The MTV News Top 25 Songs of 2010 marches on. The top spot is within sniffing distance, but first we make a pit stop at #3 to take in Kanye West’s “Power.”
It’s still sort of staggering to think that the story arc Kanye West has gone through in the past 14 months has been 100 percent real. The rapper/producer managed to turn himself into public enemy #1 with a single bottle of cognac and a couple of lines into a microphone at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards . After taking a browbeating from Jay Leno, West slipped into the ether for the first time since he broke out in 2004 with his watershed debut, The College Dropout. He slowed down his blogging schedule and wasn’t photographed for a while, and it was unclear whether he would be able to make a comeback. It’s the sort of Hollywood story that would sound clichéd in a piece of fiction but works amazingly well in the real world.
Then 2010 arrived, and West’s third act started to come together. West made his way to Hawaii to begin working on a new album (which was originally rumored to be titled Good Ass Job) and slowly started to re-emerge from his self-imposed isolation. He began to tweet and started to unveil songs via his G.O.O.D. Friday project. And if anybody was unsure about whether West still had it, “Power” certainly solidified him as a champion once again.
Built around a staggeringly brilliant sample of King Crimson’s “21st Century Schizoid Man,” “Power” opens with little more than handclaps and chants and quickly escalates into a powerful epic full of guitar riffs, pounding drums and West’s snotty, swaggering flow. It’s simultaneously lively (the high-hats dance above the sonic fray like so many fireflies) and truly heavy (the guitar riffs help, but West’s authority over the track’s entire presentation is jaw-dropping, even when he’s referencing Austin Powers 10 years too late).
“Power” was produced by West and Symbolyc One and was originally intended for Chicago rapper Rhymefest. But Kanye liked Symbolyc One’s original beat so much that he adopted it as his own. A version of the song found its way onto the Internet at the end of May, and by June, it was available for purchase on iTunes.
But “Power” didn’t really have its moment until the music video premiered at the beginning of August. Consisting of a single shot that slowly pulls back to reveal a gorgeous tableau, the video for “Power” (directed by Marco Brambilla, known best for helming the 1993 Sylvester Stallone sci-fi epic “Demolition Man”) seemingly sums up all the corners of West’s overactive imagination in all of 90 seconds. There are mythical beasts, biblical images, references to various kings and Egyptian gods and no shortage of bare female breasts. It’s a remarkable piece of art (West referred to it as “a moving painting,” which is pretty accurate), and it simultaneously summed up the spirit of “Power” (indeed, no one man should have all that power) and the artistic heights he was hoping to reach with his latest opus, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
“I guess every superhero need his theme music,” West raps during the song’s introduction, and “Power” is indeed the sort of song that accompanies larger-than-life characters whenever they make their big return to save the day. Kanye is Ric Flair, and “Power” is his “Also Sprach Zarathustra.”
How does Kanye West’s “Power” rank among the year’s best songs? Let us know in the comments!
MTV News’ Top 25 Songs of 2010 countdown continues. Make sure to keep checking back to see what song we’ve named #1, and don’t forget to share your picks with us in the comments below!