Don’t say he didn’t warn us: Kanye West is on a higher plane.
Seriously, he’s been performing on his Saint Pablo tour from atop a floating stage. Yeezy has officially elevated himself to the status of a god (or at least a really tall giraffe) by positioning himself directly above his audience, who have no choice but to look up at him for the duration of his show.
Because of course he has. Kanye West has never been on our level, and he’s never let us forget it. His last three albums in a row have been all about reveling in his own legacy and toasting his capacity for wit, controversy (see: “Famous”), and creative risks (also see: “Famous”). His interviews, tweets, and onstage remarks have made no apologies for what he’s done, what he’s doing, or what he intends to do.
And while Kanye has frequently discussed his endgame of universal equality through fashion and art, his approach isn’t from the “we’re not so different, you and I” school of relatability. When he speaks, he speaks from an all-seeing perspective. When he launches a fashion collection, he does so as a micromanaging visionary. And when he performs, he does so as a deity. He climbs his mountain, he delivers his sermon, and he looks down upon the masses in consistently inventive and unmatched ways.
Lord knows (#LOL) other stars have tried to match him. Just last month, I wrote about several magnificent men and their flying machines, particularly Drake, who performed part of his set on a (smaller) floating stage during his most recent tour. Even Taylor Swift embraced singing atop a moveable object for much of her 1989 tour. It was only a matter of time before Kanye made his move to one-up both of them.
Performing on a swinging platform in the sky doesn’t work for everyone, obviously. It would be frightening and terrible to see, say, Bruce Springsteen — a man whose entire deal is about empathy and human connection — performing “Born to Run” at a skyscraper’s height. Beyoncé has been known to fly across an arena or two, but you wouldn't want to have to crane your neck to see her whole show. She’s more of an “I’m just like you” type of god, compared to Kanye’s “I am literally nothing like you, puny mortal.”
But where does it end? Just how high do we expect Kanye to go? Considering that his most important onstage accessory was his harness, we’re likely seconds away from seeing him perform atop a blimp, or attached to the wing of a moving plane. How long before an outdoor show will lead us to a crane building a high-rise, or to a floating dock just outside of the Earth’s atmosphere? How long before Kanye preaches from an actual geographic mountaintop, not a stage set? Can it be long before Drake vows to be the first performer on Mars? When will we see either or both guys climb from the stage to a staircase to Mount Everest? When will we get to see this?
One day, I hope. Pop fans love an unreachable spectacle. We love to look up to performers. We love to feel graced with their presence. We know they’re bigger than us, and we expect them to behave in a godlike fashion, particularly when their personas are defined by their bravado. Watching Kanye West deliver The Life of Pablo from a side stage at a super-chill festival would be weird and sad, like that tent-revival preacher in the first season of True Detective. We pay to see our faith in action.
We pay to see god not at Chili’s tonight.