Kanye West is an artist who is very invested in making good music videos for his songs. While other hip-hop artists may be content with party scenes and shots of beautiful women, Kanye tries to make interesting, creative videos. Kanye continues on this path with the video for “Touch The Sky,” the third single off his Grammy-award winning album Late Registration. This ’70s themed video fits the song well and contains clever touches throughout.
“Touch The Sky” is Kanye West’s third collaboration with director Chris Milk who previously helmed “All Falls Down” and the “controversial” version of “Jesus Walks.” The video opens like an old-school blaxploitation film and even includes credits. Kanye plays “Evel Kanyevel,” a daredevil who is about to embark on a dangerous stunt involving using a rocket to cross a canyon. Pamela Anderson, who was briefly rumored to be Kanye’s main squeeze, plays his girl in the video. During the video, we see Kanye prepare for his stunt (called “Death Rocket”) and we see him and Anderson argue and deal with the dangerousness of the stunt.
Despite the relative seriousness of the video’s plot, there is some humor to be found. The video stops the music for a second as a reporter interviews “Kanyevel.” There is a subtle reference made to the controversy over Kanye’s comments about President Bush and a couple of celebrity cameos lighten things up. Nia Long (who is mentioned by name in the song) and Girlfriends’ Tracie Ellis Ross (who appeared in the video for “The New Workout Plan”) make a brief but funny appearance. Those of you who might hate on Kanye for having Pamela Anderson as his girl in this video will definitely laugh at Tracie Ellis Ross’s dialogue.
After the humorous interlude, the video continues as Kanye finally gets ready for the stunt. TV cameras are everywhere and tons of people are watching the festivities. Lupe Fiasco (who isn’t given any credit on MTV) performs his verse with a marching band behind him and his name in bold yellow at the bottom of the screen. Everyone who sees the video will know his name. The video comes to a close as Kanye attempts the stunt. I won’t spoil the ending for you but if you are familiar with the song and its themes, you should be able to figure out if Kanye survives.
With this video, Chris Milk continues to be one of my favorite video directors. “Touch The Sky” has a gritty, cinematic feel that keeps you interested. It replicates the feel of the ’70s very well with nice touches such as slightly grainy video and special effects of the period. When the two TV reporters sit in front of a blue screen, it looks just as “bad” as it would’ve looked back then. Similar to his version of “Jesus Walks,” Milk intersperses performance shots of Kanye with the rest of the narrative. Kanye performs in billows of white smoke that represent clouds in the sky. There are also a couple of little tidbits that will reward those who pay attention. Some of the lyrics in “Touch The Sky” are directly referenced in the action onscreen. When Kanye says “I’m going on an airplane/ And I don’t know if I’ll be back again,” he is looking out at the rocket that will seal his fate.
“Touch The Sky” is another video that Kanye West can be proud of. The plot and setting match the song perfectly and the video itself is entertaining. There are no hip-hop video clichés to be found and at times, you feel like you’re watching a short film rather than a music video. I definitely recommend checking out this video on the various music channels (it’s currently the Jam Of The Week on MTV Jams) or online.