Matson on Music
Epic pop achievement: Keri Hilson's "Knock You Down" feat. Kanye West and Ne-Yo
Posted by Andrew Matson
The song is Keri Hilson's, but really belongs to Kanye West. His two sing-rap verses bookend it with such personality and cleverness, the rapper steals the R&B song from the R&B singers. Hilson and Ne-Yo are almost irrelevant.
I say almost because the song is a story, which its video sticks to literally, and Hilson and Ne-Yo have parts that are necessary for the arc, however flatly played: Hilson's the girl Kanye broke up with, which made him feel bad, and Ne-Yo's the guy she's dating now, which makes him feel mad, and now the two must face off. The chorus is about getting back on your feet after a rough deal with love (kind of the opposite of confronting your old girlfriend's new boyfriend), but whatever. The song is mostly about Kanye's feelings, just like the entirety of his last album, "808s and Heartbreak," which was a giant Auto-Tuned sing-rap breakup suite.
I love how dramatic Kanye West is. Starting the song off with "what we gonna have: dessert or disaster?" is so theatrical. And his acting in the video is priceless. So much conviction! But his second verse has the song's jewel:
You listened to that bitch?/
Woe is me/
Baby, this is tragic/
'Cause we had it/
We was magic/
I was flyin'/
Now I'm crashin'/
This is bad, real bad: Michael Jackson/
Now I'm mad, real mad: Joe Jackson"
The song came out right before Michael Jackon died, but the reference seems prescient now. The Joe Jackson reference remains humorously tasteless, in a certain way Kanye's practically trademarked.
Kanye hijacks every part of the song, from content to presentation. It's all about his feelings, all about his artistry, all about Kanye.
Why can he get away with it?
Because the movie that is Kanye West is just better. Better than Ne-Yo's, Keri Hilson's, yours, mine...his mythology is just better. He's smarter, more committed, more talented, more versatile. Kanye, Kanye, Kanye.
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