Monday, November 24, 2008

on 808s and heartbreaks.

Stream Kanye's new album from his site while you're pondering whether you'll end up buying a whole album from him where he uses that Auto-Tune effect to its supremely annoying (and inevitable) end.

I've listened to the album three times already, twice in quick succession and then once more intermittently through out the day thus far and I have to say that it's not nearly as bad as I was fearing it'd be. The re-mastering of "Love Lockdown" really brought out better things. The Jeezy appearance on "Amazing" is a nice touch, but I would have liked to have seen some more typical Kanye guests... Where's Common? Lupe? Ya know... the rappers with a Benz and a backpack? That would have been nice.

"Robocop" will go down as one of the worst songs that Kanye will ever do.

The album overall is an interesting experiment and I don't mind that it exists, but it exists on such a different level that it's hard to think that the guy who made this 5 star classic is the same one here and now. Of course, the guys from It's The Real have already weighed in on this and I think there's some value to what they're saying; yes, experimentation is great and yes, creativity is amazing, and continuing to grow is important, but damn! I still lose my shit when this song comes on. Years from now, I won't feel that way about "The Coldest Winter" - know what I mean?

At its most base level, the album really is a failure. It works best when there's some rap happening, which is not often and never from Kanye. Jeezy's there (as mentioned above) and Weezy gets in on the action with "See You in My Nightmares" and both of those tracks stand out as highlights. But the thing is that Kanye seems to be pushing against that at every opportunity. He strikes me most of all as Andree 3000 four years or so ago, when Stacks claimed that he had no interest in rapping again. Which honestly means there's quite a bit of hope left in my tank for Mr. West but belies kind of bad things for the here and now. But the reason I say the album is a failure is not because of a personal preference for Kanye rapping versus singing, not because I dislike the Auto-Tune, and certainly not because of the artistic virtue of what's going on. I think all of those things are admirable. It's great to push boundaries, especially when they're your own. However, I stand by the claim that the album is a failure mainly because of the internal conflict that is so apparent through out the whole thing.

Kanye's claimed that this album is about a break up. That seems painfully obvious. When he concludes the album with the one song that he claims he's written (or chosen to release) about the death of his mother, and talks about how he'll never love again, I can't help but hear it as his need for penance. The break up is real. But it's not a girl that's truly causing Kanye to act out in this way. I think he's frustrated that he hasn't truly changed the game, changed the world. (And, much like dream interpretation this might be me overreaching my bounds. I mean, I'm not a psychologist, and I don't know Kanye on any level other than the music he's made.) But I think that Kanye's over-confidence has always shown us real things about him: he didn't just talk about being the best rapper, he really thought he was. And he thought the game was messed up. And he thought he could change it. And he thought, just by being himself, just by gracing us with his presence, by forcing his talent out into the world, that things would get better. 808s and Heartbreaks might be, ultimately, Kanye West's teenage rebellion after making the varsity team as a freshman but realizing that you can't actually change a team from the inside.

Moving on from Kanye, I do just want to say that this is going to be a great week for music in general and, hopefully, the blog. I hope you all got your free Dr. Pepper and I'm going to put up a review of the whole album sometime later this week. Also, I just got the soundtrack from "Dan in Real Life" which is primarily done by Sondre Lerche, and that's promising to shape up in a great way. But, I don't want to miss out on saying that Q-Tip's "The Renaissance" has been the soundtrack of my life for the last week or so and it's a fine piece of work. Expect lots more on music in the coming days and weeks.

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