January 28th, 2012
Todd and Rap Critic are just sitting by themselves in a hotel room at MAGFest, bored out of their skulls
Rap Critic: Well, we're in the same place.
Rap Critic: You wanna do a crossover?
They get up. Cut to the two sitting on a bed.
Rap Critic: [reading a script, static with no feeling] Hey, there's this movie I want you to review with me.
Todd: [reading same script, same manner] I do not want to review this thing you want to review.
Rap Critic: But then I say something that makes you want to review it with me.
Todd: I reluctantly give in and accept. [crumples up script and drops the act] I'm not reading this. Hi, I'm Todd In The Shadows.
Rap Critic: And I'm the Rap Critic. Let's talk about Runaway.
- Footage of 2009 MTV VMAs, with the...incident
- Kanye West: Yo, Taylor...
Todd (VO): Through most of late 2009 and 2010, Kanye West was a pariah in the celebrity world following his infamous outburst at the VMAs. [Clips of web pages containing the news of...] His tour was cancelled, his fellow musicians condemned him, [clip of...] and even the President took a swipe at him, something that hadn't happened since Ice-T sang about murdering cops.
- President Obama: He's a jackass.
- Performance from 2010 MTV VMAs
Todd (VO): But all was forgiven when he released his latest album, which critics called a masterpiece. But even more stunning than the album was... [video for Runaway] the first video from the album. It was epic beyond compare, it was visually captivating, it was packed with stunning imagery of metaphor and allusion, and most of all...
Rap Critic: ...was only a minute and a half long. [Referring to the video for "POWER" by Kanye West]
Todd: Turns out...
Todd (VO): ...that was a trailer for an even more amazing moving mural. A 40-minute-long epic masterpiece.
Rap Critic (VO): ...that never actually happened.
Todd (VO): But in its place, we got a 35-minute-long music video for "Runaway." Now, long-form music videos are not new. [Clip of video for Michael Jackson's "Black or White"] In fact, Kanye's idol Michael Jackson loved making elaborate videos, recruiting big name directors like John Landis, Martin Scorsese, David Fincher, and Spike Lee to help him realize some of his most memorable videos. And following in his idol's footsteps, [back to "Runaway"] Kanye handed the reins of his most ambitious project yet to one of the greatest directorial geniuses of our time... [picture of...] himself.
Rap Critic: Well, why not? Who better to realize the vision of an artist's music than the artist himself?
Todd: Uh... someone who's directed a video before, maybe?
- Clips of Kanye and Mike Myers at A Concert For Hurricane Relief, and Kanye on The Insider
Todd (VO): I mean, you realize that we're talking about Kanye West, a man who notoriously has absolutely no filter, not in his personal life, not his public life, and especially not his art. What could a Kanye West joint end up as but a thundering clusterfuck of epic proportions? Especially considering that his bosses at the record label said that they had nothing to do with the project and had absolutely no idea how he paid for it or why.
Rap Critic: Well, hey, you never know. It could turn out to be amazing, so let's look at, and mostly make fun of, Runaway.
Rap Critic (VO): So the video starts with Kanye West... running. Oh, I guess he's running away from... a... dry ice fog machine?
- A giant fireball in the sky
Todd (VO): Or he could be running from that.
Rap Critic (VO): Very possible. Then we start with the first song, "Dark Fantasy," while...
- Nicki Minaj: [narrating] It made it sound all wack & corny
- Yes, so awful blasted boring
Rap Critic: Is that Nicki Minaj doing a British accent?
Todd: Huh. I didn't know she was British. I always thought she [clip of Trey Songz - "Bottoms Up"] was Roman.
- Nicki: I'm Roman.
Rap Critic gives a "really?" look at Todd, who just grins.
- Nicki: [Runaway] But gather 'round children
- Zip it, listen!
Rap Critic (VO): British Nicki Minaj. Did not see that one coming. So we start off with Kanye doing what he does best—driving an expensive car through the woods while talking about how awesome he is.
- Kanye: I’m just a Chi-town nigga with a Nas flow
- And my bitch in that new Phoebe Philo
Rap Critic (VO): Although to be fair, the song is pretty well produced and has some pretty fun raps to it.
