Pop & Hiss

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Fame killed: Kanye West, Lady Gaga and the missed opportunity

October 2, 2009 |  6:48 am

While I may or may not be of a minority opinion, I’ll stand firm in my conviction: The cancellation of the Kanye West/Lady Gaga “Fame Kills” tour, quite frankly, stinks. It’s also a sad commentary on the state of modern pop music, which could have benefited from something so inspired.

At its best, pop music is thrilling, sexy and occasionally brilliant, but quite almost always controversial. When it works, it elevates beyond music to a larger pop cultural stage, and provokes more than just a conversation. Between the two of them, Lady Gaga and Kanye West have done all of the above and more. They’ve affected the cultural zeitgeist and are walking among the biggest pop stars in the world because of it.

The aptly titled "Fame Kills" tour was an intuitive juxtaposition of the new pop power structure. West’s panoramic hip-hop appeal with Gaga’s even broader reach -- one that includes the gay/lesbian community -- was sure to draw a mind-bogglingly cross-cultural crowd.

The few leaked details on the actual show made it sound like a truly ambitious undertaking, with both artists on stage at the same time:

“The storyline is that Kanye is on one end of the stage and I’m on the other, and the whole show, we are trying to get to where each other is,” Lady Gaga told the London (Ontario) Free Press. “I want something that he has, which is the fame, and he wants something that I have, which is home, and my humble beginnings. So we battle each other throughout the entire performance to steal each other’s spaces.”

She continued, “So I’m essentially on a quest to kill Kanye West to steal his fame.”

The quintessential modern hip-hop star and pop’s reigning drama queen embroiled in an onstage battle certainly sounds much more entertaining than most arena shows of the recent past. Two such dynamic performers teaming up for one grand spectacle held nothing but promise.

Of course, West’s MTV VMA outburst at the expense of Taylor Swift, and the national outcry it inspired, changed the dynamic dramatically. It brought up the very issues of race and sex that this tour was ideally built to challenge. It also elevated the very concept of the tour. It was almost always guaranteed to be entertaining, but now it stands as a missed opportunity.

Instead, we’re left wondering what could have been, and a couple of useless tickets.

-- Scott T. Stering