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Guest Post @ Scientific American

My latest at the Scientific American guest blog. Here’s the gist of it. 

I’m a big Kanye West fan. He is an immensely talented individual who has sold more albums and gathered more acclaim than most musicians have in several life times. His widespread artistic reverence is well deserved too; as a producer, lyricist, and performer he is one of the best. Yet, the most intriguing part of Kanye is how fame and glory have negatively influenced his well-being.

Here is a man who is deeply troubled. At his core, he yearns for honest social connections, and has a difficult time understanding why he doesn’t have them. On the track, “Welcome to Heartbreak,” he sings, “my friend show me pictures of his kids… all I can show him [is] pictures of my cribs,” to confess that his financial trophies seem worthless in the face of family; and on “Runaway,” he explains that he is “so gifted at findin’ what [he] don’t like the most,” to admit that he is never satisfied with the women he meets. In a world where he has access everything, he feels as if he has nothing.

His problem is choice: he simply has too much of it.

I go on to discuss the paradox of choice, an idea empirically outlined in one of my favorite books by Barry Schwartz. Kanye is always an interesting topic, some hate him, some love him, and some don’t even know who he is. Your thoughts? Weigh in.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Really enjoyed the piece. I am very interested in the subject of happiness and I like how you used an urban artist in the piece to illustrate some points. Wouldn’t it be cool to splice bits from pop stars’ lyrics to learn more about their relationships with wealth/power/fame and happiness? Kind of like what you did with Kanye but with even more examples?

    August 20, 2011
  2. sammcnerney #

    Yes, it would be very cool. Kanye is an easy one though – his lyrics are really personal and easy to understand, he wears his heart on his sleeve. Maybe another article could focus on something more challenging, like Andy Warhol or Picasso?

    August 20, 2011

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