House Logo
Explore categories +

Power (#110 of 2)

Summer of ‘89: For Queen and Country

Comments Comments (...)

Summer of ‘89: <em>For Queen and Country</em>
Summer of ‘89: <em>For Queen and Country</em>

Early in his career, Denzel Washington played characters that often found themselves embedded within an environment of significant political import. In 1986’s Power, his Arnold Billing stood in the way of an ambitious media consultant played by Richard Gere; in 1987’s Cry Freedom, he received an Oscar nomination for portraying political activist Steve Biko; and 1989’s The Mighty Quinn suggested a more multi-faceted Washington, an actor capable of the charisma, humor, energy, and virility he would come to be best known for in the films of Spike Lee and Tony Scott. Thus, it’s unsurprising given such precedence that For Queen and Country found Washington inhabiting a role that requires a quieter, less fiery energy, often in service of a narrative that has little clue as to how such dynamism could be utilized. It would be a year later, in Lee’s Mo’ Better Blues, before Washington’s talents would be fully actualized.

Perhaps it’s fortunate for Washington’s career, then, that For Queen and Country was both a commercial and financial failure. Critics generally praised Washington while denigrating the film, which makes sense because director Martin Stellman, perhaps previously best known as a credited screenwriter for 1979’s Quadrophenia, addresses the racism inherent to Britain’s 1981 Nationality Law, which denied citizenship to those born in the West Indies, as fodder for the most banal sort of, what film scholar James Naremore calls, “male melodrama.”

Single Review: Kanye West’s “Power”

Comments Comments (...)

Single Review: Kanye West’s “Power”
Single Review: Kanye West’s “Power”

Ever since the sleek, electronic-influenced Graduation, Kanye West has mostly stayed encapsulated in his own celebrity bubble, concerning himself with little other than fake friends and shutter shades. His few rapped verses in 2009 (Kid Cudi’s “Make Her Say,” Drake’s “Forever,” Beyoncé’s “Ego”) were good, but they, too, revealed a self-absorption that provided old Kanye fans—ones with a hankering for the kindliness of cuts like “Family Business” and “Through the Wire”—with reason for concern. When West drunkenly disrupted an acceptance speech from 19-year-old country-pop singer Taylor Swift at the VMAs last fall, it was sad but not unexpected. He had long since lost any sense of humility, a tragic truth that is reinforced by his new single, “Power.”

West has spent the last nine months recording in Hawaii and citing everyone from RZA to Gil Scott-Heron to Nina Simone as influences. He knows his way around a Simone sample (the West-produced “Misunderstood” was one of Common’s last great songs before he began a steep decline), but “Power” shares little in common with 1970s R&B. Instead, the track recycles the echo-y tribal drums from “Love Lockdown” for strident effect, and that chaos builds toweringly as West growls at his staunchest critics. He’s taking no prisoners, and he’s making no apologies for the erratic behavior that landed him in the pop-culture doghouse.