Anatomy Of A Song: All of the Lights by Kanye West
by Mat Weir
Alright, first off, I know I’m late on this post. Especially since it’s about a hip-hop song, because in the rap world anything that’s been out for a couple of months has already been screwed, chewed and regurgitated in a multitude of remixes. But so be it. Although this song is approaching its second birthday, it’s still quite the jam and continues to be played on dance floors across countries.
Released as the fourth single on Kanye West’s latest opus, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, “All of the Lights” is a monumental track. Not only did it reach number 18 on the Billboard Hot 100 but received the 2012 Grammy Awards for Best Rap song and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration and for good reason. The song opens up with a blasting horn section that slowly crescendos into a slamming club beat, defying anyone listening not to move. Throughout the song, West takes us on a close-to-home journey riddled with the problems of excessive fame and personal strife. Lyrics such as “Restraining order/I can’t see my daughter/her mother, brother, grandmother hate me in that order” and “I made mistakes/I hung my head/Court sucked me dry/I spent that bread” stress the enormity of Kanye’s problems in dealing with custody and court battles. His primadonna persona and knack for crazy, not-done-for-publicity stunts, give the song a powerfully real and intense undertone while it maintains an uplifting beat.
But recently, I noticed something that I haven’t been able to shake. Now, follow me down the rabbit hole on this one, won’t you? The track opens up with the lines, “Something wrong/I hold my head/MJ gone/Our nigga dead.” Ok, so West is sad about Jacko’s death as many people were but it’s the next line that really gets me. “I slapped my girl/she call the feds/I did that time and spent that bread.” Apparently he was soooo upset over the King of Pop’s death that he did the most reasonable thing and beat his woman over it. Of course, how is personal assault NOT a logical reaction to the death of a celebrity? Ho ho. With this as the set up for the rest of the song, it’s hard not to draw the conclusion that most of West’s problems wouldn’t be problems if only Jacko hadn’t O.D. Who would’ve thought that fate would play such a cruel joke on the affluent Yeezy? Damn Kanye, talk about being caught in the jaws of destiny.
What’s more, it was pointed out to me by my co-worker/photographer and on-again/off-again fiancée, Caroline Reid, that the one and only choice for backing vocals on a track about female abuse is . . .that’s right, Rihanna. The singer who was infamously caught in the spotlight for being in an abusive relationship, serenades next to West on a song about him beating his woman.
Fate is an odd mistress, full of ironic humor and tiny jabs that are easily missed in this life unless we take the time to stop and think. So the next time you’re bumpin’ & grindin’ on that drink stained floor and “All of the Lights” blasts through the sound system, have a chuckle and make sure to use those hands for loving, not fighting.