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Monday, September 12, 2005

Congratulations to Kanye West

Posted by on September 12 at 9:45 AM

Billboard breaks the news: Kanye West wraps up his post-Bush-bashing week of praise/scrutiny/hype/derision with his first #1 album and, simultaneously, his first #1 song, with both Late Registration and its second single “Gold Digger” claiming the respective top spots on the pop album and pop singles charts.

The #1 album is a given: West’s first album entered the charts at #2, he made the cover of Time and a number of splashy TV performances the week before his new record’s release, and then there was all that “Grammy-winning savior of hip-hop!” hype. But the single is something else: After hanging around the middle of the charts for eight weeks, this week “Gold Digger” jumped from #19 straight to #1a leap I can’t help attributing in part to West’s Bush-bashing. Everyone horrified by the Katrina fiasco could appreciate what West said, and wanting to hear what he does when he’s not calling bullshit on the president on live television is a natural next step. (It takes a lot of radio play to make a song move from 19 to 1.)

Plus, “Gold Digger” is awesome. I saw West perform it this summer at the Sasqautch Festival and didn’t care for it at all. It seemed dumb and repetitive and one of the least interesting lyrics he’d ever written. Then I heard the version on Late Registration and fell in love. Like every other track on the obsessively brilliant Late Registration, “Gold Digger“‘s music is amazingpacked with intricate little twists (thanks, Jon Brion!) and grand pop ambition. Plus, with its sample of Ray Charleswhich is actually Jamie Foxx pretending to be Ray Charles”Gold Digger” is some new peak in post-postmodernism.

Hurrah for Kanye, and while I’m assessing Billboard victories, congrats as well to Death Cab for Cutie, whose new album Plans debuted on this week’s Pop Album chart at a freakish #4.