Famous (Kanye West song)

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"Famous"
Famouscover1.jpg
Single by Kanye West
from the album The Life of Pablo
Released April 1, 2016 (2016-04-01)
Format
Recorded 2015
Genre
Length 3:14
Label
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)
Kanye West singles chronology
"One Man Can Change the World"
(2015)
"Famous"
(2016)
"Pop Style"
(2016)

"One Man Can Change the World"
(2015)
"Famous"
(2016)
"Pop Style"
(2016)
Music video
"Famous" on YouTube

"Famous" is a song by American rapper Kanye West. It serves as the lead single from his seventh studio album The Life of Pablo (2016). The song features uncredited vocals from Barbadian singer Rihanna and ad-libs from American hip hop artist Swizz Beatz, and enlists samples of Jamaican singer Sister Nancy, American singer Nina Simone and Italian band Il Rovescio Della Medaglia.[2] The single was serviced to US urban and rhythmic radio stations on April 1, 2016.[3][4]

Upon its release, "Famous" met with scrutiny for a controversial lyrical reference to American singer Taylor Swift, partially in relation to West's interruption of her 2009 VMA acceptance speech.[5][6][7][8][9][10] After West claimed to have obtained Swift's approval over the criticized lyric, Swift denied the claim, criticizing West and denouncing the lyric as "misogynistic" in a statement.[8][9][10] Several months later, West's wife Kim Kardashian released a video capturing a conversation between Swift and West in which Swift appears to approve the lyric.[5][11][12]

In June 2016, West released a music video for "Famous" depicting wax figures of West, Swift, Kardashian, George W. Bush, Donald Trump, Anna Wintour, Rihanna, Chris Brown, Ray J, Amber Rose, Caitlyn Jenner, and Bill Cosby all sleeping nude in a shared bed. It was released to a polarized response. The wax figures used in the video were later exhibited as a sculpture. The song was nominated for Best Rap/Sung Performance and Best Rap Song at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards.

Composition and reception[edit]

"Famous" features a segue from "braggadocious, bell-ringing hip-hop" into samples of Sister Nancy's dancehall song "Bam Bam" chopped up over the chord progression featured in Nina Simone's "Do What You Gotta Do".[13] After the initial release of The Life of Pablo, "Famous" was among the several tracks to receive alterations in West's March 2016 update of the album; changes included a different mix and slightly altered lyrics.[14]

For the Chicago Tribune, Greg Kot called the song "an example of just how brilliant and infuriating West can be at the same time," noting its controversial Taylor Swift-referencing lyric while going on to praise the production and Rihanna's guest vocals.[15] Jayson Greene of Pitchfork wrote that the controversial lyric "feels like a piece of bathroom graffiti made to purposefully reignite the most racially-charged rivalry in 21st-century pop."[16]

Time staff named "Famous" one of the best songs of the year 2016: "Kanye West is a genius musician and a world-class provocateur, and "Famous" is yet another piece of proof those two qualities are inextricably intertwined. He weaves The Life of Pablo's hardest-knocking beat, chords cribbed from Nina Simone, and Sister Nancy's reggae classic "Bam Bam" into a vibrant tapestry, and he uses all of that beauty to crack open his long-simmering spat with the biggest pop star on the planet. The court of public opinion won't ever reach a verdict on Taylor [Swift] v. Kanye — did she consent to being mentioned? Did she double-cross Kanye? At least we can all agree that "Famous" captures West in all of his complicated, vital glory."[17]

Controversy[edit]

In July 2016, West's wife Kim Kardashian (left) released a video recording of Taylor Swift (right) granting her approval of the controversial lyrics after Swift denied that the recording existed.[18]

The song includes a controversial lyric in reference to West's interruption of singer Taylor Swift's 2009 VMA acceptance speech and its aftermath:

"For all my South Side niggas that know me best
I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex
Why? I made that bitch famous
(Goddamn!)
I made that bitch famous."[5]

Upon the song's release, the lyric was heavily publicized and criticized by media outlets, though West defended the line, saying, "I called Taylor and had a [sic] hour long convo with her about the line and she thought it was funny and gave her blessings."[5][6][7][8][9][10] In response, Swift's spokesperson adamantly denied that West asked for her approval for the controversial lyric,[19] with an official statement claiming that Swift had only been asked to release West's song on her Twitter page, and had instead "cautioned him against releasing a song with such a strong misogynistic message."[5] In Swift's 2016 Grammy Awards victory speech for Best Album, she seemingly made a veiled reference to West's lyric, referring to "those people along the way who are going to try to undercut your success or take credit for your accomplishments or your fame."[20]

