Last night, defender of trophies Kanye West turned his attention from protecting his and Kim Kardashian’s trampled-upon celebrity rights and renewed his first and most fervent cause: valiantly standing up for Beyoncé’s right to win awards. As you may have already witnessed and commented on during our Grammys livechat, Kanye revisited his infamous 2009 interruption of Taylor Swift by crashing the stage during Beck’s win for Album of the Year. Only this time, he let the entire world finish, simply smirking and walking off, as everyone mentally filled in the rest. It was a moment that suggested a newly self-aware Kanye was poking fun at his own ego, and at the idea that anyone could be so narcissistic as to make someone else’s victory all about himself… again.
Kanye’s routine definitely found an appreciative audience in Jay Z and Beyoncé, who really seemed to appreciate how Kanye didn’t actually go through with it.
After the show, however, Kanye explained that the only “joke” here is the Grammys, a variety show of awkward duets that also recognizes excellence in popularity, profitability, and just hanging around long enough, among approximately 0.05 percent of the music released in any given year. And he made it clear that he was here to stand up for art—specifically, the art of acting like a jackass at awards shows.
In a prolonged, presumably extemporaneous speech, Kanye derided the Grammys for “diminishing art and not respecting the craft” by giving the award to Beck, a multi-instrumentalist who—yes, may have spent two decades expanding on the home-recorded blues-folk of his early years to create a broad sonic palette that includes everything from hip-hop to Prince-like funk to orchestral folk ballads to Philip Glass collaborations—but didn’t make a video as good as “Flawless.” Beck barely even dances.
“Beck needs to respect artistry and he should have given his award to Beyoncé,” Kanye said, explaining how Beck was being totally disrespectful right now of someone else’s achievements, and being incredibly selfish over something as meaningless as a Grammy. Kanye’s full remarks made it even more clear that he feels the Grammys have no respect for actual art, but are instead about allowing opportunists to rudely drown out the actual consideration of the music with their own agendas and self-promotion:
The Grammys, if they want real artists to come back, they need to stop playing with us. We ain’t gonna play with them no more. “Flawless,” Beyoncé video, and Beck needs to respect artistry and he should have given his award to Beyoncé.
And at this point, we tired of it because what happens is, when you keep on diminishing art, and not respecting the craft, and smacking people in the face after they deliver monumental feats of music, you’re disrespectful to inspiration. And we as musicians have to inspire people who go to work every day and they listen to that Beyoncé album, they feel like it takes them to another place, then they do this whole promotional event that, they’ll run the music over somebody’s speech, the artist, because they wanted commercial advertising.
Still, while deriding those who would diminish true artistry with crass advertising, Kanye says he has to hold back on fighting too aggressively for creativity, because he has Kim Kardashian and his clothing line to think about.
And by the way, I got my wife, I got my daughter, and I got my clothing line, so I’m not gonna do nothing to put my daughter at risk, but I am here to fight for creativity. That’s the reason I didn’t say anything tonight. But y’all know what it meant when ’Ye walks on that stage.
Continuing to wage this valiant war for creativity, Kanye also took E! to task for putting its logo on all its microphones, which he similarly felt diminished the network’s own “artistry”—namely, the prettiness of the Kardashians. “The Kardashians wouldn’t be famous if beauty wasn’t important,” Kanye declared, of his wife’s own particular craft.
After returning to New York, Kanye clarified his comments to TMZ, saying that he wasn’t implying Beck wasn’t a true artist when he said Beck needed to “respect artistry”—just that the Grammys didn’t recognize a true artist by giving it to Beck. “I love Beck. But he ain’t have Album of the Year,” Kanye concluded, in an opinion that he could have just expressed like that in the first place, were it not for the demands of his own particular artistry.
For what it’s worth, the even-keeled Beck has nothing but praise for that artistry, both on awards shows and off them, telling Us Weekly of Kanye, “He deserves to be on stage as much as anybody. How many great records has he put out in the last five years right?” Beck also admitted that he himself ”thought [Beyoncé] was going to win. Come on, she’s Beyoncé!” and said of Kanye’s comments, “I still love him and think he’s genius. I aspire to do what he does,” suggesting Beck yearns to develop his own craft of showing rudely timed public disregard for other people’s achievements.
In related news, Beyoncé still won three Grammys and remains very wealthy and powerful.