The song is not by any means a creative breakthrough for either artist. “Only One” is mediocre at best; unchallenging pop music processed and homogenized to appeal to the lowest common denominator. I never would have guessed McCartney was even on the track if it hadn’t been so hyped. His contribution is not immediately apparent.
Whatever their personal artistic motives may have been, the unlikely collaboration between Yeezy and Macca provoked an outpouring of scathing, often hilarious feedback from fans and critics. While some of the online remarks were clearly meant to be sarcastic, others appeared to be sincere in their ignorance regarding Kanye’s latest musical foil.
“Kanye has a great ear for talent. This Paul McCartney guy gonna be huge ...” wrote one Twitter user.
“Who is Paul McCartney? He boutta blow up thanks to Kanye!!!” replied another.
“who tf is Paul McCartney ???!??” another Kanye fan declared.
“this is why I love kanye for shining light on unknown artists ...” someone else added, “I don’t know who Paul McCartney is, but Kanye is going to give this man a career w/ this new song!!”
Some Kanye West fans have apparently never heard of The Beatles.
The comments sparked an immediate backlash, with hundreds of Twitter users sharing their disgust. Most saw the humorous side, while others were appalled. They interpreted the comments as genuine musical ignorance.
Is it really possible there are people out there who’ve never heard of The Beatles?
Some found the possibility intolerable: “Only thing makes me mad about the stupid McCartney/Kanye tweets is these damn kids have google. Ain’t no reason for your stupidity today,” lamented one cynical fan.
“...The downfall of America’s youth has officially concluded with people not knowing who Paul McCartney is,” another Tweeted in disgust.
In the midst of this brewing debate, The Atlantic Monthly published a highly provocative piece about the controversy surrounding “Only One.” Contributing writer Noah Berlatsky put forth the absurd argument that old fogeys such as Paul McCartney are no longer relevant; that it doesn’t matter if young people have never heard of The Beatles because the music of today is so much better.
“The Beatles were hugely popular, sure, but that was more than 40 years ago,” he claimed. “Most pop music fans today weren’t even born the last time McCartney had a song in the charts. As far as their personal experience goes, he might as well be Bing Crosby ...”
Berlatsky is clearly not a Beatles fan, and he apparently knows nothing about musical history, either. A quick glance at his mugshot on The Atlantic’s website confirms that Berlatsky fits squarely into the Millennial generation. His critique is essentially a hit piece on Baby Boomers.
“The painful part for Boomers and their ilk, presumably, isn’t just that folks don’t know who McCartney is, but that it’s at least somewhat feasible that some young people don’t know who Paul McCartney is,” Berlatsky writes. “And that’s not exactly a shame.”
Just for the sake of argument: The Beatles revolutionized popular culture in the ‘60s and their influence is still being felt today. Music, art, film, fashions and personal attitudes all changed radically because of them. The Beatles had a profound effect on western civilization. People like Kanye West have them to thank for a career.
That’s the problem with Berlatsky’s argument: he’s grown up in a world saturated by mediocre, corporatized crap. Like a lot of Millennials, he has learned to accept it, expect it and demand it in every aspect of his adult life.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not crap.
If you need to use Auto-Tune you can’t really sing, period. Nowadays a lot of people actually like the robotic sound of heavily Auto-Tuned vocals. They simply don’t know any better: further proof that the vast majority of the record-buying public has no musical taste whatsoever. 13-year-old girls are the industry’s primary demographic — and everyone knows what judges of quality they are.
Many of today’s musical artists shouldn’t really be considered ‘artists.’ They have no real talent.
The sad fact is that maybe Paul feels like he has to collaborate with hacks like Kanye West in order to remain relevant. History will prove this theory wrong, however. Paul McCartney will forever be acknowledged for his contributions to modern popular culture; Kanye West will always be a postscript. He is about as musically relevant as Kim Kardashian.
Jason Darensburg is a columnist for the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at opinion @dailylobo.com or on Twitter @DailyLobo.