Kanye West's 'All Day' proves the value of strength in numbers | Bleader

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Kanye West's 'All Day' proves the value of strength in numbers

Posted By on 03.04.15 at 02:30 PM

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Kanye West
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  • Kanye West
Yeezy season is unmistakably upon us, now that Kanye West has released the official version of "All Day," the latest single from his forthcoming So Help Me God. The Kanye campaign has been in motion since New Year's Day, when he released the sentimental "Only One," the first of his many collaborations with Paul McCartney. The song generated as much hype as any official Kanye track these days, seeding what became an avalanche of trend pieces predicated on the Twitter reactions of young fans who supposedly didn't know who McCartney was—some of whom were openly or covertly trolling trend-piece writers by feigning ignorance.

Every public action Kanye takes, no matter what it is, works to stoke the fires of anticipation for So Help Me God—as far as he's concerned, any news is good news. But that's not to say that some or even most of this isn't carefully engineered. After piquing interest in the track "Wolves" by using it to soundtrack his New York Fashion Week show with Adidas Originals, he threw some more red meat to his rabid fans by performing it a few days later on the Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special, crouched down between collaborators Sia and Vic Mensa.

Meanwhile Kanye launched a thousand memes by reacting to Beck's Grammy win for Album of the Year. His half-joking leap onstage (a self-deprecating reference his infamous interruption of Taylor Swift at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, where Beyonce also lost) and his follow-up statement that "Beck needs to respect artistry" (which he later walked back) provided one of the ceremony's few memorable moments this year.

Kanye has since apologized to Beck, but he couldn't stop the flood of Internet nonsense pitting Beck against Beyonce. One example that especially irritated me measured the two musicians' albums based on the number of contributing songwriters. Beyonce worked with dozens on her self-titled album, while Beck is credited as the lone songwriter on Morning Phase; Kanye's use of the word "artistry" inspired this rote, rockist response, which was meant to show that Beck is somehow superior or more creative for working on his own.

I bring this up because Kanye regularly collaborates with a dozen or more musicians on a single song, and "All Day" is no different; he worked with 18 other songwriters on the track, including Vic Mensa, Paul McCartney, and Kendrick Lamar. But Kanye is a master of collaboration, able to assemble an array of distinctive voices while keeping his personality in the foreground. Everyone who's ever been in a band that broke up should take a moment to reflect on how difficult this sort of thing can be.

"All Day" includes appearances by McCartney, Theophilus London, and Allan Kingdom, but all the contributions are smoothed over and dominated by Kanye. The track is a towering monster, drawing much of its power from its robotic vocal humming and circular, slightly nefarious synth melody—and its size seems to come across better live. When Kanye debuted it at the Brit Awards a week ago, he was joined by a choir-size group bouncing to the beat and shouting "all day" on cue as a couple folks with flamethrowers shot streams of fire into the air. As Kanye knows, showing up with big numbers makes you hard to beat.

Leor Galil writes about hip-hop every Wednesday.

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