If you know anything about me, it’s that my two favorite artists are Kanye West and Tame Impala, a.k.a. Kevin Parker. Both are apex predators in their respective realms who continually evolve their sound, work with renowned artists across genres to lend their production expertise (and coveted verses in Kanye’s case), and draw major headlining power at festivals with rabid fanbases who flock to watch them perform. The world quakes from the collective anticipatory release when their projects drop. Not to mention, the indications of a higher deity: Kanye likening himself to Jesus and Kevin’s flowing locks that make for a spitting image of the prophet on a prayer candle.
So, in the spirit of needing something productive (don’t @ me) to do during these crazy times, I present a comparison between Kanye West and Tame Impala tracks. I will parallel primarily subject matter/themes and song vibe between their discographies. I will not be considering nor evaluating production patterns because I am not Cole Cuchna of the Dissect podcast. I will go as thorough as I deem but know I did not extensively listen to their full catalogs before writing this — this is largely based off of my fandom and basically worthless proclivity for memorizing lyrics in addition to research where necessary to corroborate my points. Without further ado, onto the juxtapositions! *Hat tip to my friend Ben who put me up to this nonsense.
Gold Digger : The Less I Know The Better
Both tracks lament over trifling bitches who move on with the drop of a dime, whether literally or due to being a capricious lover. The songs’ protagonists continue to chase after their inamoratas in masochistic ways, from bargaining and proclaiming ignorance of the girl’s sexual relations with Trevor in “The Less I Know the Better” to rolling up his sleeves to do the dishes because he can’t pay the bill at the restaurant, despite his friends warning him that this chick had a baby with Busta [Rhymes] and used to fuck with Usher. They’re both blindly enamored by the quixotic qualities of these women, unable to realize they’re just straight up getting played and strung along.
From a commercial standpoint, Kanye West had made a name for himself as a rapper and producer with chops by now with College Dropout, but “Gold Digger” put him on a bigger map for the masses. It was his second #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 (his first was “Slow Jamz”) that got white people yelling “We want prenup!” in the club (yes, I was a mere adolescent when this track released, but I know that happened).
As for the commercial success of “The Less I Know The Better,” this song is the most popular track on Currents (the best album ever). I have to admit, I had seen Tame Impala on festival lineups but wasn’t drawn to the psychedelic style of his previous works. “The Less I Know The Better” was the gateway into the genius of Kevin Parker, and I’d venture that this song was for many others as well who weren’t fans before Currents.
When it comes to the music videos, they’re memorably easy to recall. “Gold Digger” with its garish colors and homage to pin-up girls in every frame. And who can forget the larger-than-life gorilla as Trevor in “The Less I Know The Better?”
These songs were early Tame and Kanye bangers for me, and both are still staples for getting down, whether it’s to hear a groovy bass hook or to exclaim that I ain’t messin’ with no brokebois, which just so happens to be my mantra.
POWER/I Love Kanye : Elephant
Kanye has multiple orbital objects circling his head from the massive gravitational pull of his ego. So it’s only fitting that I celebrate his “every characteristic of the egotistic” by coupling two of his tracks in this comparison. “POWER” is a heady proclamation of Kanye being the fucking man, belittling the haters he’s amassed on the way to the top, waving at them donning blinding jewelry with women in tow. This was Kanye’s comeback single since the alienating Taylor Swift (the actual snake) VMA drama. He returned assuring us that he was just as hedonistic, just as unapologetic, just as unflappable, and just as genius as before he obscured from the public. “POWER” reminded us that the industry was better with him in it, proving everyone correct when he unleashed his magnum opus My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. It was good to have him back.
As for “I Love Kanye,” well, you have a beatless track of him rapping with shrewd self-awareness about his narcissism in the third person. Enough said.
While Kevin Parker does not flaunt even a modicum of ego that Kanye does, he’s got the track to describe if he were to. The subject of “Elephant” is a man dripping in braggadocio complemented by the swagger of Kevin’s guitar shredding. This guy’s pompous actions indicate he’s overcompensating for loneliness while merely being tolerated by friends who “wouldn’t care too much if he disappeared.” Sound similar to the plight of a rapper who fled the scathing disapproval of the public eye and even got dissed by President Obama himself?
“Elephant” was the original gateway for pre-Currents Tame Impala fans. This song blew up to the point where Kevin felt bittersweet dissonance about wanting to dissociate from the track. Not quite tied to his ego, but I’m sure it didn’t hurt his self-esteem to have a hit so bangin’ that you get tired of it and have the privilege and talent to move on. Interestingly, Kevin was inspired by Kanye when he saw him in concert in 2014 as he electrified the audience with his flamboyant persona. Kanye’s performance inclined Kevin to be a more forthcoming performer, one who was worthy of psych rock stardom. Praise be to Kanye’s ego.
*I did not forget about Kanye’s fantastic intro verse to the remix of Beyonce’s aptly named “Ego,” but because it’s not his song, it’s exempt from comparison. No one is denying Kanye West and his inextricable ego at this point.
Love Lockdown : Eventually
“Love Lockdown” is a lamentation of a love that’s no longer good for him and his wellbeing.
Kevin begins “Eventually” with croons and undulations that stretch anywhere from woeful to downright inconsolable about having to end a relationship that had run its course. While he’s gutted at having to inflict emotional pain to a girl he loves, he reassures that they both will be better off and happier without each other, eventually (which when you’ve gotten your heart ripped out, the future is a pretty hard fuckin’ thing to be optimistic about). Per an interview conducted by Under the Radar, Kevin explains, “The song is about knowing that you’re about to damage someone almost irreparably, and the only consolation you get is this distant hope that they’ll be alright eventually, because you know that they aren’t going to be now or soon.” This record is a pretty cut and dry, open and shut case, and a great one for breakups (speaking from personal experience).
“Love Lockdown” was the lead single on 808s & Heartbreak and “Eventually” was the fourth single on Currents. Both albums were drastic departures from a sound fans had grown to love: the pink polo rap era from Kanye and the aural psychedelia from Tame Impala. 808s is exalted for breathing a freshness into hip-hop by leveraging and transforming the use of 808s and autotune, which, at the time, was singlehandedly responsible for rappers’ success. “Love Lockdown” was Kanye’s first single to feature no rapping, just singing and it debuted at #3 and charted at #2 on Billboard, attesting to the fans’ appetite for a reinvented Kanye. While Currents is a more pop sounding album compared to Lonerism and Innerspeaker, it marks Kevin growth and flourishment as an artist as he explored incorporating elements from a genre he used to eschew and even solicited the help of producer Mark Ronson (notable collaborations include Adele, Bruno Mars, Lady Gaga). Both albums were the starts of each artist’s evolution that cemented their geniuses in leaving the familiarity that brought them success, pushing their boundaries, and traversing and conquering a new sonic landscape, while focusing on a deeply personal and very relatable subject matter of heartbreak.
I expected to have more direct comparisons between 808s & Heartbreak and Currents, considering that both albums are very clearly breakup albums. It’s probably better this analysis didn’t come down to that — how much of a drag would it be to read a variations on a theme of broken-heartedness? Glad this was an assorted track comparison between two of the crop’s creamiest artists and not a longform The Weeknd song.
Maybe somehow, someway these two will realize their similarities and greatness and finally give the people the collab we’ve been waiting for. But until that rapture arrives, join me in the middle of this Best Artists venn diagram lionizing these two artists until the end of time.