‘Bound 2’: 12 Ways of Looking at a Black Skinhead

Chris Randle is a writer from Toronto who has written for The Globe and Mail, The...

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Kanye’s ridiculous, wonderful music video for “Bound 2” came out several days ago, but I can’t stop watching or thinking about it. Here are a dozen quick cuts.

1. Between the oversaturated wildlife and Charlie Wilson’s regally disembodied voice I almost expected a Disney number to break out. Kanye and Kim, rising aloft on interlocked eagles.

2. The green-screen aesthetic also puts me in mind of cutscenes from some old PlayStation RPG—those horses galloping towards the camera could be the opening frames of a Final Fantasy IX summon. It’s like a New Age sleep-aid CD given life.

3. How great is it that this premiered on Ellen at 10 a.m.? Provocative on multiple levels, I think, including one where the provocation is illusory—“Bound 2” being the romantic credits sequence on an album of almost unrelieved intensity.

4. Long before J. G. Ballard, pop music conflated sex drive and death drive in the metaphorical chassis of a speeding motorcycle. In The-Dream’s “Yamaha,” the association was even more transparent than its forerunner “Little Red Corvette”: “Toss me the key, I’ll be the perfect passenger.” Grinding on top of their ride, Kim and Kanye make this as direct as is possible without fucking the machine itself, which seems like something an Italian Futurist would try to do and therefore vaguely fascistic. It’s not just a display of phallic force (boring).

5. The video’s director Nick Knight, a British fashion photographer, was previously best known for “Born This Way,” which opens with three minutes of Lady Gaga rambling about alien wombs over a Bernard Hermann interpolation. So he’s improving.

6. Cutting between a close-up on one lover to another, the camera often strands them at mismatched angles, inhabiting different planes. I have spent way too much time wondering whether this was intentional.

7. Uh huh, honey.

8. One of the all-time best worst Kanye punchlines: “I know I got a bad reputation / Walking ’round, always-mad reputation / Leave-a-pretty-girl-sad reputation / Start a Fight Club / Brad reputation.” That focus on Kim during “leave-a-pretty-girl-sad,” looking merely impassive, is the subtlest irony here.

9. I doubt that I know enough about contemporary art to make this sound un-dumb—certainly not as much as Kanye knows—but it feels like he’s dynamiting a path through the uncanny valley, presenting the hollowest visual clichés imaginable in a hyperreal and newly bewildering surfeit. (“Rhetorical beauty, as we are considering it, is largely a quantitative concept,” Dave Hickey wrote, in The Invisible Dragon.)

10. We should probably also remember that the heroes foregrounded amidst this corny Americana are an interracial couple, each alternately derided and hated by broad chunks of the country they’re crossing.

11. Naked woman embracing fully clothed male performer is the one disappointingly conventional move here, even if Kim’s been cast in the Fabio role. And he can’t think that layered flannel over fur vest is a good look.

12. After all the harshly misogynistic invective crackling throughout Yeezus, “Bound 2” is when Kanye finally began coming to terms with it, admitting that, in his personal equivalent of Maoist self-criticism, “ain’t nobody perfect.” His impulses waver even within couplets: “I wanna fuck you hard on the sink / After that, give you something to drink.” It’s not a ballad about Kim, just the sound of somebody warily realizing that she makes him want to be a better human. They seem to encourage each other’s weirder fixations, and that’s a viable definition of love to me. You start to understand how megalomaniacs can be so seductive. Earlier this week, Meaghan Garvey predicted that, culturally, 2014 will be the year of “marriedwave”—striving for happiness in close relationships rather than aestheticizing loneliness, no actual matrimony required. Maybe we can make it to Christmas.

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