Paul McCartney and Kanye West: “Only One”

Michael Gerber
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Paul McCartney and Kanye West at the Grammys in 2009.

Paul McCartney and Kanye West at the Grammys in 2009.

If this track’s any gauge of what’s to come, Paul McCartney and Kanye West is a match made in heaven. Kanye’s singing, Paul’s on the organ.

According to Stereogum, “Kanye and Sir Paul started recording together early last year in a Los Angeles bungalow with McCartney improvising on keyboard and West improvising on vocals.” Kanye says this about the lyrics of “Only One”: “My mom was singing to me, and through me to my daughter.”

The poignancy of that surely wasn’t lost on McCartney.

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  1. Avatar Drew wrote:

    I think this track is terrific. The only down side: I’m a bit embarrassed by the melodramatic hand-wringing of a good number of Beatles fans about Paul working with this “arrogant loud mouth” (one of the kinder ways I’ve seen Kanye described). As we all know Paul has always been drawn to arrogant loud mouth characters and it’s proved fruitful in the past. I can’t help but question why these hypercritical Beatles fans are so quick to trash Kanye when John Lennon did and said outrageous things in his time and they loved him for it.

    Anyway, lovely track.

  2. Avatar Hologram Sam wrote:

    I find myself humming this tune since I first heard it. A great track and a pleasant surprise. I thought it was Paul doing low background vocals, but I read that it’s Ty Dolla Sign. The other song from West/McCartney collaboration will be “Piss On My Grave” which I assume will be a bit more raucous than this ballad.

    Paul (and John as well) always had a pleasantly rough and percussive feel in even their mellowest ballads. It compliments Kanye. George’s early Beatles guitar solos were percussive, John’s rhythm was aggressive. Paul still has it. A simple electric piano accompaniment, but almost drum-like, as gentle as it is.


    Paul can craft a melody that sticks to me like glue. Paul (and the Beatles) were always ballsy musicians. No wonder his sound blends so perfectly with Kanye.

  3. Avatar Hologram Sam wrote:

    Arrogant loud mouth? I remember no such talk when Paul wrote and recorded with Elvis Costello! Declan Patrick McManus is mellow now, but I remember the first few years of his career; he was pissed off and vocal with his anger most of the time.

  4. Avatar Rob Geurtsen wrote:

    Oh good heavens. Are old people who proclaim themselves to be fans of The Beatles and maybe of the music no talking bad about another artist and ignoring the music of Kayne. Very silly indeed, I agree with #Drew.
    But of course most fans have no clue about the music they are listening too, no sense of the art. And if they perceive anything off beat not in sync with their vision of the world they might throw it away or look away.

    Don’t worry the fun is really on most Beatles fans… most kayne West fans ehave no clue who that Paul McCartney bloke is. Check twitter and this little snippet from a tv-show this evening.

    The bloody thing is, they fans of Kayne West are probably right. paul’s concert might still be selling well, but really his records are going nowhere commercially, it might indeed be Paul McCartney who is the one really profitting from this cooperations.

  5. Avatar Rob Geurtsen wrote:

    Message-pictures that reveal an interesting great divide… at least good for those living in the past; and a story

  6. Avatar Nicole wrote:

    The hullabaloo about the ‘Who is Paul McCartney?’ thing has been ridiculous. The few tweets that started it were sarcastic TROLLS and knew full well who McCartney is…

  7. Nancy Carr Nancy Carr wrote:

    It’s hard for me to believe that anyone took the “Who is Paul McC?” tweets seriously to start with. They’re so obviously jokes (albeit relatively lame ones). And anytime you have two artists whose work and core audiences are as different as McCartney’s and Kanye West’s are, you’re going to get some folks on both sides lobbing insults. That’s the nature of the digital age, sadly.
    As for the song itself, I think it’s just OK. I do like the melody, and the sentiment is endearing, but to me the processing applied to West’s voice undermines the sincerity it seems he wants the song to have.

  8. Avatar Hologram Sam wrote:

    but to me the processing applied to West’s voice undermines the sincerity it seems he wants the song to have
    Voice processing doesn’t bother me. I actually like it. Studio tricks have been happening ever since Sam Phillips drenched Elvis with the slap-back echo. (Actually, long before that. Mitch Miller had his producer run a speaker and microphone into a studio bathroom to create an echo. Mitch said he wanted an audio “halo” around his singer’s voice.)
    John and Paul loved doubling-tracking their voices. I never felt it undermined the sincerity of their love songs. And “Tomorrow Never Knows” was some serious voice processing. I’ve always thought of the recording studio engineers as being part of the band. In contrast to the ’20s and ’30s, when a recording was simply a microphone capturing a live performance.

    • Nancy Carr Nancy Carr wrote:

      Sam, voice processing in general or as such doesn’t bother me at all — it’s the particular kind of processing used on West’s voice in this song, when combined with the sentiment of the song, that doesn’t work for me. To me the deliberate pitch variations applied to his voice work against the heartfelt tone.
      This may well be idiosyncratic on my part.

  9. Avatar Drew wrote:

    “To me the processing applied to West’s voice undermines the sincerity it seems he wants the song to have.” … I feel just the opposite. The use of auto tune in this track is purposeful and effective. Kanye is channeling his late mother, and the auto tune conveys that idea of her speaking through him from some faraway place.

    • Nancy Carr Nancy Carr wrote:

      That’s interesting, Drew — I’ll have to relisten to it with that in mind.

      • Avatar Rob Geurtsen wrote:

        The problem with appreciation of (popular) art is not only did it sell well or have a lot of people high praise (for whatever art-unrelated reasons) for that piece of art, that song, but whether we like it or can appreciate aspects of it or not.

        In our positions it would be wiser to basically withdraw and see if the songs sings and speaks to us. Discussing the why and how of artistisc decision aren’t really helpful. Do Beatles’ fans really think that the so-called revolutionary aspect of Revolver will be important in a few decades or two hundred years. Don’t think so.

        If there is anything interesting to the coop from Paul and Kayne and the fact that Paul plays the electric organ/piano it is the style of playing applied by Paul…

        We are looking for meaning animals, maybe we should learn to not to, when enjoyning art. Just wondering.

  10. Avatar Hologram Sam wrote:

    And here is the video for FourFiveSeconds featuring Rihanna, Kanye and of course Sir Paul.

    Nice rhythm from Paul, catchy tune, great vocal from Rihanna. No discernible auto-tune from Kanye.

  11. Avatar Rob Geurtsen wrote:

    I just read that Macca is playing the guitar s well as keyboard while Rihanna and West sing. Just think for a moment of all the stuffPaul did together with others or for other projects, including Electric Arguments.

  12. Avatar Rob Geurtsen wrote:

    it says FortyFiveSeconds is produced by Dallas Austin, Mike Dean & Paul McCartney, although there is some confusion, it als says McCartney did not produce it.

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