- Kanye: Fresh air, rolling down the window
- Too many Urkels on your team, that’s why your wins low
Rap Critic: Get it? Cause his... name is... anyway.
Todd: Borderline, Kanye.
Rap Critic (VO): Uh, Kanye, there's a fireball coming... right at you. You might wanna react to it by doing something, preferably moving out of the way.
Todd (VO): Either he's playing a game of chicken with a comet, or we're watching a very over-the-top PSA.
- The car is upside-down
Rap Critic (VO): [serious tone] Don't text while driving. (This message has been brought to you by the Wisconsin Traffic Safety Ad Council.)
- Kanye: Just kids, no parents
Todd (VO): So...what? Are they gonna show the charred remains of Kanye's body? This is taking a dark turn.
- Kanye gets out of the burning car without a scratch
Rap Critic (VO): No, as it turns out, he's fine. I guess because we can't have a video without him.
Todd (VO): Kanye West stars in Unbreakable 2! And... what the hell is that?
- A phoenix lay on the road. Kanye carries her off with explosions in the background, as we hear a lyric from Andy Samberg, Will Ferrell, and J. J. Abrams'...
- Andy Samberg: Cool guys don't look at explosions
Rap Critic (VO): So Kanye West picks up the...Mardi Gras dancer and takes her back to his place.
- The phoenix wakes up to news on TV
- Newscaster: Fires are raging today, causing major damage in the local area forests. The suspected cause is believed to be a comet that landed in the forest around...
- The TV is shut off
- Kanye: First rule in this world, baby—don't pay attention to anything you see in the news.
Rap Critic: You hear anything about the President calling some rapper a jackass, just ignore it.
Todd: Also, WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU?!?!?!
Todd (VO): So many questions about what's going on. Like, why shouldn't she watch what's on the news? Perhaps she just wants to know about the damage she's caused, or just something about this strange new world she's on. And why'd he just take her to his house? Why didn't he call the cops?
Rap Critic (VO): And why did he leave the TV on while she was sleeping if he didn't want her to watch it? How did he even get home?! Did he just carry her all the way?! And WHAT IS SHE?! WHERE DID SHE COME FROM?!
Todd (VO): Well hopefully some of that will be explained later in the video. (Spoiler: It won't.)
Rap Critic (VO): I see that Kanye has apparently taken his directorial cues from Michael Bay, in that he substitutes explosions for any explanation of what's going on.
Todd (VO): But, hey, it's a nice intro for the next song, "Gorgeous." And at this point, it seems like this is just gonna be a bunch of music video vignettes, which is fine, but why is the whole thing called Runaway? Why not call it the name of the album?
Rap Critic: Well, maybe the title fits better. I mean, the woman is the runaway...I think. And it wouldn't make sense if they called it [album cover of...] My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. I mean, look at the... well, actually that probably would more sense.
Todd (VO): So...we see the phoenix girl trying to figure out Kanye's backyard as...Kanye puts on his acting face.
Rap Critic (VO): [straining] I'm acting as hard as I can!
- Kid Cudi: ...ever let you live this down
Todd (VO): Why does Kanye have a sheep in his backya... scratch that, I don't wanna know.
Rap Critic (VO): Well, he's just gonna play song after song with videos that don't even slightly seem to relate to the song's atmosphere; we might as well analyze the lyrics. So, from what I can gather...
- The phoenix shimmies a little and the song changes to "Power"
Todd: Whoa! Boobs
Rap Critic: What just happened to the last song?
Rap Critic (VO): It almost feels like Kanye just said, "well, this is getting boring. Let's just cut to the phoenix shoving her bosom in our faces."
But hey, maybe this is the music video that we were promised. Maybe she's supposed to be his muse or...something. Well, let's analyze the lyrics.
- Female chorus: [remixed over and over] Oh hey Oh hey Oh hey
Rap Critic (VO): Uh...interesting remix, but are we gonna get to the...
Todd (VO): [on a kid running with smoke spewing] Wait, who's that kid? Where did he come from?
Rap Critic (VO): Well, maybe it's symbolic of the song...reaching his... um...maybe the kid is supposed to make him...