In a June 2016 interview with GQ, West's wife Kim Kardashian West claimed the couple possessed a video recording of West's phone call with Swift, in which Swift could be heard amiably discussing and approving the lyrics.[21] She clarified that Swift's camp had threatened legal action should the video be released, and argued that "I swear, my husband gets so much shit for things [when] he really was doing proper protocol and even called to get it approved."[21] In July 2016, Kardashian posted a recording of the phone conversation online, in which Swift can allegedly be heard approving West's lyric, describing it as a "compliment" and a show of friendship.[22][23] Due to the release of this video, Swift has been accused of lying about approving the lyric. In the call, Swift appears to say:

Yeah, go with whatever line makes you feel better, it's obviously very tongue-in-cheek either way. And I really appreciate you telling me about it, that's really nice [...] I don't think anyone would listen to that and be like 'that's a real diss, she must be crying.' You've gotta tell the story the way that it happened to you and the way that you experienced it. You honestly didn't know who I was before that. It doesn't matter that I sold 7 million of that album before you did that which is what happened, you didn't know who I was before that. It's fine. [...] If people ask me about it, I think it would be great for me to be like, ‘Look, he called me and told me about the line.'[5]

West can be heard telling Swift, "I just had a responsibility to you as a friend, you know, and thanks for being so cool about it."[5]

Following the video's release, Swift released a statement stating "being falsely painted as a liar when I was never given the full story or played any part of the song is character assassination," claiming West did not tell her she would be referred to as "that bitch."[5]

On the same day as the video's release, Kardashian tweeted about National Snake Day, saying "They have holidays for everybody, I mean everything these days! 🐍". This tweet was interpreted as being aimed at Swift, and the hashtag #TaylorSwiftIsASnake became trending. In September 2016, Swift started using a filter created by Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom to automatically delete comments using the snake emoji on her profile. By August 2017, Swift was using snakes in promotional material for her 2017 album Reputation. They were worked into merchandise, the music video for its lead single "Look What You Made Me Do", and her 2018 Reputation Stadium Tour.[18][24]

In October 2016, the demo version leaked, revealing different lyrics on Swift and Amber Rose.[25]

Music video[edit]

The controversial music video featured nude wax sculptures of several celebrities. From left to right:[26]
1. George W. Bush 2. Anna Wintour 3. Donald Trump 4. Rihanna 5. Chris Brown 6.Taylor Swift 7. Kanye West 8. Kim Kardashian 9. Ray J 10. Amber Rose 11. Caitlyn Jenner 12. Bill Cosby

The song's music video premiered at a Tidal exclusive event at The Forum in Inglewood, California on June 24, 2016. The video begins with a camera passing slowly over the nude, lookalike sleeping bodies of famous personalities. All of the celebrities are synthetic bodies.[27] At the end of the video, the camera pans out to show all of the sleeping bodies at the same time as West wakes up from his slumber.[27] Vincent Desiderio's painting Sleep is the visual inspiration for the video.[28]

Two days prior to the video's release, West showed the video to Dirk Standen of Vanity Fair over Skype while the video was still in its final editing stages. The video was filmed over a period of three months and went through four different versions prior to the finalized version. West did not reveal which of the celebrities' bodies in the video were real and which ones were prosthetic; however he stated that the video was "not in support or [against] any of [the people in the video]" and was merely "a comment on fame". He also stated that he received his wife Kardashian's permission.[29] Days after its release, E! Online editor Corinne Heller commented, "Swift is the main reason the 'Famous' video was so anticipated." However, it received "almost no reactions" from the celebrities portrayed.[30] Audience response to the video was polarized.[31] The video of the song was uploaded to YouTube on July 1, 2016. West's song "Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1" is also featured in the video.[32]

The video earned nominations for Best Male Video and Video of the Year at the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards. As well as Best Hip-Hop Video at the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards Japan.[33] German director Werner Herzog expressed admiration for the video, describing it as "very good stuff" and admitting he had "never seen anything like this."[34] The sculptures depicted in the music video are on a gallery tour, and some estimates for its sale are as high as $4 million.[35]

Charts[edit]

