David Lister: Face it, Kanye: you're just not that outrageous any more

The Week in Arts
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The Independent Online

Your heart has to go out to Kanye West.

The rapper had a risqué cover photograph shot for his latest album, a picture of said Mr West having sex with a naked female angel.

The idea, it was admitted this week, was that the risqué photo would have the album deemed too controversial and banned. The artist who painted the cover said that West had visited his studio wanting "something that will be banned".

But it didn't work. Despite West's best efforts, no one wanted to ban the album. Radio stations played it; retail outlets stocked and sold it. Not a single fundamentalist group objected. The Women's Institute was unmoved. Walmart in America even put out a statement saying that far from rejecting the album and its artwork, it was "looking forward to selling it".

What humiliation for a hip-hop star. You try your hardest and you can't offend a soul. In fact, it was even worse. So confident was West that the record would be banned that he tweeted: "Yoooo they banned my album cover!!!!! Banned in the USA!!! They don't want me chilling on the couch with my Phoenix."

But they do, Kanye, they do. They love you chilling on the couch with your Phoenix. They can't get enough of you chilling with your Phoenix. Walmart is making dedicated space for you and your Phoenix.

Kanye West reminds me of an old Peter Cook TV sketch in which he was the film star Garbo, she of the famous phrase "I want to be alone". Finding that no one was going out of their way to pester or photograph, he toured crowded high streets on the back of a trailer announcing through a megaphone, "I want to be alone. I want to be alone." No one looked up from their shopping.

Kanye is telling the world through his megaphone: "I want to be banned." But no one will help the poor guy out. He has, of course, realised that hip-hop is becoming too respectable. Outrage about ho and bitch lyrics has waned, and if Kanye isn't careful, he could one day morph into Cliff Richard.

He knows that hip-hop needs to be outrageous again, and what better than being banned. But as others across the arts have found, banning is no longer in vogue. Records no longer fall foul of the BBC. Plays, unless they are about ethnic minorities, can say what they like. The British Board of Film Classification has seen it all, and is rarely shaken or stirred. If you want to cut your arm off on screen, go ahead. Viewers can always shut their eyes.

And so my heart goes out to Kanye. If he really wants to be banned, then the best way might be to take stock of recent events and see what can still cause outrage. Perhaps putting the Cenotaph on his album cover would have done the trick.

But rap star with naked angel plus a parental advisory warning sticker to sledgehammer the message home? It's trying too hard, Kanye. I'm afraid the dreaded spectre of respectability looms.

Not what I call restorative justice

Booking for a West End play the other day, I noticed that I was being charged the now near-ubiquitous "restoration levy" on my ticket. It may only be a pound or two, but it is annoying and, dare I say, slightly unethical.

We already pay heavily for the tickets. Any restoration costs should come out of the normal ticket price. The people owning West End theatres are multi-millionaires, and they make big profits. If they choose to renovate or brighten up their buildings, then that is all to the good, but why should audiences have to help to foot the bill with an extra charge? And why are these charges compulsory rather than voluntary?

Perhaps there is a solution. As I am paying towards the restoration of these theatres, can I and other audience members assume we will now get a share of the profits? That, surely, is only fair.

Do you really need to go to the States, Jodie?

The actress Jodie Whittaker has become the latest star to hit out at financial cuts to the arts. Whittaker, who is shortly to be seen in ITV's new ghost drama Marchlands, told The Stage that cutting the arts would prevent Britain from being a "creative" place. She said: "I think it's devastating and short-sighted. Why do they want us all to go to America? Don't moan about us all going to America and doing all this work there – it's because it gets done there."

The alternative – continuing to work here, perhaps for slightly lower fees, is obviously too ideologically perverse to contemplate.

We're all in it together, eh?