On May 28, 2010, Kanye West released “Power,” a single from his fifth studio album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Just a few months later, Sony Pictures Entertainment featured the song in one of its TV spots for David Fincher’s The Social Network.
Since then, “Power” has made an appearance in countless trailers for movies, TV shows and games, but it may be time to retire it.
West’s “Power” has a bit of a history, and it wasn’t long after it debuted that it became the center of a new meme. In 2011, the use of “Power” in trailers was appropriately referred to as “No One Trailer Should Have All This Power.” It started as a result of two games, Saints Row: The Third and Forza Motorsport 4, using the song in their trailers during E3 2011. Giant Bomb writer Jeff Gerstmann tweeted out the phrase, and just like that, the meme began.
Clips for shows like Doctor Who and other games like Dota 2 used the hype-inducing anthem to join in on the joke. Unfortunately, the audio for each video was taken down by Universal, who blocked the videos based on copyright grounds. Despite the meme losing most of its steam by April 2012, the track retained its popularity.
In 2011, the song was used in TV spots for Limitless. Schools and organizations like Texas A&M University, Creighton University and American Airlines relied on “Power” for commercials and pre-game reels. Between 2011 and 2017, multiple shows including Ripper Street, Broken City and The Daily Show returned to “Power” in their trailers and commercials.
In 2015, Fox played the song in its TV spot for the reboot of Fantastic Four, and today, Legendary Pictures featured it in the studio’s official trailer for the upcoming Power Rangers movie. For seven years, West’s track has been used as a way to hype up a scene, and while it was clever at first, it’s begun to feel lazy.
It’s not like there aren’t other West jams that can be swapped in to convey the same tone studios and marketing teams are trying to achieve with “Power.” “Black Skinhead,” another popular song by West off of his 2013 album Yeezus, has also been used quite a few times in trailers and TV spots. The track acted as promotional material for both The Wolf of Wall Street and Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, while Suicide Squad made the song the focal point of a particular scene. In the first trailer for Fox’s Assassin’s Creed movie, West’s “I Am A God,” also off of Yeezus, can be heard.
Using “Power” as a way to point out that the people in the scene are extraordinary, unusual or, quite frankly, powerful, is boring. Its presence in a trailer earns an eye-roll instead of a nod of approval. It’s the equivalent to hearing the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” or Johnny Cash’s version of “Hurt” in a trailer; it just comes across as laziness.
Others, like Clint Mansell’s theme from Requiem for a Dream or Gary Jules’ “Mad World,” have all suffered from being the go-to for trailers, but none stick out as much as “Power.” Part of that is because “Power” can be used in a number of situations. Whether it’s political, economical, cultural or motivating, the combination of the vocal arrangements in “Power” and West’s aggressive lyrics cultivate a certain tone that inspires a sense of greatness.
“Power” is a great song, and anyone who knows me knows I appreciate the music of Kanye West more than most things. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy remains one of the best albums of all time, but it’s time to move on. Studios have overused “Power” to the point where it’s difficult to listen to the track without thinking of it as anything less than promotional material.
To paraphrase West himself, please: No more trailers should have any sign of “Power.”