Thursday, December 4, 2008

Kanye West - 808's & Heartbreak Review

When I first heard about Kanye West’s new album I was skeptical and somewhat disappointed and also a little concerned. Skeptical because one of my favorite artists, one who I attributed to genius status has chosen to follow the newest and tired cliché trend in hip-hop to forgo innovative wordplay for a robot machine and become another rapper turn sanger. Disappointed because we were promised a collection of albums in a series... the next being Good Ass Job. And concerned because I thought that he may have finally lost his mind or was finding it hard to work while still grieving the tragic loss of his mother. But then I realized that, this is Kanye West I was talking about. And hate it or love it Kanye is a genius and in his grief and insanity he delivered a great album that as he calls it is not hip-hop but a work of pop art. Well almost…

Say You Will: Kanye croons over a haunting but inviting melody that just screams REMIX. And while he contends that this album is not hip-hop but pop art, I could hear a rapper going in on this beat. Check out Drake's more than dope rendition here. The song in itself is tells the story of love and loss but the lyrics also convey a deeper frustration that being in love can cause. When I grab your neck/I touch your soul.

Welcome To Heartbreak: One of my favorites and a standout track on the album. The production on this is solid, a very complex beat, with the keys and the drums coming in at exactly the right moments. And while Kanye’s lyrics about the things that are missing from life, and that all the money and the fame can’t compensate for it, ‘my friend showed my pictures of his kids/and all I could show him was pictures of my cribs.’ Adding to this piece is a powerful hook by Kid CuDi adding something extra special that brings the track to life.

Heartless: This is one for the clubs even if he didn’t mean it to be. But while listening to it I can’t help but imagine a line of sorority girls with their pinky’s in the air doing synchronized dances around the floor. The track is good in that it’s catchy and has a steady melody but in my opinion can be overlooked in the rotation.

Amazing: This is the closest that Kanye has to rapping on this album also ironically the track where the auto tune effect is most pronounced. It’s the standard Kanye braggadocio I’m the best, I’m a genius and so forth. But moreover it’s the man telling his audience that even though some of you don’t like me, I know that I’m great. And no matter what you’ll never take that from me… The additional verse from Jeezy doesn’t really add anything to the track but it is a nice departure from the auto tune enhanced singing.

Love Lockdown: The track that started the love/hate controversy, and made people look at Ye sideways. I actually loved it when I first heard it live on the VMA’s mainly because at that particular time I was actually going through the same situation he’s describes in the song. The lyrics are powerful and delivered with great intensity made more better by the steady and continuous thumping of the simulated heart beat and tribal drums making this track standout.

Paranoid: Another favorite on the album, partly because it’s so fun. Everyone can relate to the lyrics about the paranoid partner that is constantly worried about something being wrong instead of what’s right. It’s very catchy and you may find yourself unconsciously singing along to it. Hopefully alone in the car.

Robocop: Well they can’t all be winners. This in my opinion is the dud of the album. The one that I find myself skipping to get on to the next track. The Coldplayesque beat and dead lyrics don’t do anything for me and I don’t see how it really fits into the overall theme of the album. It sounds like it should have just been left on the cutting room floor.

Streetlights: By far my favorite track on the album but it’s so solemn that it kind of hard to listen too. Sort of like when I was younger and listening to REM but couldn’t do it in excess because it was just so damn depressing. Yeah that’s what it reminds me of. The emotion that is expressed in this song is so powerful and the feeling that it evokes and gets amplified by the background choir. The images that come to mind when listening are beautiful, and again I can see why Ye calls this pop art.

Bad News: I don’t really know how to describe this one. It begins very suddenly and feels more like an interlude than an actual feature. Lyrically Kanye is very solemn in his delivery and sounds as if it was sang with a lot of hurt. The production is beautiful and plays out like a symphony concert rising in tempo and then it slowly going down until it fades away.

See You In My Nightmares: The obligatory featuring Lil’ Wayne track that appears on almost every album that has been released this year. Of course he too makes use of the auto tune enhancement. And you would think that the two together would be overkill but they both blend very well together on the track. The flow and the delivery is spot on and Weezy and Jeezy made a surprisingly good ballad together.

Coldest Winter: Another favorite but a very sad piece in which Kanye pays tribute and eulogizes his mother. Again a song that is delivered with an understandable feeling of pain, it’s a very heartfelt song and the highlight of the album. The melody is poignant and hypnotic and the ups and down in tempo draws the listener deeper into the song. I wish more artists were as this passionate about their music.

I give this album 6 out of 7 headnods. 808’s and Heartbreaks may not end up being the master work of art that Kanye wanted it to be it is still a very solid and beautiful album. It show’s his progression as an artist and that he’s not afraid of stepping outside and perhaps compromising himself at expense of his fan base. Those that appreciate good art and good music will love this and with the exception of a couple missteps one that will definitely get repeat listens. This is one to place in your collection.

*Head Nod Scale

1=Don't waste your time like I did mine.
2=Waste your time like I did mine but I dare you to disagree.
3=Well, there was the single.
4=If it were a hand in spades there's "two and a possible".
5=It's a "good" album. Meaning at least 3 or 4 solid songs.
6=Really Good Project. Has the "Rewind Factor" more than once.
7=The number of completion. Great Album. Instant Classic



Blogger mpenzi said...

I must agree with you. When my husband and I first listened to it we were trying to decide what to think of it...then I listened with my heart and not my critic's ear and really began to feel (or try to at least)where he was coming from. I really began to appreciate it as a form of art, as all music should be. I love the fact that it allowed me to challenge my thought process of what Kanye is "supposed" to sound like.
[Being a mom I really thought about how I would express myself if I lost a child...being a child I thought about how I would express myself if I lost a parent...]

