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Kanye West, “POWER” – Tom’s Weekly Jam

Note: I was travelling last weekend, so I’ll be making two Weekly Jam posts in the coming days. I say this not for the benefit of my readers (I don’t have any), but for when I inevitably look back on these posts and am confused by the dates.

I’ve been having somewhat of a difficult time as of late, with life throwing plenty of personal and professional challenges my way. The last couple of weeks in particular have asked a lot of me, and in times such as these it’s prudent to take encouragement wherever you can find it. And so it came to be that on more than one more morning recently, I’ve been playing Kanye West’s “POWER” to pump me up as I get ready for the day.

This track is of immense personal significance to me, and was a key influence in the development of my musical tastes Growing up in the largely white suburbs of Surrey in the mid 2000s, the dominant form of music among my peers was indie rock. Like many teenagers at the time, my iPod was filled with the likes of Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party, the Killers and even, for a brief moment, the Kaiser Chiefs (buying their album was a terrible mistake and I still regret the tenner I spent on it). I didn’t have anyone in my life exposing me to hip hop and, what with the biggest rapper in the game at that time being 50 Cent, I kind of viewed the whole thing as a bit of a joke. It just seemed like a lot of masculine posturing, a flaunting of wealth for wealth’s sake, and I didn’t really pay it much mind or respect.

And then in 2010, I listened to an album that totally changed my mind and opened my eyes to the artistic merits of hip hop. I was ridiculously excited for the then-upcoming film The Social Network, which prominently featured “POWER” in some of its TV spots. Finding what I heard catchy and a little intriguing, I popped over to Spotify and played it… and played it. And played it, and played it, and played it again. I became obsessed with the song, playing it a loop for hours at a time, and it led to me pre-ordering My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. The rest is history, and Kanye West has since become one of my absolute favourite musicians, along with a number of other rappers who I wouldn’t have given the time of day in the past.

“POWER” has lost none of that addictive power for me in the years since, and hitting the play button on it will inevitably lead to me listening to it over and over for at least an hour. Those handclaps, those drums, that electric guitar that chanting… The track is perfectly composed and produced, and is edgy and hard-hitting without sacrificing its poppy catchiness. Kanye delivers a great performance, as he always does when he’s hungry and has got something to prove (the release of this song marked his emergence from the self-imposed exile he entered after he upstaged Taylor Swift at the VMAs). “POWER” sees Kanye rapping about the usual Kanye bullshit like how great he is and how other people are stupid for disrespecting him, but here’s the thing: he’s not wrong. Bizarre and obnoxious as his public persona can be, what often gets lost in media coverage of Kanye is that he’s really fucking good at what he does. The music scene would be a lot poorer without Kanye in it, and in this comeback track he makes sure everyone knows it. It certainly worked on me; “POWER” made a Kanye fan for life out of me, and will always hold a very special place in my heart.

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