- Kanye and Tony Williams: All of the lights
- All of the lights
Todd: ...change to a completely different song.
Rap Critic: You know what this is? I'll tell you what this is. He made this up to be some epic work of art?
Rap Critic (VO): Now I'll tell you what this is. This is an album sampler. He basically made some pretty images to entice you into thinking a music video was going to happen, and then he says, "nope. Gotta buy the album to hear the rest."
I mean, why else would so many of these songs stop without warning? Well, we're in this now. What complete non sequitur are we going to get into next?
Todd (VO): Well, this song is "All of the Lights," and...
Rap Critic (VO): Well, let me guess. The video has nothing to do it, right?
Todd (VO): Well, there's a parade happening in honor of Michael Jackson, and he does mention Michael Jackson's death in the lyrics.
- Kanye: MJ gone, our nigga dead!
Rap Critic (VO): At least they got part of it right. Although I like how the actual point of the song—dealing with spousal abuse and losing your kids—yeah, that doesn't get any representation in the video.
Todd: Well, this is Kanye's big blockbuster project. He probably didn't want to get into anything too controversial.
- Kanye: [against what appears to be a Klu Klux Klan rally]
- Flash lights, spot lights, strobe lights, street lights
Todd: Are those red-hooded KKK members in the Michael Jackson funeral parade? Why?!
Rap Critic (VO): [imitating Klansman] I loved Michael. "Black or White" changed my life. We just wear the hoods to keep up appearances.
Todd (VO): And we end the segment with a black kid wearing a red Klansman hood. I mean, he's about to burn the house down.
Rap Critic: Perhaps you'd like an explanation for all of this. Well, here you go.
Rap Critic (VO): This will be a running theme.
- The phoenix handles a cup as if for the first time. Todd and Rap Critic sit watching as nothing else happens. Rap Critic fast-forwards
Rap Critic (VO): She learns to drink out of a cup. Anyway, we cut to a banquet in a warehouse with all black people sitting at a table, while the only white people are serving the black people, which could be a subconscious...
Todd: I get it!
Rap Critic: Huh?
Todd: No, no. See, he taught her how to drink from a cup so she'd know how to do it the banquet. Those two scenes are connected to each other. Cohesion!
- Man at banquet: Your girlfriend is really beautiful.
- Kanye: Thank you.
- Man at banquet: Do you know she's a bird?
- Kanye: No, I never noticed that.
Todd and Rap Critic look at each other in a way that says, "really?"
Todd: Was that sarcasm?
Rap Critic (VO): Well, it'd have to be, right? I mean, Kanye has eyes. Of course he realizes that he brought a bird from space to a banquet in a warehouse. Actually, that just raises more questions.
Todd (VO): Personally, I like the implication that Kanye's friend there thinks he's so out of touch with the universe, he legitimately might not have noticed that she's a bird. Well, either way, Kanye can't take this...fairly reasonable question and decides to leave.
Rap Critic (VO): [imitating Kanye] Ask me the question, will you? Who do you think you are, a sensible audience? Just for that, I'm gonna do something even more random.
- Kanye walks to piano and plays opening notes of "Runaway"
Todd: So he plucks notes on a really crappy upright piano.
Todd (VO): And ballerinas come out to dance, symbolizing...I don't know, beats the shit outta me.
Rap Critic (VO): And forgive me if I sound like a purist prude, but...do these things look like they go together?
- Kanye: Let's have a toast for the douchebags,
- Let's have a toast for the assholes
Rap Critic (VO): I mean, I know most of the video doesn't go with the music, but this is just comically mismatched. Just listen to these rhymes and watch the video.
- Kanye: She find pictures in my email
- I sent this bitch a picture of my dick.
- Pusha T: 24/7, 365, pussy stays on my mind
- Kanye: Let's have a toast to the jerkoffs
- Plenty hos in a baller-nigga matrix
Todd (VO): And for that matter, if he was gonna pick one song to be the centerpiece of his megavideo, why this one? I mean, it's not "Thriller," it's not "Black or White"; hell, it's not even "Bad Romance." It's this quiet, off-kilter, uncomfortable little song. It's not a blockbuster single by any means. Literally every other song we've heard so far would've worked better.
