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August 15, 2011 - Image 9

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2011-08-15

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"Because we are living in a material world.
Golden rap duo prevails

DailyArts Writer
There are so many blogworthy sto-
rylines behind Watch the Throne, it's
hard to keep track:
Its organic devel-
opment from an
EP to a full length;
the lack of leaks Watchthe
and secrecy kept Throne
from inception to
its ever-changing Jay-Z and
release date; the Kanye West
iTunes and Best Roc Nation
Buy exclusives that
prompted an angry
letter by independent record stores;
the big-brother and proteg6 narra-
tives. All these components have made
Watch the Throne one of the most
anticipated releases in recent memory.
But at the end of the day, none of this
buzz really matters. One plain and
simple fact should remain the most
important: Watch the Throne features
two rap giants collaborating for 12
tracks. And any fan of music should be
thrilled by the potential outcome.
Opener "No Church in the Wild"
lays down a tribal, pulsating beat - a
typical trait of recent Kanye produc-
tions. The ensuing lyrical assault,
however, is wider in scope than any-
one ever could have expected. Frank
Ocean takes the hook, outlining the
hierarchy from human to Higher
Power, but begs the question of wheth-
er or not that chain of command mat-
ters in a chaotic world. Jay-Z responds
in the first verse by blending religious
and philosophical references to con-
clude that the teachings of the proph-
ets known as Yeezy and Hova stand as
equal to - or perhaps superior to - any
belief or opinion. This hip-hop boast
isn't anything new - especially for the
opening track to a Jay-Z album - but
with a reference to Plato's Euthyphro,
this is as academic as a rap can get. For

an album that couldn't have any high-
er expectations, the first track packs
a mind-boggling, disorienting punch.
This isn't feel-good, shut-off-your-
mind-and-enjoy kind of music. This is
heavy stuff.
But after the intellectually loaded
first track terminates, a weight is lift-
ed and the fluffy "Lift Off" does quite
literally what its title suggests. Beyon-
c6's perfectly pitched voice soars for a
radio-ready chorus as light and airy as
"Church"washeavy. Completelyvapid
of lyrical complexity compared to its
predecessor, the track squeezes in all
the tropes of a mediocre club track -
brief yet frenetic drum machine, ran-
domly injected background shouts
and, of course, heavy bass throughout.
"Lift Off," however, is the rare
exception in an exceptionally brainy
album. "New Day" contains Kanye's
most direct address of his past trans-
gressions to date. While "Runaway"
was just a superficial skirting of the
I'mma-let-you-finish debacle, Kanye
finally faces his demons head-on in
song form. The "George Bush hates
black people" statement after Hurri-
cane Katrina, his rocky relationship
with ex-girlfriend Alexis Phifer, his
mother's death at the hands of an ill-
advised plastic surgery operation and,
his infamously stubborn personality -
it's all here.
Kanye's reflection on these events,
however, has a larger function. Kanye
and Jay-Z have their potential off-
spring on the mind. Their feelings
are similarly sympathetic for sons
who will never carry out a normal life
because of the fame of their fathers.
The track is slightly tainted by an ill-
advised, auto-tuned sample of the
Nina Simone classic "Feeling Good."
But the lyrical exchange between the
two wannabe future fathers- sounds
like a deep and heartfelt conversa-
tion among a pair of personalities that
truly understand each other.

