What Does Kanye West’s Glastonbury Performance Teach Us?

Kanye West is undoubtably one of the biggest stars on the planet. West has won no fewer than 21 Grammy’s and a total of 124 music industry awards. West has no fewer than 387 award nominations to his name, he has made a huge fortune from the music industry and is one of the best selling artists of all time. West also attracts controversy like no other artist. There seems to be no middle ground, you either adore Kanye West or despise him.

Last weekend West was awarded arguably the most prestigious live music slot on the planet. He headlined Glastonbury’s pyramid stage on Saturday night. As you might expect, the decision to book West for that slot attracted a huge amount of controversy. A petition calling for West’s appearance to be cancelled attracted close to 140,000 signatures. Glastonbury organiser, Emily Eavis, reported that she received death threats after announcing Kanye as a headliner.

Despite the controversy, music fans in their thousands packed the vast fields in front of the pyramid stage on Saturday to watch West perform. Unsurprisingly West generated yet more controversy. The press were ejected from the press pit to make room for Kanye’s huge posse. No-one was allowed to photograph West’s performance, and West’s performance was crashed by British comedian Lee Nelson. Many believe that Nelson getting on stage with West was a set up, but the comedian denies this.

Nelson told Metro that he got past West’s security team simply by acting like he was meant to be there.

“I’m going to walk up backstage like I’m meant to be there, like I AM Kanye West. I got one of my hats out and put it on back to front, I got a Lee-Zus t-shirt made that looked pretty sick, and I just thought – ‘act like a bell-end’. And bang, through they let me go.”

The controversy over West’s performance didn’t end there though. West attempted to cover Queen’s 40 year old hit “Bohemian Rhapsody,” a performance labelled as laughable and embarrassing by many. The Mirror reports that West “completely and utterly failed” when he tried to cover the song. A video mash-up lambasting West’s attempt has since gone viral.

The BBC, who streamed West’s performance live, have since received a list of complaints about West’s foul language and their subtitling couldn’t cope with Kanye’s explicit lyrics. As a result there were lots of “liggers” and “motherduckers” appearing on the screen and eventually they just gave up and wrote “He raps.”

The BBC reports that many people listed West’s performance as the “lowlight” of the festival. Many who witnessed Kanye’s Glastonbury performance remarked that, without the use of an auto tuner, the man simply cannot sing. West’s voice was flat and toneless when he attempted “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

So what does West’s Glastonbury appearance teach us? West proves that you don’t have to be able to be able to sing to be successful in the music business. West demonstrates once again that, if you can stir up enough controversy and publicity, you can have a massive career without a great voice. Most importantly, West teaches us that the music industry needs characters like Kanye West to push boundaries and to generate strong feelings.

Whether you love him or hate him, it cannot be denied that Kanye West gets people talking about music, and that must be a good thing.

[Image by Alan Ewart]