Kanye West’s ‘Touch the Sky’, Directed by Chris Milk
“Meet Evel Kanyevel, the black Howard Hughes of the 70’s”
Originality – 4
Cleverness – 3
Entertainment – 4
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…
A nervous Pamela Anderson follows the notoriously cool headed version of Kanye West, better known as ‘Evel Kanyevel’, to a stunt location for the test performance of his latest invention: Death Rocket. This is obviously a reference to Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Death Proof’, a vehicle with the same satirically inevitable self-fulfilling prophecy.
After a brief interview during their crowd entrance, Kanye tests his luck messing around with a stunt bike which he quickly loses control over foreshadowing his ill fate and heightening Pamela’s blood pressure which forces her to jet off to the trailer. (interesting wordplay, read that again.)
Kanyevel runs through a series of administrative procedures (being briefed) by his technical crew before mentally visualizing his route. Heading back into the trailer, he’s un-welcomed by an explosive tirade from his significant other as she’s worried sick. He calmly reassures her that he’s aware of the potential hazard, mellowing her.
Pamela, fearing the worst, is subjected to watch the spectacle (that is the anticipation of ‘The Jump’) live on television whilst Kanye is forced to reckon with negative energy in the form of controversial questions on his past remarks and his preference in women.
After all the drama has ensued, the live band perform, giving Mr. West enough time to get ready for ‘The Jump’. First, he gives his Barbie one last kiss, evoking a strong reaction from Nia (and her plus one) before he takes off. Needless to say, he crashes quite violently.
The entire video is a well-done pastiche of the 70’s with the dress code, use of wigs, fake mustaches and beards as well as the make up, character introduction and video filter. The camp-style comedy acting was great, especially seeing as that was juxtaposed with the seemingly serious Kanye and Pamela. Explicit comedies aren’t usually associated with rap music videos, especially with bigwigs and moguls such as Kanye West (apart from ‘Workout Plan’) so it’s great to see this on screen. It’s a shame this style hasn’t been replicated by other artists.
The opening shot was a great way to immediately stamp the authority of style the film would take, the frame rise and distorted camera angle (German Expressionism) was another great look. There was a lot of manipulation in the video, primarily with the frames, then with the use of a cartoon image.
The video subtly plays with the lyrics of the song at infrequent points which goes to show that although it might seem an independent film, it’s still a music video. It’s not avant-garde but it’s an original aspect. The use of the toy plane reinforces the campy element of the film and is used as a quick and cost-effective anticlimax to the circus that was the build-up.
Although the vintage-style look and feel accompanied by the costumes and cinematic shots seemed lighthearted, there were elements of the film that consciously hinted on reminiscence of blaxploitation cinema. These were parodied, thus negating the issue and consequentially undermining the commentary.
The kissing scene was breathtaking, especially with the added musical sub-layer in the background. The song’s ability to interact with the video was effortless and the use of freeze frames at the start, the foreshadowing and the fact Kanye was in the clouds, suggesting he has indeed touched the sky, was well thought of.
The upbeat, humorous film requites for a very emotional and sincere story being told in the song. Pamela was immaculate in her role and so were Tracee and Nia (who was actually named in the song). Although there was an orgy of evidence dedicated to the time period this piece was based on, it was all done to close perfection.
It’s a classic music video giving nod to a distinctive (and somewhat wistful) era of media, style and glamour; stylish and rare.
Out of curiosity, what was Nick Canon doing there?