost all the walls, showing different David Bowie videos. I liked it because you could wander around and look at the screens and feel like you were in some grand David Bowie museum. A great big David Bowie castle. For a while I disappeared from my friends and hung out on a vinyl couch and took pictures of David Bowie videos projected onto a wall by the Echoplex bar. It soothed me. I think there should be a place we can go every week or maybe every month and just sit around and watch David Bowie videos on the walls, and talk to people or not talk to people.
Toward the end of the night my friends and I went upstairs and danced and sang some more. Everyone left but I wasn't ready to go. They'd just played "Under Pressure" and I was feeling "Under Pressure"-sentimental, so I stayed and leaned against a post and texted with this guy I know and listened to David Bowie and fell in love with this great-looking couple next to me (the boy had on a gray suit + saddle shoes, the girl wore a leopard-print minidress + red tights, they both danced up a storm). Some boy asked me to dance and I said yes and we danced a while. At one point the boy said, "How do you feel about being twirled around?", which was a nice question to be asked. I told him: "I feel pretty good about it," and then we did lots of twirling, like how you think grownups dance when you're five-years-old. It was fun. Everybody was living their best life at the David Bowie dance party.
The point I'm trying to get to is that before that night, I'd never really cared about "DJ." But this week I listened to "DJ" all the time every day, when I wasn't listening to Roxy Music or Here Come the Warm Jets or Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy. My favorite line is "I got believers/Believing me," though I like to hear it as "I got believers/Believing in me" because apparently I'm just unabashedly corny about David Bowie all the time now. The video's so good-- what a cute goof! Here's a picture I took of the "DJ" video on the Echoplex wall:
v. LANCERS. Last Friday afternoon my friends and I went to my favorite new restaurant, Lancers in Burbank. It's the kind of restaurant that sells Snickers bars and Kit-Kats and packs of Big Red and Juicy Fruit at the register, you know what I mean? They've got Keno and that game where you move the metal claw around the big glass tank and catch yourself a stuffed animal. The menu is wonderful: Oreo brownie sundaes and peach halves and broasted chicken and spaghetti and cold cereal and champagne and glasses of milk and boring beer, listed on the menu as "Bud On Tap." Everything about Lancers is boring. I love a boring dining experience. For my meal I got scrambled eggs and sausage and hash browns and toast, and drank many cups of boring coffee. We stayed for hours and by the time we left, people were starting to head to the cocktail lounge: this drably lit room at the back of the restaurant, where the drinks are probably crazy-stiff and cost like three dollars. The dining rooms were all wood paneling and teal and rosey-beige, as seen in the photo below. I love that sign over the kitchen window: If You Are Not Proud Of It DO NOT SERVE IT. I love how it's facing out, to the customers, instead of the people who actually work in the kitchen.