Proper comparison points for Kanye West, Michael Jackson, 50 Cent, and Norman Mailer

Posted by Rob Walker on August 23, 2007
Posted Under: Entertainment,Music,Uncategorized

Kanye West has a new CD coming out in a few weeks — can you feel the excitement?

Me neither. So I was a little surprised to read West saying this about Justin Timberlake: “I look at me and Justin like Prince and Michael Jackson in their day.”

Right. Only much less popular.

Seriously, what’s he talking about? I don’t know whether it’s a permanent change or just a slump, but pop music is just not the center of pop culture to the degree it was in the Prince/Jackson era, and surely West must be aware of this. I assume part his goal was to backhand 50 Cent, who has apparently vowed to retire if he doesn’t out-sell West.

West ought to be thanking 50, who obviously has a much better feel for the entertainment zeitgeist, and how to game it: Not by making silly comparisons to the past, but by stirring up a confrontation in the present, for no good reason whatsoever.

In fact, I look at 50 Cent and Kanye West like Norman Mailer and Gore Vidal in their day. (50, of course, is Mailer.) Mailer and Vidal were trying to sell their products to a nation that had many more entertainment choices than it used to. Solution: Infiltrate one of those choices (chat shows) and make a fuss (possibly even throwing a punch). Same with 50, except he’s infiltrating the Internet celebritytainmentsphere to sell CDs instead of books. I’m not sure whether West just doesn’t get it, or if he’s trying to enlarge the feud somehow — sort of like dragging Truman Capote in.

If they can keep this hype up till the actual release date (Sept. 11), the strategy might even work.

Meanwhile, who is really the new Michael Jackson? The iPhone of course.

[Thanks, E.]

Further diversion may be found at MKTG Tumblr, and the Consumed Facebook page.

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