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Kanye West - 'Power'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:04 UK time, Thursday, 26 August 2010

Kanye West

Oh interesting! The last time Kanye worked up a beat which was so heavily reliant on noises which can be made by the human body - voices and handclaps - was 'Jesus Walks'. All the voices were male, and the song was about surrendering yourself to a higher power. It was expressed in quite firm, almost brutal terms, and framed within the argument that Kanye himself had to battle in order to express devotion to his deity within the strictly secular world of bad boy hip hop. And it was delivered with fire and passion and impeccable logic.

It is also, to a lot of people, the best thing he ever did.

This time, the chanting voices are all girls, and the the higher power seems to be Kanye himself. All humility has been surrendered in order to settle some scores, to redress the balance back in his favour, to put to rest the idea that he's gone a bit too far in recent times - the vocoder album, the awards ceremonies. But in order to do it he has had to go back and remind people that this is what they liked about him in the first place, so you could call it a return to his older ideas, or even a retreat.

21st century schizoid man indeed...

(Here's some of the video. It's heavenly.)

Speaking of which, you've got to hand it to the man for whacking a sample of a song by King Crimson (ask your tie-dye clad grandad) into the mix. Especially as he's left in that first guitar "DAAAANG!" after the drum fill, and then scratched it out, like it was super-old school LL Cool J or something. That makes this less a song and more a stone skimmed across the surface of over 40 years of popular culture: sixties, eighties, naughties and now tenties.

Of course, that's the whole idea. Kanye seems keen to prove not only that he is BACK, but that he is still, in some way, exactly what the world has been waiting for. The real talent in getting an idea like this across lies in convincing your audience without reducing them to helpless giggles. That's where the gravitas comes in. Everything has to be very serious, very strident, from the first po-faced chants to the little suicide/martyrdom fantasy at the end.

There's a comparison to be made with Eminem, whose strongest work is often when he's pointing out his worst flaws. Kanye, by comparison, thrives on dramatising his astonishing brilliance to such a degree it feels like a military invasion. For all that '808s and Heartbreak' threw that chippy shell to one side for a bit and exposed a fragile underbelly, it's this martial certainty, this deep-rooted assurance that he is right and the world needs to catch up, that carries Kanye along.

He's overcompensating, of course. No-one believed he was anything more than a good producer to start with, y'see. Bound to leave a chip on the shoulder. But still, as long as he has himself on his side, there's not a lot anyone can do to stop him.

Five stars Download: 6th September

BBC Music page

(Fraser McAlpine)

Helium says: "Judging from the fan response to 'Power,' very few are concerned about the potentially harmful messages that are included in the song."

We Rate Stuff says: "Kanye gets good and creative on this one, varying up his methods and rhythm as often as he feels like it."

Rawkblog says: "If Yeezy was cowed at all after the Taylor Swift incident, he doesn't show it here."


  • Comment number 1.

    This is probably the biggest return to form I've heard in years, even if he does come across as an arrogant idiot almost all the time no-one can say Kanye isn't one of the most talented rappers/producers of his generation. This track proves this once again, literally everything works; the beat, the sample, even the arrogance comes across as a good thing here. 5 STARS

  • Comment number 2.

    I'd rather not re-write what I wrote for my review for Unreality Shout all over again, so I'll post a link when it's up.

    Basically, the song is brilliant, and unlike a lot of Kanye's more recent outputs, it sees him return to the musical mastermind he really is.

    The thing with this song is, the same thing the 'Jesus Walks' suffered - it's very hard to understand the actual concept, and with the Illuminati rumours sprouting any which way it's all too easy to just blow it off as devil worship... honestly, the amount of people who're are the impression the lyric "Time's ticking I just count the hours" is about Kanye selling his soul is unreal.

    Well if Kanye drops dead and the MTV VMA's 2010 then we can think about that but for now, let's enjoy arguably the best (male :L) musical mind on the planet.

    5 stars from me.

  • Comment number 3.

    One of the best beats I've heard in a while.

    5 STARS

  • Comment number 4.

    Someone really needs to fix this comment problem on this blog.

  • Comment number 5.

    I KNOW! I always seem to get a repeat of the first comment in this thread until I refresh the page.

    No joke, but maybe it happened because they've added a Page 3 jump-to option of the Jedward thread? Computers are funny like that...

    Anyhoo - here's my review of 'POWER', plus the elusive video explained once and for all.


  • Comment number 6.

    heard it ages back... really awesome track... sounds silly on the radio though when they cut out the swearing.. sounds... powerful...

  • Comment number 7.

    I did fear that the lack of chorus would hinder this song, but not as badly as it appears to be doing so. I'm shocked how low this is on iTunes.

    Anyway it's still awesome - Kanye at his boundary-pushing best. Can't say much else other than agree with everything else already said here.


  • Comment number 8.

    @7 I'm not to be honest. Seeing as it didn't really do that well in the US, charted at around #22 I think and after that it dropped pretty quickly.

  • Comment number 9.

