West’s new album delivers
There might be several thoughts or words that the mind conjures up when anyone mentions the name Kanye West. West — or for familiarity’s sake — Kanye, is no stranger to controversy. He is loved and hated by many, hated more often than not, and one whose actions are frequently fated to be shunned.
I am not here to talk about Kanye, though, or what he has or has not done. While his ego hasn’t done him any favors (or has, if you conspire all of his actions as publicity stunts), his talent and love for music has not changed.
You see, Kanye released a new album Nov. 22, titled “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.” Those who have disliked Kanye’s work as a result of disliking his persona may continue to do so. And while it is not of my interest to convince these individuals otherwise, I feel as if it is important to point out that listeners should approach his music without regard for his personality. With that out of the way, let’s get to work with Kanye’s newest release.
Graced with explicit, yet oddly alluring cover art for the album — which has already been censored or banned at many retail stores — “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” is Kanye West’s fifth studio album. Featuring numerous guest artists, recording began shortly after the release of the fourth album, “808s & Heartbreak,” in 2008.
Kanye’s fans may have already been acquainted with several of the tracks on the new album. The single “Power” made its debut in July of this year, along with the singles “Runaway” and “Monster” following suit in October, despite that Kanye performed a few of the songs even before their official release.
Kanye went on to showcase a short film of his titled “Runaway,” which was released in October. Bewildering at first to viewers, “Runaway” is essentially a half-hour music video compilation of several of the songs featured in the album. Filmed and edited in an avant-garde fashion, “Runaway” was fluid enough to maintain a storyline, but dismissive enough of cohesion to have little regard for contemporary filmmaking. Artistically however, the film shined in almost all aspects, hindered only by its questionable style of editing and Kanye’s on-camera performance.
In a manner similar to the short film, “My Beautiful Dark” opens with the track “Dark Fantasy,” an elegantly decorated, yet beat-driven song that is airy in spatial quality and a strong lead-in to the rest of the album.
“Dark Fantasy” makes its transition to “Gorgeous,” the second track, which features alternative hip hop artist Kid Cudi. “Gorgeous” relies on a consistent Lo-Fi electric-guitar-based beat. Though not the strongest contender in this 13-song lineup, the song flows exceptionally well, thanks to the talents of Kid Cudi.
Though far from one of Kanye’s worst, the single “Power” contributes little to what very well may be his finest album. Its sound is backed by a looped rock-influenced tribal chant throughout the track, which fails to achieve an outstanding tune and especially wanes in comparison to the tracks that succeed it.
The next two tracks — which, in actuality, is one piece with an interlude — are perhaps among the greatest sounds to adorn anything of Kanye’s. “All of the Lights” begins with an interlude, carried only by classical elements, which prepares the listener for the anthem that is the main course. “All of the Lights” is an incredibly well-performed track, backed by singers Rihanna and Alicia Keys as well as more than half-a-dozen other guest artists.
“All of the Lights” initiates a momentum for the album which carries over into the next several tracks. “Monster” represents what may be considered strongest rap song on the album with a unparalleled flow. The track has contributions from Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj and Bon Iver, with Minaj’s appearance as a significantly worthwhile one.
Kanye continues to impress with “So Appalled” and “Devil in a New Dress,” two tracks which would have blown me away on any Kanye album. Both are melodically sedated in tone, especially coming off of “Monster.”
“Runaway” takes the prize as the most beautifully composed track on the album. A delicate surprise from Kanye, “Runaway” is only dragged down by Kanye’s inability to deliver a high note and an annoying “Look at ’cha!” loop in the studio version.
The song “Hell of a Life” joins the ranks of “POWER” as one of the less prominent tracks on the album. However, the latter half of the album is redeemed by its final three songs which wrap up the show in a classy manner, with “Lost in the World” plugged in such an order that makes it seem like a song that would be performed in an encore performance.
It’s somewhat important to note, especially for the audiophiles and those with picky ears, that the mastering quality is surprisingly average with “My Beautiful Dark.” The album falls victim to the loudness war and clips at various points.
However, that doesn’t take away from the music on this album. “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” is the best thing to come from Kanye West in a long time, if not the best album ever delivered by him. Demented in nature and divine in sound, the album is fantastic in nearly every way. For this, I would, with confidence, nominate this album as the best mainstream hip hop album for 2010.