In fact, the chance that "New Day"
actually stemmed from an in-person
dialogue is increased by the nature
of Watch the Throne's recording.
According to Jay-Z, in an interview
with The Rolling Stone, both artists
were present in the same location
during the entire recording process -
an impressive feat considering their
globe-trotting tendencies and packed
work schedules. The resultant chem-
istry can be felt on tracks like "Why I
Love You" and "Gotta Have It," which
feature trade-off vocals bouncing off
one another as if they're finishing one
another's thoughts.
"Otis" is perhaps the best display of
this ping-pong-ing and is a clear album
standout. Named for the track's sam-
ple (Otis Redding's "Try A Little Ten-
derness"), "Otis" is a throwback not
only because it features a song from
the '60s, but it also recalls Jay-Z and
Kanye's earliest collaborations, which
used old soul and Motown samples.
This time around, Kanye decides to
maintain an authentic feel. Redding's
completely unadulterated vocal prow-
ess shines and is matched by a simi-
larly scrappy approach to the song's
Throughout Watch the Throne,
Kanye and Jay-Z seem to constantly
be on the same page. Every line is
mutually understood and every verse
is complemented by the other. The
purpose of the album's title is assumed
to be another one of those hip-hop
boasts - Jay-Z and Kanye West are
the kings of the rap game. The obvious
question of "How many seats does this
throne have?" posed before listening
to the album is clearly resolved by its
end. The pair claim the top two spots
of rap royalty. And unlike many simi-
larly ego-driven claims by their peers,
Jay-Z and Kanye are probably right.
Watch the Throne is just one of many
examples of how they defend their
unmatched sovereignty.

Monday, August 15, 2011
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
French film unlocks
a Holocaust story
BY PHILIP CONKLIN Cut to the present, when
DailyArts Writer Julia's domestic problems
(she's pregnant, but her hus-
"Sarah's Key," a French film band doesn't want another
from director Gilles Paquet- baby), which in any other
Brenner ("Walled In") and movie could carry the story,
adapted only serve as a tedious, slow
from the lRe lull in Sarah's narrative, the
novel "Elie - one the audience really cares
s'appelait Sarah'sKey about.
Sarah" by Julia's story gets inter-
Tatiana De At The esting when she discovers
Rosnay, is, Michigan the apartment she is mov-
like most ing into with her husband,
Holocaust The Weinstein whose family lived in it for
films, very Company 60 years from 1942 on, is the
sad, almost same one Sarah and her fam-
unbear- ily lived in before the raid.
ably so. This further complicates her
Kristin Scott Thomas issues at home, and leads her
("Nowhere Boy"), in a terrific on a search for Sarah, who
performance, stars as Julia she believes might still be
Jarmond, a journalist from alive. But when Sarah's story
New York who has settled in merges with the present, and
Paris with her husband (Fr4- Julia's search takes over, the
deric Pierrot, "I've Loved You film loses steam. It seems as
So Long") and their young though the filmmakers tried
daughter. Julia is investigat- to fit too much of the novel
ing the infamous 1942 Vel' into the film, and the final 15
d'Hiv Roundup, when thou- minutes feel muddled.
sands of Jews were arrested Despite its faults, "Sarah's
by the French government Key" is beautifully shot and
and sent to Auschwitz. Julia's adroitly directed. Even dur-
investigation and the banali- ing the often-dull scenes in
ties of her modern existence the present, the power of the
are intercut and intertwined images is enough to evoke real
with the horrifying experi- emotion from the audience.
ences of Sarah Starzynski,
a young Jewish girl arrested
during the Vel d'Hiv, played
wonderfully by young Sorrow and
French actress Mdlusine
Mayance. But as hard as the beauty mesh in
film tries, the juxtaposition
of these two stories never two stories.
feels quite right; it makes
too much of the visual con-
trast between the two time
periods, with the cold, ster- Toward the end, Julia asks
ile and static present at odds one of her colleagues, who is
with the earthy, turbulent appalled at the treatment of
past. Though each is well the Jews by the French during
done, they never quite mesh. the war, "How do you know
Sarah's story is thrilling what you'd have done?" This
and heart wrenching. She theme - reckoning with the
is separated from her par- terrible events of the past from
ents, but eventually escapes the safe refuge of the mod-
from the concentration camp ern world - is hinted at but,
and begins a journey back to disappointingly, never fully
Paris, with the help of a kind explored. However; Sarah's
old French couple. It's equally story is compelling enough to
sad and exciting, and keeps hold the audience's interest
the audience on the edge of that "Sarah's Key" turns out to
their seats. be a worthwhile watch.

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