Thursday, November 18, 2010
(pictures courtesy of Tweedsmatic)
When I first heard the G.O.O.D. Friday tracks, I thought, huh, this is pretty damn good, I wonder what I'd think if he just released this as the album, yet when I first saw the tracklist and realized that those keeping up, myself included, had already heard five of the eleven full songs on the album through G.O.O.D. Friday and the singles, I smiled to myself; another overhyped disappointing album. Oh well, I wasn't anticipating it too much. When I first saw the Runaway music video, I thought "What's Kanye thinking? This is stupid." I didn't realize at the time that this meant I had already heard all of the songs on the album, and I wouldn't realize this until I had already given it a 5 on here. When I first heard the album in full, though it was the clean version, I didn't feel particularly impressed, but I enjoyed the music, very much so. I thought it would be a top 3 album of the year at the least. I mean, Lost in the World is pretty iffy, and wtf is going on at the end of Runaway? Rick Ross on Devil in a New Dress? That doesn't fit at all! RZA on So Appalled? He ruins the vibe! Hell of a Life? How forgettable! Fergie on All of the Lights? UGH!
Then I kept on listening, and it just became more and more clear how absolutely fantastic this album is. How it blows every album this year out of the water. How it makes all other hip hop albums sound inconsequential in comparison. How some of the above mentioned flaws were revealed to be my own first-listen-shortsightedness (Hell of a Life, Lost in the World, the ending of Runaway), while others are legitimate flaws (Rick Ross, RZA, Fergie) but don't even come close to breaking the overall experience that is My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
Normally in album reviews I'll talk about how there's no filler, or how it's all cohesive, or how many highlights there are, but this just feels like it's somehow past such trivial matters. Forget cohesiveness, this is the embodiment of Kanye West in music form! All his little idiosyncrasies, his ego, his douchebagines, his eccentricity, all seem to be living and breathing throughout the album. Filler? Forget filler, there's not a track here that's below great, let alone one that's there just to fill up space. Highlights? Where to start...
It's hard to try to pick highlights because the songs themselves, the songs on the same album, the album that's beyond cohesiveness, are apples and oranges. Sure, you want to say Dark Fantasy because of its infectious beat, funny Kanye lyrics and orchestrated chorus, but then you remember Blame Game's great Aphex Twin sample, John Legend chorus, a moving Kanye performance and a hilarious Chris Rock skit that isn't even out of place... but wait, everyone KILLED it on So Appalled! But wait, it has to be Runaway, with the isolated piano and Kanye surprisingly delivering a great singing performance... but shit, those horns on All of the Lights...
And on and on and on. There's no clear-cut best song; there's no clear-cut worst song. They all represent different themes and moods and complement each other. Since downloading the leak, I haven't even listened to any of these songs outside of the context of the album. Honestly though, I'd have to say the worst song is Gorgeous, because the beat is completely static, but then this isn't a problem at all, because it's still such a great beat, still such a great song. It's just not quite on the next level the rest of the album still seems to be on. Still, do you think you'll ever start up the album, and then hear Gorgeous start up after Dark Fantasy's gone through its last hurrah, and think, "Oh, come on! Not this repetitive shit!" Hell no, it's an extremely enjoyable song, it just falls a little short of the rest; not really on hip hop terms, but on musical terms. On My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy terms.
So, as I said, Gorgeous is the potential worst song because of the beat being static, meaning that the rest of the production is very dynamic. Well, it is a Kanye album, isn't it? Of course the production's the high point. You've never heard Kanye beats quite like this though, and not just because he got some help from names such as No ID and RZA. Hell, you've never heard beats like these, period. Kanye had a $3 million budget, and you can tell. He certainly uses orchestration to its full extent on songs like Dark Fantasy and All of the Lights, but knows when to go back to laid back samples, like he does on Blame Game. Devil in a New Dress starts as another laid back, soulful sample-based beat before launching into a progressive guitar section, then coming back down to earth for the Rick Ross epilogue.
As far as the lyrics go, Kanye certainly has his usual charm about him, and a lot of emotion as well when he wants to use it. Nothing really reaches the conscious highs of his old songs like All Falls Down, but that's more than forgivable. One thing that's noticeable is that he doesn't seem to be completely off the mark with his lyrics sometimes, as he has been in the past. Some people may question a line like "Praises due to the most high, Allah/Praises due to the most fly, Prada/Baby I'm magic, ta-dah!" but in context, and with his delivery, it all works out perfectly and I don't think there's a line out of place. He's in this mode for a lot of the album, but he gets emotional at times, most notably on Blame Game, and to great result.
There's one song on the album where it doesn't seem like anything should work, and it just does. If you haven't heard the album, picture this. If you have heard it, pretend you haven't and you're reading about the next Kanye West single: A sparse piano hits the same note repeatedly, before going into a basic melody. Da, da, da, duh, da, da, da, duh. Drums and a growling bass comes in, while a vocal sample yells "Look at'cha!" repeatedly. Kanye comes in and starts singing about relationship troubles, with the hook "Let's have a toast for the douchebags/let's have a toast for the assholes." Pusha T does a verse, Kanye sings and raps some more, and then the song starts to fizzle before Kanye mumbles into a vocoder for three minutes, producing a large buzzing sound. ...Sounds like Kanye's ego's getting the best of him, right? Wrong. Everything about the song works, whether it should or not.
In summation, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is a hip hop album like none before it. Its original approach to production and thematic use of ideas make it one of the most rewarding listens in the entire genre. This album is Kanye. Graduation and 808s & Heartbreaks weren't Kanye. They were just what he was doing at the time. Hell, not even College Dropout and Late Registration were Kanye. This album seems to have his very essence at its center, and that, more so than any guitar lick, orchestrated chorus, clever pun, or deep thought, is what makes My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy a complete and utter success.