Justin Bieber must think he’s got the whole thing sewn up. What better way to make that slippery transition from teen idol to bona fide serious hip adult star than getting Kanye West on board? Yeezy’s the man with the Midas Touch, isn’t he? The hip-hop Rumpelstiltskin who can spin dull old straw (that’s Mr Hudson) into pure gold (that’s Mr Hudson with a hit).
But Biebatron! Wait! Not only is Kanye the doofus who ruined the night of Taylor Swift’s life (or at least the MTV Awards or something), he’s also – on the sly – a serial ruiner of careers. Let’s look at the trumped-up charges:
Brandy on the rocks?
The golden girl of late 90s/early 00s R&B, Brandy could do no wrong, particularly in an age when machine-tooled US R&B was establishing itself as the paragon of future-pop. Then in 2004 along came Kanye, flush with the success of ‘The College Dropout’, to present her with wet fart of a single ‘Talk About Our Love’. Boom! Her worst-charting first single off an album and the harbinger of absolutely zero hits ever again. Wow.
Pretty girl crock
Keri Hilson had everything – the looks, the voice, the army of hot producers – and she poured all her immodest brilliance into ‘Pretty Girl Rock’, a surefire No.1 hit built around a sample from Grover Washington Jr. and Bill Withers’ ‘Just The Two Of Us’. Then Kanye came along with a slack-jawed rap about how “I’m feelin fly, fly like a G6/Fly, my swag hit ladies unknowingly” and it stalled at No.53 here and 24 in the States. All that pop potential gone West.
Common-or-garden, run-of-the-mill pap
Up until 2004, “conscious” Chicago rapper Common had been fronting up with intelligent hip-hop albums like ‘One Day It Will All Make Sense’ and at least one blinding psychedelic symphony in ‘Electric Circus’. You know the drill by now: one collaboration on ‘The College Dropout’ and suddenly he’s letting Kanye cover his next album ‘Be’ with tired old soul samples, turning up in adverts with Madonna and duetting with Lily Allen. Yes, Common made some money, but where’s his integrity now? On Kanye’s bonfire of the vanities, that’s where.
Achieving the impossible: making Beyoncé’s ‘4’ rubbish
It might’ve gone heavy on the emotive ballads, presumably to out-Coldplay Coldplay at Glastonbury, but ‘4’ was a pretty great album. It had dancefloor bangers and cavernous soft rock monsters. It also had Kanye West leering, “You got the swag sauce/You got the Swagu“. Yeah, read that again. With one grossly negligent couplet Kanye sank ‘Party’ and nearly took ‘Best Thing I Never Had’ and ‘Rather Die Young’ down with it.
So don’t do it, Justin. Don’t go the way of Kid Cudi, who could only get a hit when he let Crookers remodel ‘Day ‘N’ Nite’, the one time he’s managed to escape the West clutches. Even when it works out – like it did with Estelle’s ‘American Boy’ – some peculiar chemistry ensures you never have a hit again. You have been warned.