Rap Critic (VO): So yeah, while the ballerina, or contemporary, dancing is very well-executed, I can't help but feel that it did not need to go on for that long.
- Pusha T: ...Freddy loafers
- You can't blame 'em, they ain't never seen Versace sofas
- Every bag, every blouse, every bracelet
- Comes with a price tag, baby, face it
- [Todd and Rap Critic can only watch]
- You should leave if you can't accept the basics
- I'm just young, rich, and tasteless
- Kanye: Never was much of a romantic,
- I could never take the intimacy.
- And I don't know how I'm a manage,
- If one day you just up and leave...
Todd: You know there's a convention going on...
Rap Critic: Yeah, let's get outta here.
Set to Katy Perry's "TGIF (Last Friday Night)," Todd and Rap Critic enjoy MAGfest.
- Kanye: Yeah, I always find somethin' wrong
Rap Critic and Todd take turns at a Star Trek: The Next Generation pinball game
- Kanye: ...way too long
They play DJ Hero
The song ends, they come back to the room
Rap Critic: All right, that was fun.
Todd: Okay, we're back.
The song continues, so they go back to MAGfest and play Dance Central. The ballerinas run off and the duo comes back.
Todd: Okay, now we're back.
Rap Critic (VO): So after that pointlessness, we pan over the dinner table. Looks like a pretty limited menu.
- A turkey is placed right in front of the phoenix. "Hell of a Life" begins playing.
Todd (VO): D'oh! We accidentally served poultry and Kanye brought a bird as his guest. Aw, so awkward.
Rap Critic (VO): [as the phoenix has a breakdown] Kanye, you wanna do something...or have a reaction at all?
- Kanye: [as the phoenix cries and the guests leave] Turn the camera on, she a born star
- Turn the corners in a foreign car
- Call the coroners do the CPR
- She gave that old...
Rap Critic: Wow, that's unbelievable.
Todd: What, that Kanye taught her how to drink from a cup and not that people eat birds?
Todd (VO): Or that she didn't notice that the table was covered with roasted birds already?
Rap Critic: No, her acting. I...I don't believe it.
Todd (VO): Also, nice wings. You spend a lot of money staging a funeral for Michael Jackson, but you couldn't come up with a better costume? I think you can even see the prop guys moving the wings with their hands.
- Kanye: We headin' to hell for heaven's sakes, Huh!
- Well I'mma levitate, make the devil wait, Yeah!
Rap Critic: I know some of you have questions about this. Please direct them to the slow-motion explosion. [Explosion] Thank you.
Todd (VO): And now...I don't know. I guess the phoenix is on time-out?
Rap Critic (VO): And Kanye, would it kill you to emote? For God's sakes, it looks like you're yawning!
- John Legend: ...game, I love you.
- Phoenix: Can I ask you a question?
- Kanye: Of course, babe.
Rap Critic (VO): Oh, I'm gonna stop you right there, 'cause I have a couple questions of my own. First one namely being...
Rap Critic: Since when could you speak English?!
Rap Critic (VO): Why didn't she ever say anything before? What the hell was up with all the silent scenes? I'm sorry. Let's get back to her question.
- Phoenix: All of the statues that we see, where do you think they came from?
- Kanye: I think that artists carved them years and years ago
- Phoenix: No. They're phoenix turned to stone.
- Kanye: [chuckling] Baby...
- Phoenix: They're phoenix turned to stone.
Rap Critic: Uh, I think they were carved by artists...
Todd: No. Screw it. In this universe, statues are phoenixes that had their wings cut off. [Images of Michelangelo's David, Abraham Lincoln at the memorial, and Ronald McDonald] This, this, this...was once a [image of Jean Grey as...] phoenix. Deal with it.
- Phoenix: Do you know what I hate most about your world? Anything that is different, you try to change. You try to tear it down.
Rap Critic: What? Where did that come from?
Todd: I...I don't get it.
Todd (VO): Is she talking about the stuffed turkey? We didn't kill that thing 'cause it was different, we did it 'cause it's delicious.