    There are TOO many 5* songs on the playlist at the moment. Its amazing!
    here's a few:
    Any Which Way
    Wonderful Life
    Katy on a MIssion
    White Sky
    Written in the Stars

  • Comment number 10.

    Welcome stocksy! (I have no idea if you're completely new here or if you just took a long hiatus but either way this is me being polite :D)

    I agree, there are a lot of good songs, but I wouldn't say they're all five stars, partuclarly that 'Katy On A Mission', which to me is just dire excuse for drum 'n' bass, but with no bass and some pretty wet drums. Awful. Ugh. Get out please Katy, you're not even catchy.

    'The Island' by Pendulum is cleraly their attempt at going completely commerical, because it doesn't even sound like them (except for the extrememly catchy riff); it's pretty mellow for a Pendulum song; I'm still waiting for a release of 'Crush' and 'Encoder' but I guess 'The Island' will do for now.

    'Wonderful Life' IS 5 stars, Well done HURTS. stocksy, have you heard their duet with Kylie? it's called 'Devotion' is it's amazing. Very. Single quality right there, and having Kylie featuring will garner them much more exposure, naturally.

    'Any Which Way' is, again, 5 star entertainment for the audio passages. It's so simple with it's two-note bassline, sycopated piano chords and rubbery, electronic bass. Good to have the Scissor Sisters back to their innuendo-charged best.

    'Written In The Stars' is easily Tinie's best song to date, as it actually means something: he's rapping about something more economically important than girls or chocolate biscuits. That said, Eric Turner is terribly auto-tuned, so it brings it down to a 3.5/4 star song for me.

    'POWER' is 5 stars. It's visionary, it's revolutionary, it's boundary pushing. Kanye's back on form, people.

    Haven't heard the other two but there's still time. Watch this space. :)

  • Comment number 11.

    'Written in The Stars' 5 stars? Pah!

    Tinie's rapping in the verses is barely mediocre, the lyrics may have improved but they're still not that good, if it weren't for the slightly above average chorus it'd be dire.

    British rap music is so beyond poor it's a joke.

  • Comment number 12.

    Now that my rant is over, I will say that I agree with everything else.
    I absolutely adore Katy B...and her music ain't that bad either.

  • Comment number 13.

    Oh I'm not new, This is a new account seeing as my other one changed to a silly name like U237462387523756243857246 and I was unable to post comments. I was 'Adam Stocks' but its probably cause I had my actual name!

    I'm sorry, but anybody who name-drops the best thing to happen to British music since I was born HAS to be a legend.

  • Comment number 14.

    OH! I wonder where you went! I missed you greatly. :L

  • Comment number 15.

    Hahahaha my 2 week haitus :')

    Here's a list of good/bad things happening in Music on Radio 1.

    Power is at 40. 40! WHAT IN THE WORLD IS GOING ON?!
    The Klaxons have dropped to 34 on the Album charts.
    Katy Perry Has De-throned Eminem! SHOCK HORROR!
    Adele has stormed up the charts to 20 with the beautiful 'Make You Feel My Love' which, if I'm not mistaken is a Bob Dylan Cover?
    'Total Life Forever' and about 6 other decent mercury nominated albums have stil failed to make their way back into the top 40.

    'White Sky' has been removed!
    'Let's Go Surfing' has been removed after about 4 weeks?
    'Islands' IS STILL THERE!
    'Any Which Way' is still on the C-List but 'Shame' has been promoted?
    'Stay With Me' is stil on there, despite any promise to scrape the top 40.


  • Comment number 16.

    @10. By the way, by 'Islands' I meant the XX song, not the God awful pendulum one :P

  • Comment number 17.

    Aha! Y'know, as soon as i logged off I realised 'Islands' was by The xx! Of course, 'THE Island' is the Pendulum one which is indeed quite naff.

    I cannot BELIEVE 'Last One Standing' by Example was one the A-List since two weeks ago! That's nearly two months till it's release!

    'Any Which Way' deserve a fastrack seat to the A-List round about now, and 'Please Don't Let Me Go' will soar up, probably even jumping the B-List, even though it's not worthy of it. It'll be around for ages now.

  • Comment number 18.

    I doubt Last Ones standing will make much of an impact on the chart, seeing as it hasn't entered yet!

  • Comment number 19.


  • Comment number 20.

    ignore the 'wont'!
    Who else is with me in saying Spanish Sahara is the best thing on the playlist all year? BEST SONG OF THE YEAR. Its truly a beautiful piece of music.

  • Comment number 21.

    AAAAANNNNNDDD... flop.

  • Comment number 22.

    IKR. 36, nice one.

  • Comment number 23.


  • Comment number 24.

    How did that happen?! This looked like a sure-fire hit in waiting and yet it crawls in the mid 30s? If Kanye West can't score a major hit with a song as good as this and Roll Deep have two no.1's under their belt I don't know what the world's coming to.

  • Comment number 25.

    Another awful thing! The Catalyst is at 38. Woo.



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