The technical definition of “Millennial” depends on who’s technically defining it, but rare are the generational experts who would say the 38-year-old Kanye West deserves the label that usually applies to people born sometime after 1980. Do you think he cares? Eleven minutes into West accepting the Video Vanguard Award at Sunday night’s VMAs, he placed himself into the same cohort as Justin Bieber: “We are Millennials, bro. This is a new—this is a new mentality.”
The “we” appears to be any and all artists who don’t censor themselves at awards shows; the “bro” is, despite appearances, a gender-neutral everylistener, the 2015 version of Charlotte Brontë’s “reader.” As for what he means, exactly, by Millennial, the opening line to Pew’s 2010 survey on the matter is instructional: “Generations, like people, have personalities, and Millennials … have begun to forge theirs: confident, self-expressive, liberal, upbeat, and open to change.”
It’s all too easy to line up West’s attributes with those listed above. He’s not just confident; he says he’s a god. He’s not just self-expressive; he receives lifetime achievement awards in self-expression. Liberal? Ask George W. Bush about what he thinks was the worst moment of his presidency. Upbeat? Well, despite his distaste for smiling, West was giggling and dancing in Miley Cyrus’s audience. And as far as open to change—just compare his outfit at the 2008 American Music Awards to the one he wore on Sunday.