Bad publicity is still publicity: Kanye West’s Obsession with Attention

“Thank you Kanye, very cool!” tweets President Trump in reply to rapper Kanye West’s outspoken support, engendering a war of controversy on social media. These days, West’s face seems to be plastered over every news article nationwide, sporting the infamous red hat of the Trump campaign and stirring up drama on Twitter. His political claims have sparked outrage, provoking other celebrities’ indignance and causing loyal fans to refuse to listen to his music. When I heard of these controversies, though, I was simply perplexed. Kanye West is one of the most influential music artists of this generation– why would he act so boldly? Odd as it is, the answer is surprisingly not far-fetched.

Kanye West’s recent actions seem to be redefining political identity in our country. His outspoken beliefs and support of Trump’s government juxtaposes the pop culture standard, and while I believe that West is entitled to his own political opinion, I think that his actions are intentional. In America today, popular celebrities tend to gravitate towards a more liberal viewpoint, therefore one that opposes Trump’s regime. But, anti-Trump satire creates mere ripples in the sea of our society, so why not go against the norm and create waves? With loads of new music released and in progress, West is striving for publicity more than anything. So, what better way to gain attention than to defy convention and tie in our country’s political controversies?

If you’re wondering what exactly Kanye West has done to gain all this negative attention, let me inform you. Ever since returning to Twitter in April, Kanye has been speaking out about many contentious political topics, such as slavery and immigration. He has, time and time again, shown support for Trump’s most extreme campaigns. For example, Kanye recently stated that “slavery was a choice,” and expressed his desire to abolish the 13th amendment (which deals with the liberation and the prohibition of slaves). This statement coincided with a surprise monologue he performed on Saturday Night Live (a traditionally liberal production) that complained about black voters’ relationship with the Democratic party. Kanye claims his reasoning behind his support for Trump is: “If someone inspires me and I connect with them, I don’t have to believe in all they policies.” [sic] Whether or not West believes any of his policies, though, is debatable. Because of how outspoken he is on these topics, it’s hard to assert that he doesn’t care about the attention that comes with it. When asked in interviews, he cannot seem to come up with any solid reasoning. Therefore, it’s easy to say that Kanye is not primarily invested in what he believes, but instead how it reflects back on him. The more headlines he makes, the more his music will sell, so he creates outrageous arguments to keep it that way.

We see this with celebrities all the dang time, though. Bombs of controversy are dropped at moment’s notice, all with the aim of landing a headline. One moment, celebrities are flying under the radar, and the next they’re stealing two Syrian refugee children or twerking on stage at the VMA’s. What seem like mere mistakes are actually purposeful acts of desperation, a plea to stay afloat in the turbulent sea of pop culture. Kanye West, along with many other celebrities, seem to place publicity over their dignity, fighting to regain relevance in such a fast-paced time.

What’s interesting, though, is that this is not West’s first rodeo when it comes to attention-seeking outbursts. Storming out of the American Music Awards when he was not voted Artist of the Year, stating that George Bush didn’t “care about black people” post-Hurricane Katrina, and his infamous stage invasion during Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the VMA’s are only a few examples of the lengths Kanye has gone to gain attention. These type of actions happen so frequently this boldness seems to become part of his nature. While it’s hard to tell whether or not he actually acts like this normally, many have attributed a sort of God-complex to the man. It’s almost as if he believes that he lies above everyone else, and deserves to be recognized for it, even if it means getting shamed by the public.

I believe that the root of narcissism is relying solely on others’ validation to fuel one’s own, and I think Kanye embodies this perfectly. He cannot stand to stay out of the spotlight, and will even risk his career in hopes of gaining attention from the press. He possesses the ideology that “bad publicity is still publicity,” and I predict that this will eventually be his downfall. That said, West is certifiably a musical genius– there’s no denying it. I listen to his music every day, and while I don’t agree with his actions, I still listen because it’s good music. Kanye doesn’t need to act out in order to reach the top of the charts, his work does it all by itself. So, just as other celebrities like Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber have done, let’s hope that West can find his way back to normality, a homecoming that will definitely be praised by many.