Chart (2016) Peak
position
Australia (ARIA)[36] 43
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[37] 31
Denmark (Tracklisten)[38] 21
Finnish Airplay (Radiosoittolista)[39] 93
France (SNEP)[40] 128
Ireland (IRMA)[41] 28
Italy (FIMI)[42] 59
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[43] 55
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[44] 28
Norway (VG-lista)[45] 17
Scotland (Official Charts Company)[46] 54
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[47] 23
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[48] 45
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[49] 33
US Billboard Hot 100[50] 34
US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs (Billboard)[51] 13
US Hot Rap Songs (Billboard)[52] 8
US Rhythmic (Billboard)[53] 24

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Australia (ARIA)[54] Gold 35,000^
Canada (Music Canada)[55] Platinum 80,000^
Italy (FIMI)[56] Gold 25,000double-dagger
United Kingdom (BPI)[57] Gold 400,000double-dagger
United States (RIAA)[58] 2× Platinum 2,000,000double-dagger

^shipments figures based on certification alone
double-daggersales+streaming figures based on certification alone

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Kanye West Famous LIVE". YouTube. Retrieved July 14, 2018. 
  2. ^ "Kanye West: Famous". WhoSampled. Retrieved 3 April 2016. 
  3. ^ "Kanye West & Rihanna's "Famous" Will Be the First Single Off 'The Life of Pablo'". Idolater. March 27, 2016. Retrieved March 25, 2016. 
  4. ^ "Kanye Releases 'Famous' Ft. Rihanna As 1st Single From 'The Life of Pablo'". HipHop-N-More. March 27, 2016. Retrieved March 25, 2016. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Yoo, Noah. "Kim Kardashian Leaks Video Confirming Taylor Swift Signed Off on Kanye's Infamous "Famous" Line". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 19 July 2016. 
  6. ^ a b Kreps, Daniel (2016-02-12). "Kanye West Defends Controversial Taylor Swift 'Famous' Lyric". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2016-04-16. 
  7. ^ a b Evan Minsker (2016-02-11). "Kanye on Taylor Swift Controversy: "It's Actually Something Taylor Came Up With"". Pitchfork. Retrieved 2016-04-16. 
  8. ^ a b c Renner, Eric (2016-04-11). "Kanye West addresses Taylor Swift controversy". EW.com. Retrieved 2016-04-16. 
  9. ^ a b c Chris Payne. "Kanye West Defends Controversial Taylor Swift Lyric in Twitter Spree". Billboard. Retrieved 2016-04-16. 
  10. ^ a b c Mark Molloy (2016-02-12). "Kanye West defends controversial lyrics about Taylor Swift in Twitter rant". Telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 2016-04-16. 
  11. ^ Abad-Santos, Alex. "Kim Kardashian's Taylor Swift-Kanye West Snapchat story, explained". Vox. Retrieved 19 July 2016. 
  12. ^ Jamieson Cox and Matthew Davis. "Kim Kardashian used Snapchat to prove Taylor Swift was lying about Kanye West's Famous". The Verge. Retrieved 19 July 2016. 
  13. ^ Raymer 2016.
  14. ^ Helman, Peter. "Kanye West's Updated The Life Of Pablo Is Now On Apple Music And Spotify". Stereogum. Retrieved 23 June 2016. 
  15. ^ Kot, Greg (2016). "Kanye West's bewildering, frustrating 'Pablo'". Chicago Tribune (February 16). Retrieved April 6, 2016. 
  16. ^ Greene 2016.
  17. ^ http://time.com/4575319/top-10-best-songs-2016/
  18. ^ a b Lisa Respers France (22 August 2017). "Taylor Swift and snakes: The backstory". CNN. Retrieved 1 March 2018. 
  19. ^ http://www.billboard.com/articles/news/6874870/taylor-swift-cautioned-kanye-west-famous-misogynistic
  20. ^ Lee, Esther. "Taylor Swift Snipes Back at Kanye West in Grammys 2016 Album of the Year Speech: People Will Try to 'Take Credit for Your Fame'". Us Weekly. Retrieved 19 July 2016. 
  21. ^ a b Strauss, Matthew. "Kim Kardashian Says Taylor Swift "Totally Approved" Kanye's "Famous" (And They Have It on Video)". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 19 July 2016. 
  22. ^ http://pitchfork.com/news/66880-kim-kardashian-reveals-taylor-swift-signed-off-on-kanyes-infamous-famous-line/
  23. ^ https://www.gq.com/story/kim-kardashian-west-gq-cover-story
  24. ^ Alexandra Holterman (21 August 2017). "The History of Taylor Swift & the Snake". Billboard. Retrieved 1 March 2018. 
