An analysis of Kanye West’s 2010 Hit “Runaway”
Section 1 – Visual Analysis
The video begins with Kanye in a beige colored suit pushing in a chair at a dinner table. As he walks away from the dinner table he approaches a piano and begins pressing the keys that start off the opening of the song. A group of ballerina’s run into the scene wearing black dresses, holding their skirts outwards, the screen then cuts to black and the words “This is an excerpt from the film Runaway” which says that the music video is directly cut from the film “Runaway”, a collection of music videos strung together as a film.
The girls all group up together as the key notes continue and the echo effect heard at the beginning is changed to the main audio quality of the song. I believe the ballerinas are a visual representation of women from Kanye’s past relationships, as Kanye appears to be speaking to the ballerinas as he plays on the piano. The settings of the empty hanger structure with green walls is the continuing trend of self-reflection as I feel like it reflects his mind, which is usually focused on one thing at a time. The video cuts between the group of girls and Kanye by himself, representation the isolation he feels due to his mistakes.
As Kanye says during the second hook “So I think it’s time, for us, to have toast” all the patrons at the dinner table raise their glasses as if they were giving a toast, but Kanye and the one girl sitting at the table are not giving the toast. The people giving the toast appear to be frozen in motion, while the ballerinas, Kanye and the girl are all in motion, I believe this implies that the toast is for Kanye and people like Kanye. Kanye stands on top of the piano during the hook, yelling out the bridge to the ballerinas. It is very obviously visible that Kanye seems to be very distraught in what he is saying, as if he as concern or regret in his words.
During the entirety of Pusha T’s rap verse the camera focuses primarily on the ballerinas, with no visual of Kanye at all for the rest of the video. The song continues going with the visual of the ballerinas slowed down to a slow motion to put more attention to the detail of their movements. The song ends with a straight cut to black as Pusha T signs off. The video stops at the end of Pusha T’s verse, leaving out the final verse and the vocoder section. I feel like this was intentionally done as Kanye doesn’t like to focus on visuals but rather painting a scene using audio, and the more personal components of the song where left out of the video version for that reason. I believe Pusha T’s verse didn’t have any footage of Kanye because it was more of a blunt opposition to what Kanye was saying earlier in the song
Section 2 – Sonic Analysis
Runaway begins with a single piano note, repeated on a specific metronome, which then goes to a lower and lower pitch until it hits another high note. The drums kick in and the looming ambient bass continue as the song begins to pick up. Around the bridge a synthesizer is added to the background to give the illusion of an ambient choir. The combination of all of these gives the song a melodic and somewhat somber tone, while also still feeling a bit light at times, like during Pusha T’s rap verse. The whole song seems to be based around the theme of self-reflection and almost sounds like an apology for Kanye’s actions to the woman in the song.
The song begins with the hook, in which Kanye talks about how he is very cynical due to his perfectionist nature, “I’m so gifted and finding what I don’t like the most”. He is aware of how frustrating this can be to the girl he his talking to, “You’ve been putting up with my shit just way too long”. He wants the two to have a toast for the “douchebags, a–holes, scumbags” and “jerkoffs that never take work off” in which he is referring to himself as one of those people. Early in the first verse a vulgar and shocking line is heard to get the listeners attention, also giving the listener a view into how direct Kanye is in his love life with the line “She find pictures in my email, I sent this b—h a picture of my d–k”. I feel like this line is so vulgar and direct on purpose to just show how unpleasant his love life is, the uncomfortable nature of what he says reflects how he feels himself. “See I could have me a good girl, and still be addicted to them hood rats” further explaining how Kanye doesn’t understand his taste and lust for women. “And I just blame everything on you, at least you know that’s what I’m good at” shows how Kanye’s ability to blame others for his problems is part of his problem with women.
The song then keeps going with a bridge in which Kanye says “Run away from me, baby, runaway” twice. This is telling the girl he is speaking to get away from him because he seems to be such a problem and burden to everyone around him, continuing with the theme of Kanye reflecting on his personal actions. “When it starts to get crazy, why can’t she just, run away” is another line continuing off the last one where he is telling the girl to get away, and he doesn’t understand why she just won’t leave him. Kanye then says he has a “plan” for her to get away as fast as she can from him.
The hook comes back
again for a second time, and at the end of the hook is the appearance of the
guest rapper, Pusha T. I feel like this verse is a counter to Kanye’s more
touching and personal words in the rest of the song, showing the other side of
Kanye’s music, with a lot more bravado. The verse still continues the theme of
self-reflection with the opening “24-7, 365, P—y stays on my mind”. Pusha T
seems to represents Kanye’s more blunt side, like when he gives the woman an
ultimatum with the line “You should leave if you can’t accept the basics” while
criticizing the woman’s obsession with wealth. The song (in the video version)
ends with Pusha T signing off.
Section 3 – Ideologic Analysis
The target audience for a Kanye West song may initially appear to be a hip-hop and or rap enthusiast which is usually an age from mid-teens to late-20s, but I feel like the video and song seems to be focused on a much more personal audience level. I believe the song was more focused on fans of Kanye West and his more personal fan base. It seems the intent of the song isn’t commercial as most would expect but more related the public image of the artist.
The video and song both
are unique for the genre of hip-hop, with a lot more of a heavily artistic
style, using ballerinas and formal outfits typically associated with a
high-class classical audience. The video seems to feature more focus on women
outside the main character and that also makes it a little different from the
stereotype of hip-hop music videos. The whole style of both the song and video
gives it an appeal to a higher class type of person, but still using raw and
vulgar language, creating a sharp contrast overall between the two.
The song uses vulgar language while the video uses warm feeling and elegant visuals to supplement the story being told in the lyrics. The song focuses heavily on Kanye’s personal life but also has traces of bravado and bragging culture commonly found in rap culture, this is very evident in Pusha T’s rap verse with the lines “You can’t blame ’em, they ain’t never seen Versace sofas” and “Ichabod Crane with that motherf–ing top off”. Unlike most songs of the genre it doesn’t immediately advertise itself as a hip-hop or rap song, especially right from the start with the single piano notes. The beat itself implies hip-hop origins but it includes a lot of singing, especially in the hook and bridge, and some rapping. The song is very much a mix of genres creating its own unique and distinct sound.
Due to the heavy topic of Kanye’s love life, it is from the perspective of a male, and because of this I believe the implied audience is male, and it also seems to be appealing to people who understand Kanye’s struggle with misunderstanding women. Hip-hop fans are typically younger males and it seems the video could be presented to them primarily, but also it could be targeted to people with a lot more experience in their life, older individuals up to the age of 40.
The entirety of the song is more on a personal level rather than a commercial level which makes the choices made visually and sonically have a very different tone than a typical rap song. There aren’t any visuals of expensive cars, half naked women, or any sort of bravado in the video, but slight references to it the rap verse. The video itself is very unique to the genre and makes it the main reason I chose to analyze for this assignment.