It hasn't been an easy road to redemption for Kanye West. After snatching the microphone from sweet little Taylor Swift at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, the big, bad rapper was vilified by a nation.
That one Hennessey-inspired impulse to storm the stage, declare his love for Beyonce's "Single Ladies" video, and interrupt the country singer's acceptance speech nearly cost Kanye his career. His unapologetic, over-the-top antics often raise eyebrows, but this time it seemed he might have gone too far.
And, yes, what Kanye did was rude, petty, and downright unprofessional, but the backlash for it seemed extreme. Lady Gaga dropped him from her highly anticipated summer tour, his once-mainstream fan base seemed to dwindle to a few ardent defenders, and after profusely apologizing for his faux pas, Kanye all but disappeared in a self-imposed period of near exile from the public eye.
But now, one year later, he's poised and ready for a triumphant comeback. By the time his album drops Nov. 16, the public's faith and purchasing power will be restored in Kanye. It's been a carefully orchestrated timeline of events that have led to the resurrection of Kanye's public image.
In the immediate aftermath of Kanye's VMA offense, he took to the media circuit, giving tear-filled apologies to Taylor, the fans, and even MTV. He tugged at our heartstrings talking to Jay Leno, choking up and being unable to speak when asked what his late mother would say about reprehensibly stealing another artist's hard-earned spotlight.
But these apologies alone didn't make up for our collective anger towards Kanye. He'd bullied America's sweetheart, and we weren't that quick to forgive and forget.
So brilliantly, Kanye and his people pulled him out of the public eye. For a man who loves attention, keeping a low profile couldn't have been easy. But, alas, he did it.
By the time Kanye reemerged on Twitter in July 2010, joining the popular site some 10 months after his infamous VMA blunder, we were actually willing to listen to what he had to say. There was, in typical Kanye fashion, a lot of rambling and philosophical realizations about the mundane. And no stranger to the media circus, Kanye tweeted excessively about how sorry he was to Taylor Swift, garnering massive public attention. We were finally ready for Kanye to stir the pot and heat up the VMA controversy once again! Was he really sorry, or was this just another attention seeking, ego-boosting stunt?
Soon thereafter, we heard both Kanye and Taylor would be performing at the 2010 VMAs. We waited with bated breath. Would Kanye interrupt Taylor yet again? Would Taylor bust out her rap persona "T-Swizzle" and revengefully bash Kanye? Or, as my friend Kris suggested, would Taylor and Kanye come out together and collaborate on some country/hip-hop version of "I Got You, Babe?"
As adorable as that last option would've been, it didn't happen. A demure-looking, barefoot Taylor sang a sweet melody about Kanye's mistake, proclaiming Kanye, "still an innocent" and expressly forgiving him through her carefully crafted lyrics.
Kanye later closed out the show, emerging in a loud, red suit, beginning his song with a few delicately played notes on a keyboard. In his lyrics, quite different than Taylor's but poignant nonetheless, he poked fun at himself. He rapped about the public, "putting up with [his] sh*t for way too long" then had a toast for, "the douchebags, assholes, scumbags... and jerkoffs." Naturally, we were pretty sure Kanye included himself in that descriptive lineup.
It seemed, as Kanye took his final bow, that he'd paid his price. He'd apologized time and time again, Taylor herself had publicly forgiven him, and he acknowledged that he'd been, in words of President Barack Obama, "a jackass." So one full year after Kanye had so royally ticked us off, we were finally ready to forgive him. By mocking himself, Kanye was on the verge of his new beginning.
Continuing the trend of joking at his own expense, Kanye appeared Sunday night on The Cleveland Show as aspiring local rapper, Kenny West. The show mimicked Kanye's VMA incident with Kenny West telling Cleveland, "I still can't believe Beyonce didn't win!" It even went so far as to parody Kanye's live televison, 2005 outburst of, "George Bush doesn't care about black people." Cleveland Brown stood alongside Kenny West saying, "Barack Obama doesn't care about black people." Only in the cartoon version, Kanye West's alter-ego is in the know. "What the f*** were you thinking?!" He screams at the overzealous Cleveland Brown. We get it, now. Even Kanye's aware that he all too often speaks before thinking.
So maybe now, finally, with the whole Kanye/Taylor-gate behind us, we, too, can officially move on. Kanye's learned there are serious repercussions for thoughtless outbursts. Taylor's learned about forgiveness, and also that sometimes a little heartbreak can boost your marketability. And the rest of us, well, maybe we've learned not to be so dead-set in our labels of victim and villain. We can support the Taylors and the Kanyes and appreciate them for their differences. After all, roles change, publicists convince, we forget and as Taylor sings, "today is never too late to be brand new."