Kanye’s fascination with lights continues to be a reoccurring motif for each of his albums, and it serves metaphorical to the celebrity itself: we imagine Kanye’s conflicts with the paparazzi over the years and question how they disrupt the livelihood of his private life (as previously mentioned in Graduation’s fourth single, “Flashing Lights”). Yet “All of the Lights” marks a unique departure in parabolic lyricism. The claustrophobic feeling of lights flashing in your face from every different angle in the chorus is juxtaposed with a father’s remorse against a restraining order in the verses.
“Can’t see my daughter, her mother brother grandmother hate me in that order / public visitation, we met at borders / told her she take me back, ill be more supportive / I made mistakes, I hung my head / court suck me dry, I spent that bread,” he raps. The relationship between Kanye and the morally stooped father is a relatable one: they are both individuals seeking for forgiveness amongst a backlash of hate and, as suggested by the “strobe lights”, experience the walls closing in on them. Kanye can’t help but feel flawed – he’s only human like the rest of us. When Rihanna’s repeatedly sings “turn up the lights” during the song’s anthemic chorus, you may envision Kanye at his most stadium-worthy. Take an introspective approach and you may consider the line a representation of Kanye at his rawest, most vulnerable form (“turn up the lights, I want you to see everything”).
When Kanye presented “All of the Lights” on a seemingly normal August afternoon, followers went crazy – much of which resembled the ecstatic reaction to “Stronger” back in 2007. Did the song live up to it’s astronomical hype? As many would agree, the answer couldn’t have been a more resounding yes. “All of the Lights” managed to surpass the boosting that preceded it in every way possible, and it represents Kanye at his absolute finest: lyrically potent, musically genre-bending, and awe-inspiring from a production standpoint.
Everything about the beat-making screams with attention to detail, whether it be the blips and bleeps of the electronic drums, the Late Registration-esque trumpets, or the brilliance of adding Rihanna’s vocals to the mix, who adds perfectly to the stadium-worthy feel. To solidify the song’s epic, dream-like quality, Kanye gives the spotlight to others such as Kid Cudi, Fergie, and Elton John during the song’s climatic finish – stars who may well feel the same way.
Hype Williams’ music video doesn’t so much glorify the star-studdedness of the track itself, but rather, re-creates the sense of claustrophobia that Kanye refers to. By focusing the visuals on mood and texture – with colors changing every second and luminescent words flashing all over the screen – Williams creates an environment that leaves the viewer uneasy if not hypnotized. But there’s more than meets eye – the eye-blazing special effects very well compliment Kanye’s chaotic, celebrity-infused lifestyle, as well as Kanye’s very own lyricisms.
It’s a star studded track/video indeed, one that never takes the spotlight away from it’s troubled star. Yet both represent Kanye’s moment to shine, and he certainly takes it all the way, blinded or not.