If there is any musician right now who knows how to dominate a news cycle for a whole weekend, it’s Kanye West. In the case of this past weekend, the increasingly eccentric rapper and producer accomplished what it’s taken Daft Punk all year to do: get the entire music-buying public talking about a new album.
In just under 48 hours, West rolled out the name and release date of his long-teased new album, rocked Saturday Night Live (memorably) (again), and debuted a new song with video projections on the sides of buildings around the world.
The first new song—from the album (dropping June 18) with the typically hubristic title Yeezus —premiered on Friday night, projected along with visuals onto 66 buildings across the globe, with the locations Ye revealed on his website. "New Slaves," which featured a black-and-white close-up of the artist’s face, appeared at odd hours in cities including New York, London, Paris, and his beloved Chicago. In a fit of what can either be called raw vanity or focus grouping, according to a slew of tweets, Kanye showed up in person to watch the crowd watch him at the New York location (a Fifth Avenue Prada shop, of course.)
At the site of the Toronto event (captured in the video above), you can hear viewers laughing—perhaps in part for the sheer spectacle and chutzpah on display and in part for the unexpectedly minimalist aggro song, with a beat that sounds almost like British Grime circa 10 years ago. In any case, nobody was heard laughing the next night during Kanye’s intense appearance on SNL.
West has a history with Saturday Night Live, which includes a reenactment of his famously harsh words post-Katrina to President Bush—again in the presence of Mike Myers—and the innovative all-white-everything performance of his King Crimson-sampling "Power" in 2010. This outing, he unveiled the new song, "Black Skinheads," which proved every bit as dark as his other new song.
In other words, everybody who pays attention to such things now knows what Kanye West’s sixth album is called, when it comes out, what it will probably sound like, and why people are talking about it this instant. Now that is how you market an album in the era of "present shock."