Kanye West’s ‘Runaway’ video recently aired, and I’m guessing it’s going to be getting a lot of rave reviews. Why? I don’t think it has anything to do with the video being an artistic masterpiece with a deep meaning; it was simply something flashy and different from what your average pop music fans of today are used to seeing. If I had to compare the ‘Runaway’ video to anything, I’d compare it to Kanye West’s diamond-studded teeth: sure they’ll grab everyone’s attention, but are they really a good idea? Why is Kanye West covering up part of his mouth, something that’s so important for his image?
Just as he puts up a façade on his face, Kanye West’s ‘Runaway’ video hides behind it’s vivid colors, a Victoria’s Secret model wearing strategically-placed feathers, and a group of convulsing ballerinas. Sadly, this simple story adorned with a few bells and whistles is what is considered artistic in this day and age (I mean, Kanye West referenced Urkel in one of the many songs’ lyrics featured in the short film!).
The premise is this: a phoenix with the features of a human woman and a bird (played by Selita Ebanks) plummets to Earth, where she becomes Kanye West’s lover. Then she burns and goes back to where she came from. It’s a simple story that obviously is meant to represent Kanye West’s recent troubles as he tries to resurrect his career after his much-mocked VMA moment. And that’s one of the biggest issues with this artsy video: the moment in Kanye West’s life that he’s trying to recover from represented in this allegory is just so ridiculous, and he and Taylor Swift need to just get over it already!
It’s not to say that Kanye West’s ‘Runaway’ video won’t make you think; you just won’t have to think very hard. And it does have it’s moments, such as when a dinner guest leans over to tell him that his girlfriend is really beautiful, but did he know that she’s a bird? Obviously our world shuns the phoenix while she shuns our world, telling Kanye West’s character that she doesn’t understand why we must try to change everything that is different. She also says that all statues on our world are phoenixes turned to stone and that she must burn to go back to her world. This could be taken to represent this: if we don’t “burn” and push through the hard times to reach the heights we want to achieve, then we might as well be nothing more than motionless statues.
But of course Kanye West probably wouldn’t think of such a simplistic meaning until someone tells him that the sequence could mean such a thing. On an interview that aired on BET after the ‘Runaway’ video premiere, Kanye West admitted that he didn’t think of the meaning behind a lot of scenes in the short film until others pointed out the possibilities to him. For example, when he places a roasted bird with colorful feathers in front of his ladylove, she starts screaming in horror. He said he was told that this could represent the way we sometimes do things without thinking how they will negatively effect others (something he knows a little bit about). Kanye West also said that he used ballerinas in the video after seeing a friend’s wife watching Sylvie Guillem on YouTube.
I’m also guessing Kanye West didn’t catch how this could be seen as a bit of a love letter to himself: the phoenix is portrayed as an innocent and beautiful creature simply shunned for being different, but she ultimately rises from the ashes and above it all. The girl interviewing Kanye after the video aired praised him for doing something so original like combining ballet and hip hop (didn’t they do that in ‘Save the Last Dance’?) and proceeded to further stroke his ego by being amazed at the way he blends every different art form together.
So what did we learn from the ‘Runaway’ video? That Kanye West may have been inspired by Miley Cyrus’ ‘Can’t be Tamed’ video; Selita Ebanks needs to market some form of feather lingerie; and that the true meaning of his video could be this: if Kanye West ever takes you under his wing, it might be best to simply run away.