Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

When people marry their celebrity to their music as Kanye does, then it is impossible to allow feelings about his celebrity not to creep into discussions about his music. Kanye wants you to do that. He then sets out on this album to show you how he sees himself.  My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is about Kanye's own (more) love than hate relationship with his own celebrity.  At times he laments this relationship, and at others he vehemently encourages his celebrity to run wild.  In the middle somewhere is where the truth lies. It is interesting to see this struggle play out.  And oh by the way, the beats are moving further away from rap and closer to some indie electronic hybrid, which is fascinating.

The stacked horns on "All Of The Lights" are regal and blend nicely with the deep bass hits and is hit out of the park Rihanna's vocals.  This is another anthem sounding track for a cautionary tale about "street life".  "Restraining order, can't see my daughter, her mother, brother, grandmother hate me in that order", Kanye laments. On this track are cool parts by Kid Kudi and Fergy as well. Kanye does well encompassing artists that I would never want to buy a solo album from into these out-sized songs and they work beautifully.

 "Runaway" is the 9 minute centerpiece of this album with it's horror movie soundtrack single note on the piano for a good 40 seconds that bleeds into a sinister synth growl backing Kanye's wistful rapping of personal deficiencies.  "I don't know what it is with females, but I'm not too good at that shit, see I could have me a good girl and still be addicted to 'hood rats, and I just blame everything on you, at least you know  that's what I'm good at... let's have a toast for the douche bags, let's have a toast for the assholes, let's have a toast for the scum bags, every one of them that I know, let's have a toast for the jerk offs that'll never take work off, baby I got a plan, run away as fast as you can." All the while the strings build in the background until the bridge at the 5 minute mark, that slows to a tired lurch echoing the narrator being worn out with dealing with himself. The experimental run toward the end is a brave choice that turns this into true "experimental rap" and lends a cinematic force to the song.

From the opening chats and claps with an African bent, "Power" is a screamer of an anthem using the sample of King Crimson's "21st Century Schizoid Man" by King Crimson. Ah, progressive music is influencing all corners of the music world, isn't it? Kanye uses it to great effect. The siren in the background enhances Kanye's desperate style of rap. "I got treasures in my mind but couldn't open my own vault." That one line says almost everything about Kanye and his talent and how he encounters disconnects of his own.

 This album is a step above the great collective work of his last album, 808's and Heartbreaks which is one hell of a feat.  His albums have each bested the predecessor. The big difference  on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is that Kanye has moved away from songs about the club, turned up the interrogation light on himself, and given us the results in rap form here.  It's a brave choice to put himself out there in this way. Kanye has shown he can take the criticism and turn it into great songs. This album is on my most listened to list for the year and will be atop many other lists as well.  I think Kanye has even more in him. I was kind of hoping that, given the plight of lower income workers in this economy, that Kanye would make a social commentary album that was more clever than some of his previous blunt statements on the state of common folks. I hope that album is on the way, because  it will take Kanye from having the best album of any given year, to one of the best albums of a generation.


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