superman’s jesus, kanye’s yeezus (and 2007 britney spears)

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Monday, June 17th, 2013

kanye west yeezus

superman’s jesus, kanye’s yeezus (and 2007 britney spears)

the life, death and resurrection of…superman?

let’s skip past the nuance: man of steel’s superman is jesus.

no, really. it’s that overt.

i saw man of steel this weekend. i’ve never seen any of the previous superman movies and have no familiarity (beyond common, cultural knowledge) of the comic book, but we felt like seeing a big, action movie on a giant imax screen. and the movie was just that: big and full of action. all in all, i felt sorta so-so about the movie, but the overt jesus angle was fascinating from start to finish. allow me to lay out some the evidence:

  1. a baby from afar comes to earth and looks like us, talks like us, etc.
  2. as a pre-adolescent, his (earthly) father tells him that he has “another father who has sent him here for a reason”.
  3. clark kent spends most of his life as an “average” person working normal, blue-collar jobs.
  4. at the age of—you guessed it—33, he’s asked to sacrifice himself for the sake of humanity.
  5. he has supernatural power that he chooses to self-limit.
  6. the core message of him and his father is hope and good for humankind.
  7. when superman surrenders himself as a sacrifice, he “dies” by losing all his powers.
  8. the most overt (almost too over the top) moment is when clark kent goes to a church and consults a priest about whether or not he should sacrifice himself. the shot as he talks is framed by a glowing stained glass window depicting jesus.

these filmmakers didn’t major in subtlety in college…

nevertheless, it was a fascinating attempt by hollywood to weave in this kind of allegory. certainly, there were parts of the man of steel story that diverge (in varying degrees) from the jesus story, but ultimately—sans mel gibon’s effort—this is the most overt big buget box office telling of the story of jesus that i can remember.

*a breakdown of the atonement as told by man of steel is a whole other blog post…*

yeezus walks

not to be outdone by a blockbuster that uses a jesus metaphor, kanye west’s own blockbuster, yeezus, was laid claim to by the internet 4 days ahead of its release date (tomorrow—tuesday, june 18).

just as above, allow me to cut to the chase: it’s really good. really, really good.

the buzz leading up the album’s release has been accurate: it’s a jarring departure from the “classic” kanye sound that many have come to expect. yeezus is dark, industrial, new-wave rap that’s delivered with a aggression that we’ve only heard in small doses from kanye in the past.

from the daft punk-produced opener, on sight, to the king louie-featuring, send it up, the stark thump doesn’t take a rest until the closer, bound 2 (which, it seems, is his own version of a love song to kim kardashian).

what stood out to me the most in my first couple listens was the very dark & personal themes. late in michael jackson’s career, he began to explore themes of celebrity and privacy and the emotional backlash he was experiencing. these themes aren’t necessarily new for kanye, but on yeezus, they become more primary. it rarely if ever worked for michael, but i think given the medium of rap music along with the persona kanye has created over the years, it works here.

with that said, remember this?

britney spears 2007 umbrella

yep, that’s 2007 britney. things got a little ugly. and i feel the themes on yeezus are toeing the line of the lyrical version of 2007 britney—almost a creative carthasis. kanye, though, is able to be far more controlled & calculated. the gospel according to yeezus is angry, it lashes out, it’s schizophrenic and it makes kanye both the predator and the prey.

but for kanye’s yeezus, it all somehow works. and it just might be his best, most innovative and, undoubtedly, the most ambitious he’s made.