There’s been no more hospitable place for music industry’s biggest douchebags this week than the set of Ellen, where Ellen DeGeneres has been readily hosting them, tails between their legs, as they plead for forgiveness by showing softer sides.
First came Justin Bieber’s mea culpa for his Year of Petulance during an appearance on Ellen. Now comes Kanye West’s personal, sweet, even tear-inducing music video for “Only One,” his song with Paul McCartney.
It’s a brief clip, obviously. Vulnerability and humility in the way of Kanye West only comes fleetingly. “Only One” is directed by Spike Jonze, the king of great music videos. As such, it’s a great music video, featuring drizzly home footage of Kanye and his daughter with Kim Kardashian, North West, gazing lovingly at each other and frolicking in an empty field.
The two-minute-and-17-second music video is the visual equivalent of an “aww.” Watching daddy and baby in such an intimate moment is almost unfathomably adorable. It plays your heart strings like they’re a goddamned ukulele, nearly making you forget how insufferably fame-hungry and pompous and the manifestation of everything that is despicable with celebrity culture that Kanye West is (albeit, yes, a talented musician).
West and Jonze’s music video is, yes, very cute. But is it also emotionally manipulative.
Using footage of Kanye palling around with North West in the clip is an excellent tool to humanize the rapper. But, also, Kanye is using his daughter as a tool in his career. Isn’t that, I don’t know… gross?
And, folks, there’s actually a history of this, of West and Kardashian using their poor baby as a pawn to ingratiate themselves to a weary public tired of their famewhore antics. Do any of you remember where we obtained our first glimpse of this precocious little lovebug, North West? It was on Kris Jenner’s short-lived talk show, Kris, and the whole charade was disgusting.
Poorly played as a sweet family moment, West appeared on Kris toting the first public photo of North West, and the banter between him and Jenner about it was the most graphic display of mutual masturbation that television has ever seen, the crowing achievement of a people boasting an unabashed willingness to prostitute their family for fame.
Jenner asked West why he chose her show to debut the photo. His response: “I felt this was a place I could express myself with love and no agenda.” That’s a real thing that he really said!
So while we must implore you to think about that while cooing over how freaking cute he and North West are in this music video, we can also let certain things be. Because this video is really great. It’s brilliant. It’s emotional. It’s moving. It’s shrewd business. Goddammit we’re so conflicted.
Of course, it’s easier to forgive West for emotionally manipulating us with his baby given the sentimentality of the song. “Only One” is a collaboration with Paul McCartney (which, whoa), and was apparently written from the perspective of West’s mother, Dr. Donda West, who passed away in 2007 (which, aww).
West is actually sort-of singing on the track, the result of which sounds like when me and my brother were drunk in the basement over Christmas and a Pearl Jam song came on and we softly sang along to it with earnest passion and cringeworthy pitch. That stripped down vulnerability is a cool change of pace coming from music’s Patron Saint of Braggadocio, Bombast, and Douchebaggery.
It’s a good song! It’s a good video. It’s adorable and gross and sweet and despicable. It’s infuriating and it’s lovable. It’s an auditory paradox. It’s Kanye West.