So I didn’t watch Game 5 of the NBA Finals last night, but apparently Twitter did. And most of what Twitter wanted to talk about wasn’t the Spurs, it was the Samsung/Jay-Z commercial. This was pretty much my conversation with Twitter:
Me: Hey Twitter. How’s the game going?
Me: 3 points?
Twitter: 3 minutes.
Me: 3 minutes left?
Twitter: There’s a 3-minute Jay-Z commercial. I’m so excited!
Me: What’s the commercial about?
Twitter: Some album; I don’t know. But it was 3 minutes.
Me: Was Jay-Z in it?
Twitter: Yeah, for 3 minutes.
Apparently, it’s 3-minutes long.
And after watching it, that’s probably still the most noteworthy thing about it.
(Okay, that’s not really true. There’s a lot of noteworthy things. Samsung is giving away 1 million copies of Jay-Z’s new album. Jay-Z has a new album. Does this mean the album is already platinum?)
But it feels like, for all the money spent—at least $5 million for the albums according to the WSJ plus an estimated $2.58 million ($430,000/:30 x 6) for the commercial air time—it’s certainly not the most creative ad.
(Okay, it is creative. It’s creative in the there’s-an-18-second-long-mostly-obscured-shot-of-Jay-Z-through-a-doorway kind of way. But as a creative who makes, you know, actual advertising—not this awesome stuff—what am I supposed to do with this? As Jay-Z says, “What the hell is that?”)
Still, a 3-minute commercial that prominently features Jay-Z is going to get Twitter talking no matter the rest.
What is worth talking about is what appears to be Jay-Z’s introspection on the impact of success on self. Sitting with Jay-Z are other hip-hop dignitaries including bearded hip-hop buddha, Rick Rubin who, when referring to material riches, muses, “Have you found in life experience that you’ve gotten enough of those things to realize that it doesn’t change your life at all?”
It’s humility, hip-hop and the American dream, which is maybe why the album’s dropping July 4th. In Jay-Z’s words:
Pretty much what the album is about is this duality of how do you navigate your way through this whole thing—you know, through success, through failures, through all this—and remain yourself?
And then there’s Kanye West.
Or Yeezus—as his new album is called. If you’re like me, you’ve spent the last week joking with friends about Kanye’s vanity, his artistic new album that you probably won’t listen to more than once, and quotes from that NYT interview.
Like this one on fame:
I knew when I wrote the line “light-skinned friend look like Michael Jackson” [from the song “Slow Jamz"] I was going to be a big star. At the time, they used to have the Virgin music [stores], and I would go there and just go up the escalator and say to myself, “I’m soaking in these last moments of anonymity.” I knew I was going to make it this far; I knew that this was going to happen.
Here are two figures who have achieved what most would consider to be ultimate success—fame and fortune far greater than what any of us could ever personally imagine for ourselves, and yet their personas appear as if they couldn’t be any more different. Where Jay-Z has sought to remain Sean Carter, Kanye has imagined his transformation long before it ever happened and embraced it ever since.
And that leaves me with a lot of questions:
When you are gifted with success, with the dreams you can’t comprehend, will it change you?
Will you be Jay?
Or will you be Ye?
Will you really have a choice?
And will you ever get a chance to make a 3-minute long commercial?