My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Kanye West

Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam Records, 2010

REVIEW BY: Ken DiTomaso


It’s strange how much context and a good story can color someone’s perceptions of a piece of art, whether it’s music, a film, a painting, or anything. Show someone a painting of a tree and they’ll shrug it off. Tell them that the artist underwent severe personal struggles in order to create his brilliant paintings, which eventually drove him to commit suicide over his art, and you’ve got people’s attention. We most definitely have that kind of situation with this record.

Kanye West has seen much more than his share of controversy in the past and his ego is probably more famous than he even is. He topped himself last year with his now infamous outburst at the VMAs. After doing the rounds apologizing for the incident, West retreated into his studio. He knew that apologizing for his misdeeds wouldn’t be enough. Though he was currently down-and-out, he knew that all it would take was one fantastic record and everyone would be on his side again. Through a ton of hard work, West toiled about in a tropical seclusion in Hawaii, inviting only his closest friends and those he admired to come and work with him. Eventually he came out of seclusion and stunned the world with a record that defied all expectations. Now all everybody seems to have for him is praise. West had found his redemption. The end.

Sounds like the outline to some Oscar-bait Hollywood film, starring Will Smith and opening Christmas weekend, coming to a theatre near you! It’s a great story no doubt, and like so many great stories it can tint your perceptions of the end result, and that’s apparent even only a few days after the album has come out. Even at this early stage it’s plain to see, whether you like it or not, that this album is a 100% certified Big Deal.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The album starts off extremely strong; “Dark Fantasy” has a brilliant chorus hook courtesy of the unlikely source of Jon Anderson and Mike Oldfield. I don’t think the King Crimson sample on “Power” works particularly well, but everything else in the track certainly does. “All Of The Lights” has what seems like a chorus of thousands trading off vocals – even Elton John of all people is mixed in there somewhere (though you’d never be able to pick him out). Something also has to be said for that incredible propulsive drum beat that pops in from time to time; it’s fantastic and I was convinced it must have been sampled from somewhere. I’m not a Nicki Minaj fan in the slightest and I’ll admit to finding her extremely obnoxious, but for better or worse, her verse on “Monster” crams pretty much everything she has to offer as a rapper into 30 seconds, saving me from ever having to hear any of her solo tracks.

Despite the many terrific moments, the flaws are glaring. The average length of the tracks here is around six minutes and not everything fills out it length well; some just don’t at all. “Runaway,” for instance, wastes its last couple minutes on a noisy vocoder solo that is louder than everything else in the mix. Perhaps an epic guitar solo would have been a better choice instead? “Blame Game” closes with a long section featuring comedian Chris Rock, which is funny the first time but wholly unnecessary upon subsequent listens. However, I do appreciate how West kept the music going on underneath it, keeping it as part of the main song instead of relegating it to “skit” status like many other rap artists would do. Thankfully, that’s the closest this album ever comes to the skits and interludes that often bog down many a hip-hop album. Two other tracks almost fit the “interlude” bill, but one is an intro to “All Of The Lights,” and another is an outro to “Lost In The World” (and the whole album in general). Neither stand on their own, and they should really have been appended to their full length counterparts. Also why couldn’t Kanye fix that tiny skip in the vocal sample of “So Appalled”?

The record certainly feels like more than the sum of its parts. The opening feels grandiose and its ending moments are equally striking. It manages to simultaneously feel both diverse and cohesive. The arrangements are constantly changing, and the hooks are abundant and of high quality. Despite its many flaws, I keep finding myself compelled to come back to it. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is far from a flawless masterpiece, but it is a record that people will be talking about for a long time, and with good reason.

Rating: B+

User Rating: A-



© 2010 Ken DiTomaso 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.