This is a picture of an Imperial Napkin Fold. It’s a baffling knot used at Austrian state functions, and supposedly only two people on earth know how to tie it correctly. It’s a closely-guarded secret. While there’s an aspect of that exclusivity that’s cool, it’s also just, you know, a napkin. In that way, the Imperial Napkin Fold is Watch the Throne.
If every song had been gilded Flockaveli, name-checking brands I’ve never heard of with increasing bombast, I would have been fine with that. (Of course there are great moments here, like all of “Why I Love You.”) But when you shout-out Betty Shabazz and Coretta Scott King, when you start comparing things to the Holocaust,* when you suggest that the American Dream is all one big hoodwink, you’ve created a contradiction. And that contradiction isn’t captivating and personal, as it has been in the past. It’s just ill-fitting and misguided.
If you suggest that the luxury flaunted across the first half of the album is proof of the emptiness of the second half, then why do they sound as if they’re having so much fun on that first half? And if you say, “Relax, it’s just an album,” then why did they record three different versions on four different continents and agonize over the tracklist? These are the only two guys who understand each other’s lives, but when we move closer, all they’re talking about is how to fold napkins for some inscrutable event.
*- Has anyone successfully compared the Holocaust to anything else ever? You’d think people would stop trying.