29 November 2010

Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010): Album Review

Kanye West. Arguably one of the most controversial figures of our time. From his “George Bush hates blacks” rant, to the over-publicized Taylor Swift incident at the VMA’s, to the current Matt Lauer debacle, Kanye can never keep on the media’s good side. He first stepped into the spotlight producing tracks on Jay-Z’s The Blueprint, and releasing his first album, The College Dropout, in 2004. He went on to release more billboard-topping albums such as Late Registration and Graduation, as well as pick up some Grammys and sell out tours along the way. Now, after months of releasing various singles and his musical film, Runaway, West has finally debuted his new record: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

An eerie narration by hip-hop queen Nicki Minaj introduces the listener to the story, which follows a beautiful young phoenix that crashes to earth (Although the songs themselves don’t directly address it, that’s the subject matter of his Runaway film). The chorus of “Dark Fantasy” echoes the question, “Can we get much higher?” and Kanye spits some of the wittiest rhymes I’ve heard from him. “The plan was to drink until the pain over/ But what’s worse, the pain or the hangover?” And what “Erase Me” might’ve lacked creatively, “Gorgeous” makes up for it as a perfect collaboration between West and Kid Cudi. Synth-heavy and mellow as they come, the two skillfully evoke their stoner mentalities with this instant classic. The next tune, “Power,” was released as Kanye’s first single from the album awhile back, and frankly, I thought it was terrible upon first listen. But as it often times goes, I rediscovered the tune in the depths of my iTunes a short time before Fantasy was released, and now I’m obsessed. Try not to get the echoing “ohs” and “ays” of the chorus stuck in your head. Please. The lyrics are also quite ingenious, with lines like "I just needed time alone with my own thoughts/Got treasures in my mind but couldn't open up my own vault." It’s easily my favorite song at the moment. And it’s my ringtone. Ahhellyeah. “All of the Lights” is a star-studded anthem featuring the likes of Rihanna, Elton John, Fergie, and others. It’s also one of the most catchy and upbeat songs on the album—featuring heavy drums, blaring horns, and soaring vocals by all parties involved. I can definitely see this being played at pep rallies and sporting events in the near future; it’s certainly up that alley. Next up is the 7th most played song on my computer, “Monster.” It features Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Bon Iver, and Nicki Minaj. All along side Kanye. Do you really get much better of a rap collaboration? It’s certainly one the best I’ve heard. With a particularly memorable verse by Minaj, she truly shows that she’s a force to be reckoned with in the game today. Crude, loud, and mean, it’s not difficult to discover different clever lyrics every time you listen to “Monster.” “Runaway” is also a heavily played song on my computer, and I believer that’s because of the sheer emotional sucker punch it delivers. With all the controversy surrounding Kanye this past year, I suppose this is his most personal tune yet.

“Let’s have a toast for the douchebags, let’s have a toast for the a*******, let’s have a toast for the scumbags…” goes the chorus, with verses echoing how he’s “gifted at finding what I don’t like the most” and “never was much of a romantic.” Not to get all sob story, but I really don’t know any songs that I feel so connected to, and this song alone garnered my utmost respect for Kanye. Despite all the haters, he’s an incredibly talented artist and this song is 9 minutes and 8 seconds of synth-blaring, piano-thumping proof. And while “Hell of a Life” serves as an angry vendetta against a lover, “Blame Game” is almost like a repercussion where he examines the anger and doubts that are so often put on the backburner in relationships. It also features a perfectly hilarious monologue at the end by Chris Rock that is worth the listen alone. And because he’s Kanye and dominates my most-played music along with Cudder, “Lost In The World” is the 9th most played I have and is frankly a pitch-perfect ending to the album. Like “Runaway,” it’s a thought-provoking confession—fully expressing his love for the phoenix that’s left him, and realizing his loneliness in our ever-changing, fast-paced society. “I’m up in the woods, I’m down on my mind/I’m building a still to slow down the time.” It makes me stop to ponder the world and the people I’m surrounded by, and I love every bit of it.

So like the Cudder and Florence reviews before this, this is pretty much another gushing love letter from me to Kanye. He has truly transformed the rap and hip-hop genre, and proves that it doesn’t just have to be about money, weed, and girls—even though, yes, those are involved. He truly grasps his position as a prominent artist—using it as a platform to make statements about society and the human race. Music does not only have to be enjoyable—it can be thought-provoking as well; I can definitely say this album has gotten me through some pretty rough times these past few weeks I’ve owned it. I have such an immense amount of admiration for Kanye, and truly believe My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is a monumental achievement in music that should be heard by all.

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