Power

Album: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010)
Charted: 36 22

Songfacts®:

  • This song, in which Chicago rapper Kanye West fires back at his detractors, is the first single from his fifth studio album, titled Dark Twisted Fantasy. The song leaked to the Internet on May 28, 2010.
  • In this song, West drops an F-bomb aimed at Saturday Night Live for mocking him after his infamous interruption of Taylor Swift's acceptance speech at the 2009 MTV Music Awards. The tune also explains the Chicago MC's absence from the public eye whilst recording the album and addresses his rumored drinking problem.
  • The song features soul singer Dwele, who provided the hook to West's 2007 cut "Flashing Lights." He told MTV News about his contribution to this song, insisting it was minimal: "I got there [to the studio], and 'Ye had an idea for what he wanted for the song," the Detroit native said "So that's all his creation. Pretty much all I did was my thing: I added harmonies and lent my instrument for the joint."
  • Dallas-based producer Symbolyc (a.k.a. S1), who had previously worked with Ghostface, Slim Thug and Chamillionaire, helmed this tune. He told MTV News about the beat: "The way it came together, I work with Rhymefest," he said referring to another Chicago MC. "I did like four joints on his album. And one day, out the blue, I got a text from Rhymefest that said, 'Kanye is loving your stuff. He said he's about to change your life.' Two days later, I got an e-mail that said my flight to Hawaii [where West recorded much of the album] leaves in three hours! So I was on a flight, and it just happened like that. I went down and stayed for like two weeks, banged out some joints.

    'The 'Power' joint that we did, it was actually a track that I already made and gave to Rhymefest, and he just so happened to play it for Kanye in the studio and he loved it. So when I got out to Hawaii, Kanye had already recorded to it."
  • The song samples the vocal from "21st Century Schizoid Man," a 1969 track by British progressive rock band King Crimson.
  • The song's music video was directed by Italian-born Canadian artist and filmmaker Marco Brambilla. West agreed to collaborate with Brambilla, after the artist's video installation at the Standard New York, which creates a continuously scrolling depiction of heaven and hell, caught the rapper's eye. In the dark clip, which was filmed in one continuous, unedited take, West raps with a heavy chain around his neck, surrounded by female attendants as an unseen executioner is preparing to strike him with a blade. "It's kind of apocalyptic, in a very personal way," Brambilla told The New York Times. "It had this very dark, personal conflict within it. Because of his own concept of celebrity and his own notoriety, he's keenly self-aware of all these things. And it all came out in the music."

    Brambilla added that he normally prefers to work on his own, but he felt he and West might find common ground. "Because my work's always been about alienation and seduction and the way contemporary cultures desensitize people," said the Milan-born artist. "And he's experienced it first-hand."

    The look was inspired by the frescos in the Sistine Chapel done by Michelangelo. "The piece depicts a faux historical moment - an empire on the brink of collapse from its own excess, decadence and corruption," Brambilla explained.
  • Brambilla told MTV News that he and West attempted to paint a portrait of power in the clip. "There's a lyric in the song - 'No one man should have this much power' - so the video kind of answers its own question," Brambilla said. "It poses the question: 'What does power and access look like?' And then: 'How delicate is it to preserve that moment of time?'"
    The video is in part a take on Michaelangelo's Sistine Chapel frescoes. Brambilla told MTV News the pair wanted to take a contemporary look at the idea of someone being immortal then becoming mortal, and the frescoes were used as a reference point.
    For the video, Brambilla used the photo-montage style of his "Civilization" video installation at the Standard New York. "I shot images of the casting, people who came in as dancers and models and actresses in the various poses, and then it was put together as a photograph originally," Brambilla told MTV News. "We had very little time to shoot it. We only had a day to shoot it, so I basically know exactly how each element would look, where each element would go and how the whole piece would choreograph, because there's about 24 layers of video in the piece, and they are all interconnected. So it's almost like a visual ballet in a way, and it had to be pre-planned in a very specific way to make it cohesive and to make it work. That was the most challenging part of it: how to [translate] it from a still, a painting, and then make the painting come alive into the filming and the photography."
    The clip only lasts 90 seconds. Brambilla told MTV News why its so short. "I made it very clear at the beginning that I wasn't really interested if it was going to be a music video," he said. "I wanted to do something which was more like a visual accompaniment to the track, and so it didn't really need to be any specific length and it didn't really need to be the whole song. It needed to kind of introduce the song in a different way and a fresh way, and I came with this continuous shot with no cuts, no lip sync, and the minute, minute and a half just seemed like the perfect amount of time to show a video portrait."
  • During an interview with New York radio station Power 105.1, West said he spent thousands of hours working on this carefully-crafted song. "A song like 'Power' took 5,000 hours, like literally 5,000 man-hours to do this one record. That's the amount of time I was putting into every song on the album," West revealed.
  • Speaking about My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy during an In Camera live interview with Lou Stoppard on October 6, 2015, West compared the record to a Thanksgiving dinner. He said: "Dark Fantasy is almost like an apology record. 'Power' was the least progressive song I ever had as a lead single. It was kind of piecing together what people liked about me to make a bouquet of what people loved."

    "People talk about it like the way they love Thanksgiving dinner, but how long was that dinner cooked for? Great, you don't want anyone to change anything about Thanksgiving dinner. But Yeezus got panned when it first came out, but you end up seeing how it influences things."
  • The song soundtracked the trailer for the 2017 big screen version of the popular children's TV show, Power Rangers.
  • Despite the thousands of hours West spent working on "Power," he told GQ in 2020 he considers it the weakest lead single of his career. This is because Ye feels it's a "mix" of his previous styles rather than something new.

    "Versus 'Love Lockdown'? 'Can't Tell Me Nothing'? 'Diamonds'? 'Follow God'?" he said, citing some of his other lead singles. "I always do the songs that people never heard before. But you had actually heard 'Power' before. You heard 'Crack Music.' You heard 'Amazing.' You heard that song before! It's just a mix of things."

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