Don’t Fool Yourself: Thoughts on "Wolves" by Kanye West
Don’t Fool Yourself: Kanye’s New Video for ‘Wolves’ is a Lavish Advertisement, Just Like You
Media inspires us. Music, movies, television, they arrest our senses, if only momentarily and force us to reflect and react to things as macro as culture as a whole, or as micro as the individual self. Social Media, conceptually, is the creation and generation of media, mainly in reaction to media. Live-tweeting television shows, reactionary posts, meme culture, they’re all based virtually around capital-M Media. However, unlike The Big Lebowski, or Purple Rain, the self is ever-changing and evolving in opinions, aesthetics, thoughts, and reactions, and with that is growth. The book opens, is read, and closed, and no matter what our takeaway from that is, the text itself doesn’t change. Facebook, however, is continually evolving and revising, and sometimes the only thing connecting one post from another is the Twitter handle it’s linked to.
Earlier today, Kanye West released the music video to “Wolves,” technically the album closer to his album The Life of Pablo, an album that is famous for not technically being done, and not technically being released. No physical forms of the record exist, therefore Pablo is free to be continually changing, whether it be its tracklist, production, and mix tweaks, or even songs being tacked on. The album is alive and evolving, like Kanye, like us. That makes it, to me, the first social media album.
Focusing on “Wolves” as a song, what’s fascinating to me is that its release predates The Life of Pablo. It was first heard as the score to Kanye West’s first fashion show, Yeezy Season 1, and was performed on Saturday Night Live over a year before the first version of Pablo was released. It features Vic Mensa and Sia in stellar, chilling verses, and was only available via SoundCloud bootleg. Fast forward to last February, the release of Yeezy Season 3 and the livestream of Life of Pablo, and “Wolves” was virtually a different song. Vic Mensa and Sia were removed, a new verse was added, and fans, myself included, went berserk.
The reaction was almost universally negative, social media went crazy, attacking Kanye and pleading that he put Vic and Sia back on the album, which led to his widely-memed tweet “Imma fix wolves.” A few months later, and the song went through three total revisions, concluding with the version included in the video, seemingly the final version of the song, but who could say?
The video, directed by Steven Klein, is essentially a commercial for the French high-fashion house Balmain, with Oliver Rousteing working as a creative director. It features a crying Kanye in a studded denim jacket, his wife, Kim Kardashian-West also crying, other celebrity cameos, and a whole lot of models with tears rolling down their face. It’s a stark, seven-minute visual affair that many are already criticizing as just being a commercial.
For me, the takeaway from this and Kanye’s whole career essentially is the revolt against media scrutinization. What’s life like under a microscope when you’re still changing, when your opinions aren’t fully formed yet, what do you regret-nay-what can you regret when your every move is documented, referenced, replayed, and remixed for everyone to see?
We’re all aware of this now, and it’s reflected in our actions. How do we write the perfect tweet for the moment? How do I make my opinion the best opinion? What’s the best lighting for this selfie I’m about to take? Kim Kardashian is accused continuously for her alleged self-absorption and branding the Kardashian empire as a whole, but aren’t you doing the same thing? Take a look at your Instagram. How long did you take on that drivers-seat selfie? Or your Twitter account, I’m sure you’ve deleted many tweets you now find problematic or not quite ‘on-brand.’
Yeah, Kanye West’s video is a commercial for clothes you can’t afford, so what. The song is about discomfort and regrets with how one’s actions affect the people around them, and no one knows that more than Kanye West. The only difference between what Kim and Kanye do and your social media output is the following. They’re aware of what they’re doing and how to do it, they’re the masters of social media and not only are they surrounded by the wolves, now you are too.