Kanye West has had one hell of a 2010. Some people consider him an ego-maniacal asshole, while others consider him just an asshole. But no matter the controversy around his image and style and flair, we have one hell of an artist who has made one hell of an album.
I think most people don’t know what to make of Kanye. The guy has dropped some excellent albums, but he has also fully appreciated and dove into the large gimmick known as autotune, and has stolen mics from country pop stars and openly criticized- well- many people. And that’s not counting his borderline comical amount of tweets coming from his Twitter page. Through this, he has added arguably the best album of his career to his repertoire. He’s, musically, a total master, but in reality, he’s kind of a diva. And during (or before or after) all the controversy, he crafted My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and weird title aside, this album is existential.
This album isn’t really JUST an album. And I know that sounds pretentious, but in reality, Kanye’s first few records were albums. They had radio-friendly songs and they had the more experimental pieces. They had segues and spoken work portions that, while hysterical, were part of the image and craft of the album.
This album DEFINES Kanye West at this point in his career. Whether atoning for some sort of regretful persona, Kanye is at his most vulnerable and personable. Yes, 808″²s and Heartbreak, the album that featured Heartless and his experimentation with autotune and singing, was lyrically passionate, but here we have lines that are ironic and funny, but also resonating. He points out specific individuals, but always with an ironic twist, “Choke a South park writer with a fish stick.”
On this record, Kanye takes leaps and bounds forward to grow himself as a person, while also dropping some incredible beats and some guest spots by the hottest artists in the game. Kid Cudi offers his retrospective self on Gorgeous, and Jay-Z is all over this thing. And we have artists like Nicki Minaj making their stamp. Her offer is a vicious verse on Monster that denies any sort of good-girl image she may have with her own soft R&B releases. And then we have Chris Rock, the comedian, adding a sense of detestable tension to the record, and only building on the absurdity and the individuals at Kanye’s mercy for this beast of an album.
The record does have some mild flaws, for example, Jay-Z’s verse on Monster is just…bizarre, when he decides that the best thing to do in the middle of the song is yell LOOOVE like a big black Enrique Iglesias. And then we have So Appalled which is a tour de force of guest rappers and a slow mechanical beat, that is brought almost to a halt into self-parody with a repeated chorus that you’ll know it when you hear it. Another thing to note is some of the tracks go on a bit too long. Before you roll your eyes, re listen to album opener Dark Fantasy, that is an excellent song brought down by Kanye’s insistence on adding an extra minute to the end when he brings back the beat in a prolonged unnecessary kind of way. And you might cringe a bit when I say that half the songs on the album are around and over the 6 minute mark.
I originally thought the record was front-loaded, for I see many of the radio singles coming from the first half (Monster, All of the Lights I’m sure) but really, the second half is equally as excellent. Blame Game seems to be one of his most personal, and saunters into this slow melodic beat with John Legend adding his vocals. And we have lead single Power which is hauntingly powerful and reminds me of Kanye’s early single years back called Jesus Walks that had a forward message and a vocalist shedding some skin and creating himself- in Power‘s case, reinventing himself.
But being this far into the review and not mentioning the 9 minute album cut of Runaway, which is truly a testament to the quality of this album. Runaway is truly, and I mean this, the definitive song of Kanye West’s career. It closes the last third with unrecognizable vocal meddling, and the first half or so being a toast to the douchebags- which- in case you didn’t get the idea- is…like…himself.
Adding all the songs into a package that includes 6 different covers and a 35 minute music video of Runaway, is proof of Kanye’s full embrace of the album as a medium to sell music. In an age of digital downloads, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is as shocking and career-defining as one could get.
What kind of twisted mind could make us so angry yet so convinced that here we have nothing but a victim, using music and melody to dissuade his battered public image and relinquish the demons that haunt him so. And apparently, he needed Chris Rock to do it.
Keepers for the IPOD
All of the Lights
Lost in the World