My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Kanye West

Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam Records, 2010

REVIEW BY: Melanie Love

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/24/2010

Oh, Kanye. Just when we think you’ve hit the apex of craziness, you go and do something like release a solid album. It’s hard to fault you for bedazzling your teeth with diamonds or picking fights with anyone you can find (even if your target is precocious and adorable like Taylor Swift) when you insist on making music that’s risky, creative, and intriguingly, dependably weird. Who else is going to round up the orchestral talents of Bon Iver and pair that with a powerhouse verse from one of today’s hottest rap stars, Nicki Minaj? Or release a thirty-minute arthouse video accompanying a nine-minute song that proclaims himself an asshole? With everyone from Elton John to Jay-Z to Drake, Kanye has created an over-the-top affair that is joyously rich in its musical exploration, and it’s less self-serving than one might expect from Mr. West. Instead, building off of the aching bareness of 2008’s 808’s And Heartbreak, there is less of the douchebag Kanye here and more of the artist and person: the vulnerabilities, the preoccupations, the reality. The production is more layered and tricked-out than ever, definitely a change from the wintry starkness of 808’s, but somehow all the disparate elements come together for the most part. And even if some experimentations don’t work, you’ve got to give him credit for pushing every single boundary that comes his way and for thinking up collaborations and textures and soundscapes that seem ridiculous but manage to work effortlessly.bim_ad_daily_vault_print_250

Much of the album’s tracks were released before the actual album made it to shelves, which makes for an interesting listening experience, albeit a less cohesive one. I’ve personally played “Lost In The World” to death, and “Monster” and “Power” have been on loop on the radio for months. As a result, it’s harder to get a whole feel for the disc when certain tracks already pop out and draw you to them. That being said, all the singles pretty much hit it out of the park. I despised “Monster” when I first heard it – it’s cheesy, for sure, but eventually it grows on you in the charming way Kanye somehow has. Plus, Nicki Minaj – she of the schizophrenic rapping style that’s being lauded all over the place lately (she will literally change personas mid-line) – shows these boys how it’s done, outshowing even Jay-Z and Rick Ross when she spits lines like, “So let me get this straight / Wait, I’m the rookie? But my features and my shows ten times your pay / 50K for a verse, no album out.”

Meanwhile, “Power” has a sort of post-apocalyptic energy to it, crammed full with pounding beats and lyrics fueled by pure adrenaline (and a cool King Crimson sample). But it’s “Lost In The World” that I can listen to over and over and never tire of. Maybe because Bon Iver – tapped in here with a sample from “Woods” that’s reworked to stuttering hip-hop brilliance – is one of my favorite musicians, but his layered, exploratory style makes for a perfect match with West and the throbbing synths that envelop their vocals. The lines themselves are simple, but the instrumentation is a whirlwind of effects, and as it melds into “Who Will Survive In America,” a reading of Gil Scott-Heron’s poem “Comment #1,” it’s a perfect album closer.

Of course, no album with a scope this wide is without its moments of grandiosity, for better or for worse. “Blame Game” (feat. John Legend) is too downbeat to really hit its mark, and “Dark Fantasy” doesn’t necessarily launch the album off with fireworks (though its follow-up, “Gorgeous” is a dark and wonderfully sultry). Meanwhile, “Runaway,” whose sentiment is remarkably honest (“Let’s have a toast for the jerkoffs / That’ll never take work off / Baby, I got a plan / Run away as fast as you can”), nevertheless goes on for a few minutes too long.  Still, it’s hard to fault West for indulging the exorcism of some of his demons. It’s as honest as he’s ever been. And if he’s going to release music this fascinating, it’s incredibly easy to fault him a few diamond-studded teeth and outbursts.

Rating: A-

User Rating: A-

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Comments

by PastyJournalist on November 24, 2010 04:45:24 AM
Nice review -
It's amazing, Pitchfork's first 10.0 of a new album since I believe 'Yankee Hotel Foxtrot' - a perfect 10 for PopMatters and Rolling Stone. Not too sure if it's a perfect 10, but a great addition to his already-impressive output nonetheless.

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© 2010 Melanie Love and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam Records, and is used for informational purposes only.