Rap Critic (VO): I think Kanye's trying to make a point about man's careless destructive nature, but we haven't seen any evidence of it in the entire video. In fact, the only destruction in this video came from when she landed on Earth.
- Phoenix: Do you know what I hate most about your world? Anything that is different, you try to change.
Todd: You know what I hate most about phoenixes? They blow shit up!
Todd (VO): I don't see paying for that car you destroyed, lady. And don't give me that cliche "I'm a phoenix" excuse. You know how much my insurance rates are gonna go up?
- Phoenix: And if I don't burn, I will turn to stone.
- Kanye: [arrow pointing at him—DUBBING FAIL] What do you mean, burn?
- Phoenix: If I don't burn, I can't go back to my world.
Todd (VO): Okay, so if the phoenix doesn't burn to ash, she can't go back to her world and turns to stone. I...fine, whatever.
Rap Critic: Well why do they come down here in the first place? What, do they have some supreme ruler that's just throwing them down to see which ones...
Todd: [hands up] I...I...I don't care. It's almost over, I don't care.
- Kanye: I don't want you to go back to your world. I want you to stay here with me.
- Phoenix: I have to burn.
- Kanye: No. I'll never let you burn.
- Clip from Saturday Night Live
- John Lithgow: Acting!
- Master Thespian: Genius.
- Kanye: I want you to stay here with me.
Rap Critic: As a lifeless statue forever 'cause I'm a selfish prick.
Todd (VO): Maybe he doesn't actually believe that she'll turn into a statue because that makes no goddamn sense! [Love scene] Okay, this is the part where Kanye teaches the bird-woman that the fifth element is love.
Rap Critic (VO): And after they have the most PG-rated sex ever, we get the last full song on the album, "Lost in the World." Kanye wakes up to find that the phoenix really likes the idea of going back to her planet, so he then chases her.
Todd (VO): You can do it, Kanye. Run in your tractionless slippers to catch up with the woman who you've established no emotional connection to, and who embarrassed you in front of your friends, and destroyed your car, and almost killed you. Yours is a love that was meant to be.
Rap Critic (VO): One problem, Kanye. She's kind of flying in the air. I don't think there's a possibility you're going to catch her.
- Gil Scott-Heron: Who will survive in America?
- Video ends
Rap Critic: Whatever. What are your thoughts on this whole thing?
Todd: I don't know what the hell to make of any of that.
Todd (VO): I don't know if he was trying to make his "Thriller" or his own mini-The Wall, but in any case, it doesn't work for a second. If he had any point to make about society, he's far too inept of a filmmaker to realize that vision. I mean, what the hell kind of music video has pacing problems? [Clip of Lady Gaga's "Alejandro"] Compare this to any Lady Gaga video, many of which I don't even like, or even just [R. Kelly's...] "Trapped in the Closet," for Christ's sakes. Those videos understood that you have to make every image count or you're gonna end up with a very boring little short film. ["Bad Romance"] Also, I don't really understand what's happening in "Bad Romance," but everything in it enhances the mood. But what the hell did the little black boy or Michael Jackson have to do with anything? It's just a useless, self-indulgent excuse for Kanye to drive his car, screw hot women, and not learn to act. Thank God the music was good, otherwise this would've been completely unbearable.
Rap Critic: Well I just have this to say.
Rap Critic (VO): In a magazine interview, he stated that he did things in this film that film kids wouldn't do, that they'd be afraid to do. And I agree, and there's a reason that they don't. Film students like to do conventional things like having stories and meaning behind what's happening because they need to build reputations for being good filmmakers. Not following certain key elements to making a movie doesn't make you a rebel as much as it makes you just a bad filmmaker. Okay, I'll concede that there are some parts of this film that look great. There are some scenes that are visually stunning and look awesome. But when you put those pictures together, there's no ultimate goal or attainable meaning, and certainly no justification for it to be this frigging long!
Todd: Yep. So...how'd you wanna end this? You know, like a...fight, or...?
Rap Critic: [getting up to leave] I'm gonna go get lunch.
Todd: [doing same] Cool.
Closing tag song: The Trashmen - "Surfin' Bird"
"Runaway" is owned by Def Jam Records
This video is owned by me