Love him or hate him, every once in awhile Kanye does something you have to notice—and "Famous," his latest music video, is a super NSFW example of just such a must-see event. Even though his latest album, The Life of Pablo, has been out since Valentine's Day, "Famous" is the only official single and the only video off the album. Although, to say it's a music video of the song would be disingenuous. It's a music video interrupted by 8 minutes of nude celebrity wax figures and at least one if not more actually nude celebrities (heads up: NSFW images below).
Before we get to the "what," let's clear up the "why." As Kanye himself told Vanity Fair, “It’s not in support or anti any of [the people in the video],” West said. “It’s a comment on fame.” As far as reaction to the video, only Chris Brown has responded publicly (see below), complaining about his plumber's crack. But West says that when he shows the video to his superstar friends who aren't pictured in it, "They want to be in the bed."
Kanye dared anyone upset by his video in a tweet on Saturday, since deleted:
The magazine had the same question the internet does now, however, noting that West's creation "leaves you guessing as to which of the celebrities are really playing themselves and which are presumably only there by the grace of some advanced prosthetic wizardry."
The video is only available on the streaming service Tidal, except for some versions on Twitter.
Since those will likely not last long, here's a short description: the video begins with grainy VHS-quality images of clouds, followed by short, distorted audio and video snippets from Kanye's controversial life in the public eye—the Taylor Swift moment, "George Bush doesn't care about black people," etc. Then Rihanna starts singing over a camera panning over rumpled sheets. The beat drops, and suddenly the camera shows us the nude figures of Vogue editor Anna Wintour and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump lying on their stomachs in bed together.
The camera pans rightward across the bed, which is huge. Anna Wintour and Donald Trump are followed by Rihanna, nude on her back, next to her controversial and abusive ex Chris Brown facing away on his stomach. Next to Brown is a naked blonde woman on her back that takes a moment to identify as Taylor Swift (right as Kanye reaches the lyric in the song "I feel like Taylor and me might still have sex").
Up next are Kanye and Kim, the only pair on the bed really facing each other rather than in each other's general direction. Behind Kim, physically and allegorically, is her long-ago sex tape partner Ray J, how she entered the celebrity ranks. Behind him are two other celebrities from their orbit, Amber Rose, and Caitlyn Jenner. All the way on the end, jarringly, is Bill Cosby.
The music eventually winds down, but the camera continues to pass back and forth over the motionless nudes, until you start to wonder, "wait, are some of those real?!" Clearly, some of the wax figures have air bladders that are used to make them "breathe." But some shots—like what appear to be Caitlyn Jenner's hands—are clearly of humans.
Now for me to make my own wild guesses about who is real: There are four prime candidates for realness: Kanye, Kim, Rihanna and Caitlyn. In a second tier are Amber, Anna Wintour* and maybe Ray J. Everyone else is definitely (according to me, a confirmed non-celebrity) wax.
Kanye is real. He turns his head towards the camera at the end, and besides, did you really think he'd let a wax figure stand in for him? Kim is also a likely candidate, as we've all seen her butt plenty of times and this time it's actually for something pretty artsy—specifically, her husband's art. Caitlyn's realness is perhaps the most surprising (she's 66), but here's the thing: of all the figures on the bed, she moves the most. There's a direct shot of what appears to be her hands folding and clasping, and even in the panning parts, she definitely seems to move her hands. Kanye has also been very supportive of Caitlyn, so who knows? He at least put a wax figurine of her nude body in it.
Rihanna and Amber seem like they'd support the general themes of this video, but would they show up for his project? Rihanna definitely would, she's singing. Amber probably would, but it would depend on the dynamic of their relationship at the moment. They certainly seem to be breathing at times, and neither would break a sweat at the assignment. Ditto with Ray J, who would probably be thrilled to be invited, but therefore probably wasn't. Anna Wintour gets an asterisk because George Wax Bush is touching her butt and no one would be able to sit still without getting the heebie jeebies from that.
What do you think? Is it really Kim? Will Taylor Swift murder Kanye West? He warned her about the sex lyrics, so she probably knew this was coming, but still. Was it Caitlyn? What is going on??? Will this mean you have to pay for Tidal?!?!