  25. ^ "Kanye West's 'Famous' Demo Leaked, Reveals Different Lyrics on Taylor Swift and Amber Rose". People. October 6, 2016. Retrieved October 6, 2016. 
  26. ^ A Who's Who Guide to Kanye's 'Famous' Video
  27. ^ a b "Kanye West Nuzzles Naked Taylor Swift, Donald Trump & Bill Cosby in 'Famous' Video". Billboard. June 25, 2016. Retrieved June 25, 2016. 
  28. ^ Coscarelli, Joe. "The Artist Providing the Canvas for Kanye West's ‘Famous’ Video." The New York Times. June 29, 2016
  29. ^ http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2016/06/kanye-famous-video-interview
  30. ^ "Kanye West Gets Almost No Reactions From Stars Depicted Naked in "Famous" Video". E! Online. June 26, 2016. Retrieved June 28, 2016. 
  31. ^ Robinson, Will. "Kanye West 'Famous' premiere: 4 things you missed". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 19 July 2016. 
  32. ^ "Kanye West - Famous". VEVO. Retrieved July 3, 2016. 
  33. ^ "VMAJ 2016: Best Hip-Hop Video". MTV Japan. Archived from the original on 17 September 2017. Retrieved 16 December 2017. 
  34. ^ Walsh, April Clare. "Werner Herzog analysing Kanye West's 'Famous' video is everything you want it to be and more". Fact. Retrieved 12 August 2016. 
  35. ^ Popescu, Adam (2016-08-31). "Gallery Hopes to Sell Kanye West's 'Famous' Sculpture for $4 Million". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-09-01. 
  36. ^ "Australian-charts.com – Kanye West feat. Rihanna & Swizz Beatz – Famous". ARIA Top 50 Singles. Retrieved July 9, 2016.
  37. ^ "Kanye West Chart History (Canadian Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved April 12, 2016.
  38. ^ "Danishcharts.com – Kanye West feat. Rihanna & Swizz Beatz – Famous". Tracklisten. Retrieved April 16, 2016.
  39. ^ "Kanye West Feat. Rihanna: Famous" (in Finnish). Musiikkituottajat – IFPI Finland. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  40. ^ "Lescharts.com – Kanye West feat. Rihanna & Swizz Beatz – Famous" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved July 2, 2016.
  41. ^ "Chart Track: Week 15, 2016". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved April 16, 2016.
  42. ^ "Italiancharts.com – Kanye West feat. Rihanna & Swizz Beatz – Famous". Top Digital Download. Retrieved April 15, 2016.
  43. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – Kanye West feat. Rihanna & Swizz Beatz – Famous" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved April 8, 2016.
  44. ^ "Charts.nz – Kanye West feat. Rihanna & Swizz Beatz – Famous". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved April 15, 2016.
  45. ^ "Norwegiancharts.com – Kanye West feat. Rihanna & Swizz Beatz – Famous". VG-lista. Retrieved April 16, 2016.
  46. ^ "Official Scottish Singles Sales Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved July 30, 2016.
  47. ^ "Swedishcharts.com – Kanye West feat. Rihanna & Swizz Beatz – Famous". Singles Top 100. Retrieved April 16, 2016.
  48. ^ "Swisscharts.com – Kanye West feat. Rihanna & Swizz Beatz – Famous". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved April 11, 2016.
  49. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved April 9, 2016.
  50. ^ "Kanye West Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved April 12, 2016.
  51. ^ "Kanye West Chart History (Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved April 12, 2016.
  52. ^ "Kanye West Chart History (Hot Rap Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved July 31, 2018.
  53. ^ "Kanye West Chart History (Rhythmic)". Billboard. Retrieved September 8, 2017.
  54. ^ "CHART WATCH #380". auspOp. August 6, 2016. Retrieved August 6, 2016. 
  55. ^ "Canadian single certifications". Music Canada. Retrieved September 19, 2016. 
  56. ^ "Italian single certifications" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved July 17, 2017. 
  57. ^ "British single certifications". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved January 19, 2018.  Select singles in the Format field. Select Gold in the Certification field. 
  58. ^ "American single certifications – Kanye West – Famous". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved March 16, 2018.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH

External links[edit]