For weeks I’ve been hearing how great Kanye West’s new CD is, so I was chomping at the bit to see his performance on Saturday Night Live’s season opener this weekend. His first song? Awesome. But by the time his second song had ended, I was scratching my head trying to figure out what the hell happened.
His first , a “Stronger/Good Life” medley, was a seamless performance. He was high energy (almost too high), he had an all-female (under-utilized) backup orchestra, solid backup vocalists, a tight live band, and stage lighting brighter and flashier than I remember seeing anyone under on the SNL stage. So far, so good.
Then came his second song, “Champion.” Once again, high energy coming from everyone on stage. Then Kanye tells the band to break it down, and he goes “off the dome” (what came across as an improvised, off the top of his head freestyle) without any backup from the band. A risky move indeed, considering he didn’t really have much to say. There were several lines about him being on top of his game, being number one, and being “the Don,” but unfortunately his freestyle meandered toward a complete anti-climax of him saying “I keep going, going, going going…” Well, yeah, that’s what he did alright, for way too long (about six minutes).
He recognized the flubs of the performance by mixing “I meant to mess up” into one line. I give him a lot of credit for improvising on live television; that’s a bold move. But in this case, I’m thinking he should have stuck to the script.