Musically it made me create serious remixes in my mind and maybe that too was what he intended. Put a fresh house, trance techno beat or what ever it (in my opinion) and it could loose that sorta of melancholy feel and could even been party music!!

I am excited that he stepped outside of his self and reconfigured his self and allowed his self to put his emotions into an art form such as this...I mean we already know that Kanye can be quite an emotional person (from-"Bush doesn't care..." to his on stage breakdowns to backstage eruptions) and to me that is very endearing...which is something lost in much of the mainstream music of today.
Great review and I agree 6/7 is a good rating.

December 4, 2008 at 8:17 PM  
Blogger Oslolosen said...

Nah this is just straight up wack.
I'm very glad he did it though, he shows you can still be creative and do what you like even if you're suppose to save your label everytime you drop.
What I wan't kanye to do is either to just stick to producin or start collaborating with people that actually care, not just whats hot for the minute like wayne, jeezy ,coldplay (why do they collabo with rappers??? To me they're great alone but rappers don't fit on to the mood in their music.

December 5, 2008 at 5:57 PM  
Blogger ChocLitLuvJoi said...

Ok it's my time. lol. As I jAm to Paranoid, it is only fitting that I now comment, While in character. Dude, when you wrote that this is the song to jam to while singing along… alone in your car, I knew I was being spied on. That is so me, acting like I’m in BottleTree all over the dance floor [while obeying stop signs as I drive]. They throw great 80’s parties btw.

I actually love Robocop…b/c of the orchestra, I mean sometimes you have to separate the words and just think about the magic about working w/ a fricking orchestra to create a “hiphop/rap” album. I mean, just feel it. Then again, this comes from a chick who used to remix video game sounds w/ her brother, and listens for the orchestra as Tom chases Jerry around the corner. Hmph, any who. My fav line is when he says “oh u kidding me, oh u kidding me, Ha Ha that was a good one, ur 1st good one in a while”. As a very animated person, that appealed to my inner child. I think he’s endearingly genius for being so playful w/ it. As for the orchestra btw, he could just be using a fender Rhodes, I think I hear it somewhere in there.

Streetlights! [Kanye Has to be a fan of The Postal Service, they’re an “electronic indie pop band” who in 03 took a break from Death Cab for Cutie to release a techno version of themselves on the album Give Up.] It has all the depression to match but w/ all the “fresh house, trance techno beats” Mpenzi spoke of. I can completely relate to what he is saying. We all have that one place we want to get to, and clearly for him, not even money takes you there. He seemingly to the world has everything, but as an only child, with no blood relative to touch at will; he’s a very sad , lonely, paranoid individual. **Wikipedia refers to his dad as “was”, so I’m assuming he’s alone in the world. I feel for him, especially during this season.

I appreciate this album because everyone sees Kanye’s a*sholish behaviour and criticizes him for being true to himself and speaking up. So ‘twas refreshing to know that he does have a heart, as feeble as it may now be, by continuing to put everything out there; only this time on wax. The artist in him did it w/o regard to the smack he would get. Why does someone have to be crazy to talk about their life? Isn’t that what music is, isn’t that what the Blues was? Let’s call this Techno Blues then eh?

Artistically, he kept the game on their feet. Some will like it, some won’t. In my mind, he still hasn’t sold out, so that’s Great!

On a humanistic level I appreciate him for bringing me into his world. People love reality TV b/c it takes them from their own world for 22mins or whateva. If his album doesn’t please musically, it @least makes you appreciate how good your life is. You may be unemployed, but may be able to call your Mommy , yes Mommy, if you wanted to. The last track “Pinocchio Story” is pretty poignant, if u can ignore the screams. He tries to make sense of his life w/ the “real boy” analogies. I really feel for him. Honestly, I think he needs to be on suicide watch. He really has nothing, in the realm of things that subjectively “matter“. I‘d feel like nothing w/o my mother, and I Have siblings! I’m just saying. All the friends in the world couldn’t always ease such grief. Especially if you feel @ fault. I pray for him though.

So lets’ see 1, 2, 3, 4 solid songs; guess that’s a 5/7 nods for me. So if you don’t love the whole album, just make a mix cd w/ the ones u do like! The album overall isn’t bad, but I generally listen to these songs All the way through. Oh, I like Heartless too, mainly the cartoony video. Much respect for the views though.
~PeAce out homies!

December 8, 2008 at 1:19 AM  
Blogger TS said...

It's not wack. It's different. lies the problem - it's done in Autotune. We can't say it doesn't have depth. It does. But it's done in Autotune. I am not sure we can encourage such a thing.

Maybe there was a message. So let's try these theories:

1. There is a way to go commercial/plastic and still have a real message. Fellow artists check this out.

2. I have experienced tragedy. Autotune expresses that pain well.

3. There is power in hiding among the copy caters.

4. I fooled you. This album is deep.

5. For once I just wanted to fit it.

Well, some of the above theories are better than others. But here's the reality. The album is above average only in content and energy. But if it were to rest on the sum total of it existence, including using a process using by "little wayne" and t-pain - it can't be rated above average.

December 9, 2008 at 9:32 AM  
Blogger Simone said...

I have to admit that I was on board with this album from the beginning because Mr. West found a way to be a few steps ahead of the pack. Love it or hate it, recognizing and riding the waves of change that life hands you (in his case, his mother passing)is a respectable thing. Just looking at his outward physical appearance these days, the grief is apparent, and to me, he's a real disciple of good music based on the shear fact that the grief is showing itself in what he creates.

One last thing that I really like about this album is the way it exposes people to different genres of music in the way that his single Stronger exposed folks to Daft Punk and House music.

I give it a 6/7 because although it's an excellent offering, nothings perfect.

December 11, 2008 at 12:50 PM  
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