Pazz & Jop Voter Comments: From Kanye West to The Suburbs

2010: The year more people looked at a photo of Kanye West’s purported penis than bought his album. Or any album. #HashtagDays

Phillip Mlynar
Brooklyn, NY

Kanye West’s Saturday Night Live appearance—surrounded by dozens of half-dressed figures, many of whom I suspect were actual women with, like, lives and personalities—was an allegory for his record as a critical phenomenon: The pretty sounds and garish pomp distracted the audience from the emptiness at its core. If you looked closely, you saw an insecure monomaniac, a mediocre rapper responsible for some of the worst lyrics in hip-hop, desperately seeking the approval of authority. A recognizable rock ’n’ roll type, to be sure. No less manufactured but more talented by a few orders of magnitude, Taylor Swift nailed her stage-crashing chart-mate in a triumph of passive aggression: “Your string of lights are still bright to me.” Just don’t mistake them for evidence of habitation.

All hail the Don Draper of rap
Courtesy Def Jam
All hail the Don Draper of rap


Pazz and Jop 2010
Rise of the Douchebags
Kanye West and James Murphy turn their private flaws into public triumphs
By Zach Baron

Never Forget
Cee Lo Green sums up 2010 in two little words
By Rob Harvilla

Little Pink Polos for You and Me
Wallowing and/or reveling in social anxiety with Arcade Fire and Vampire Weekend
By Eric Harvey

The Wayward Crucifixion of M.I.A.
On the dodgy, opportunistic, truffle-fry-fueled campaign against both Maya and Maya
By Charles Aaron

Leave Chillwave Alone
In defense of the nostalgia-steeped genre Ariel Pink both invented and abandoned
By Simon Reynolds

Attack of the Singing Rappers
On Drake, Nicki Minaj, B.o.B., and the art of the debut-as-pop-crossover
By Clover Hope

The Great Gay-Pander-Off of 2010
Katy, Nicki, Ke$ha, P!nk, and Gaga taste the rainbow
By Rich Juzwiak

The Internet-Rap Atomization
Odd Future, Lil B, Wiz Khalifa, et al. build tiny kingdoms, and rule them
By Tom Breihan

Justin Bieber, Twitter Casanova
The Most Popular Boy in the World rules the only voting bloc that matters: pre-teen girls
By Camille Dodero

Stuff We Like
Rick Ross Lies, the Rolling Stones Plunder, And Taylor Swift Triumphs

The Personals
Industry Woes, Cultural Theories, Polite Suggestions, and Calls of Bullshit

Michael Robbins
Chicago, IL

Hearing Nicki Minaj smoke everybody on “Monster” made me think that either Kanye is a true gentleman (despite evidence to the contrary), or he’s longing for a woman who will kick his ass.

Will Hermes
New Paltz, NY

Kanye’s fundamental project has been to pitch a tantrum about the White Privilege thing that America has been successfully glossing over since the first Tea Party. Not even the bells and whistles of “Power” could obscure this: “In this white men’s world, we the ones that’s chosen.” 

Drew Hinshaw
Atlanta, GA

The critical success of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy proved that the intelligentsia prefers a Rewarding Mess from a trusted artist of quality (Kanye) than a Polished Artistic Statement from a prolific schemer (Diddy).

Alfred Soto
Miami, FL

When I first heard Kanye West’s “Runaway,” I thought about the douchebags, but subsequent listens, for me, revealed one of the saddest songs of 2010, sadder than any emotion Taylor Swift tries to drum up—or really anyone else. Emotions still win.

Mike Ayers
New York, NY

I almost feel bad for Pusha T on “Runaway,” basically drafted for the purpose of playing Kanye’s monstrous id, one last glimpse of the type of womanizing cad-demon he’s explicitly trying to exorcise. And just when you think it’s over, when the strings have swollen as high as they can rise, we hear the coda: three minutes of beautiful noise, with orchestral accents placed opposite a synthesizer solo that reveals itself, toward the end, to be just Kanye’s voice run through an overloaded vocoder. He keeps on talking, but at some point, it just becomes noise. “Runaway” gives the listener some hope that Mr. West might actually be—gasp!—growing up.

Tim O’Neil
Holyoke, MA

Single #1: Kanye West, “All of the Lights.” If you can hear him, Elton John sounds great on this.

Jozen Cummings
New York, NY

Ghostface Killah, Apollo Kids: While Kanye West was busy making a great King Crimson album, Ghostface was quietly making a great Kanye West album.

Steve Kandell
Brooklyn, NY

Kanye West is the Don Draper of hip-hop: the arrogant, ostensible alpha-male sad sack who makes an ass out of himself at awards shows, then, like clockwork, pulls an ace out from his sleeve (Don’s bravura pitch to the American Cancer Society, Kanye dropping My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy) that instantly reminds us why we keep tuning in. The opening stretch of Mad Men’s fourth season (let’s say, pre–“The Suitcase”) is rather like 808s & Heartbreak: lots of moping, soul-searching, and boozy stabs at self-actualization, prompted, naturally, by their complicated relationships with the myriad women in their lives. Then Don courts (and dumps) the too-good-for-him Faye, and Kanye embraces an inner douchebag he’s through trying to disguise (as does Don, really, in the season finale). And to complete the analogy: Jay-Z = Roger Sterling, Nicki Minaj = Peggy Olsen, Rihanna/Fergie = Joan Harris, Pusha T = Pete Campbell, and Rick Ross = Bert Cooper.

Josh Timmerman
Vancouver, BC

I’m sure that everybody voted for “Fuck You,” but I think the way you voted for it says a lot more. Which of these are you? “Fuck You,” “F*** You,” “Forget You,” or “Forget You (Glee Cast)”?

Joey Daniewicz
Morris, MN

All I want for Christmas is for “Drunk Girls” to be banned from frat-party playlists.

Ethan Stanislawski
Bloomington, IN

Last January, I read Rachael Maddux’s thoughtful, exhaustive “Is Indie Dead?” cover essay in Paste. In August, I saw Arcade Fire and Spoon at Madison Square Garden. It felt like a New Orleans jazz funeral. Rest in Peace, darling.

Will Hermes
New Paltz, NY

When Arcade Fire take aim at the shopping malls (“Sprawl II [Mountains Beyond Mountains]”) while simultaneously mocking bohemian cool-hunting (“Rococo”), they’re engaging in a painfully trite contradiction: After all, what bohemian thinker in the past half-century has celebrated shopping malls? (Warhol, maybe?) And what has the bohemian’s instinctive distrust of commercialism done to commercialism except entrench it? (How many products have to be sold to us as embodying rebellion or nonconformity before we realize that our urge to rebel and not conform is how products are sold?) It’s no big revelation to note that today’s mainstream is yesterday’s cutting edge—it doesn’t matter whether we buy Converse or Nike or Vans or some currently small-time shoemaker with a Big Cartel website. Nirvana or Pavement, chillwave or slutwave—sooner or later everyone else catches up, or else it probably wasn’t worth catching up to in the first place.

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