2020 has been a polarizing year for Kanye West, but with his latest single “Nah Nah Nah,” one thing is sure to be unanimous: No matter where you stand with West’s discography, whether you loved Jesus is King or not, the bar has indisputably been set at a new low. “Nah Nah Nah” is insufferable, the kind of song that even the most diehard fans will surely find impossible to defend. If anything, the only feat it accomplishes is granting two of West’s terrible previous singles, “I Love It” and “XTCY,” Grammy award-winning statuses by comparison.
“Nah Nah Nah” operates solely by way of musical shock value, like a tasteless joke that simply refuses to go away. It’s pure comedic irony that the song opens with producer Dem Jointz’ signature tagline — a loud, distant voice hollering “Incoming!” — before diving straight in. Indeed, listeners are not prepared; what follows is a baffling mess of a beat, a trap-Frankenstein of bouncing bass hits combined with a manic fluttering flute line that feels tailor-made to join the current wave of “shittyflute” music emerging from the recesses of the internet. The production is infuriating and obnoxious, as if all elements are dialed up to an 11 out of 10 for maximum disruptive potential. It’s a total disaster, imaginative in the most brainless sense, the sonic equivalent of a dancing meme compilation. It’s not catchy, and it certainly isn’t funny.
This time around, West’s message turns political. With controversial references to fake news and drone strikes, his bars display a desire to be taken seriously as he tries to legitimize his recent endeavors. As expected at this point, he instead comes across as disorganized and careless. Lyrics ride the spectrum from completely cringeworthy — dragging the already terrible “Star Wars” prequels through the mud (“I know you think Obi-Wan gettin’ tired now/ Don’t jump, Anakin, I got the higher ground”) — to utterly delusional (“I don’t need to sign a release, I’m a freed old man/ This a video game, this a simulation, man”). Taken alongside lyrics that insist that his aspirations to become president are indeed the real deal, West becomes the butt of the very joke that he so adamantly wants to rise above.
West’s braggadocio comes in the form of lines such as “Next time you text, can’t it wait/ You are talkin’ to a presidential candidate.” The blurred line between troll humor and political realism is deeply uncomfortable, highlighting that “Nah Nah Nah” has taken his antics to a new low. It should be a crime that something this awful was created by someone widely lauded as the greatest hip-hop artist of all time; this is the same man who made “Devil In A New Dress,” mind you.
“Nah Nah Nah” evokes a response somewhere between nervous laughter and frustrated confusion. In an almost tragic fashion, West fails to understand at the fundamental level that the last thing the world is looking for right now is chaos. Though he’s far from a front-runner in the race to the White House, his latest song has secured him the spot for worst single of the year.
Vincent Tran covers music. Contact him at [email protected].