Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy review

Chances are you've already read about Kanye West's new album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy somewhere else, and you're probably well aware that virtually everyone is praising the album as a modern masterpiece, even Pitchfork gave it a perfect 10.0.  I wasn't even aware that he had a new album out, so you can understand why I am a little late in churning this review out.  Aside from the fact that Kanye spent  over 3 million of Def Jam's dollars in recording the album (there are eleven guest vocalists on "All of the Lights") and the "controversial" artwork was supposedly "banned", I am failing to see what makes this record any more important than West's previous efforts.

I'll be the first to admit, I am not well versed in hip hop.  That being said, the first thing I noticed about this album is that it is sonically heavier, with distorted guitars, fuzzy basslines and grittier beats assaulting the listeners ears at every turn.  There is a lot of layering present that isn't normally found in hip hop music, lending a depth to the music that is both immersive and engaging.  Despite these things, I just can't agree to call this album a masterpiece of it's generation.  If you were to conduct a search on Pitchfork to see all of the albums that have received a perfect 10.0, you will find that almost all of them are reissues of classic albums by bands like Radiohead, The Beatles, Beastie Boys, The Rolling Stones, and Elvis Costello.  The reason these albums have received the elusive perfect score on Pitchfork is because the albums have withstood the test of time.  Will Kanye's new album do the same?  It is hard to say.  Despite the move forward, it doesn't seem as though this album does anything to be truly regarded as a breakthrough album, not for hip hop and certainly not popular music as a whole.

The weaker points on the album consist of some of the so-called "rhymes", which end up sticking out like a sore thumb.  On "Gorgeous", Kanye claims that "the same people that tried to black ball me/forgot about two things, my black balls".  Umm, right.  I also find it difficult to separate the album's themes and subject matter with how Kanye acts in real life.  This album is, essentially, a self-indulgent piece (just look at the video for "Runaway", which also marks Kanye's directorial debut) that explores the reasons why Kanye can be a complete asshole, whining about trivial shit on Twitter and getting drunk and causing scenes with other celebrities.  The reason he can do all those things, the reason why he can act like a spoiled child is the simple fact that people will buy his record and invest their own time and energy into his celebrity persona.  Throughout the album Kanye talks about how he doesn't care about people and what they think of him, and how he has somehow transcended "haters".  What he fails to realize is that all of the "haters" are the people who buy his albums.  So I guess that question that remains is, who is the bigger fool, us, or him?

The bottom line is that Kanye has successfully made a good record.  My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is a record that has all of the hooks that will make it popular, but the real reward is in listening to each song carefully, and more than once, to discover and appreciate all of the nuances that truly make it an outstanding hip hop record.  I just wouldn't go so far as to call it a masterpiece.  Michael Jackson made better pop records, and even though Kanye desperately wants to emulate his idol, he is still falling just a bit short.

Kanye West - Runaway

Kanye West (feat. Kid Cudi & Raekwon) - Gorgeous

Kanye West My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

1 comment:

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