Kanye West

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Def Jam/Roc-a-Fella

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“I’m trying to right my wrongs/But it’s funny these same wrongs helped me write this song.”  In many ways, these two lines from 2005’s “Touch the Sky” epitomize the Kanye West narrative.  For all the troubles of his personal life, West’s albums serve as a catharsis.  His music is always an honest reflection of his emotions, and over four albums he established himself as one of the few consistently fantastic and innovative artists in pop music.  And My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is no exception.  After having been criticized by everyone from George W. Bush to Barack Obama in the past year, he could have retreated into the same brooding Auto-Tuned electropop of 808s & Heartbreaks; rather, West returns with a triumphant, bold magnum opus that recognizes his hubris is his greatest trait and serves as the climax of his previous records.

Kanye took to his Twitter to say, “This shit is street. It’s hood. It’s soulful. It’s decadent. It’s tasteful.”  For all the arrogance in this grandiose statement, it’s true.  My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy incorporates so many diverse influences, but never once feels like it is not a cohesive work.  There’s the soul sampling of The College Dropout, the orchestras of Late Registration, the synths of Graduation, but it never seems like he’s covering old ground.  “Power” laments celebrity over a prog-rock sample.  “All of the Lights” features bombast of horns and guest vocals in an anthem about the dark side of fame.  “Runaway” is a trip-hop ode of self-realization.  “Lost in the World” blends a Bon Iver sample and tribal drums.  These tracks are fantastic alone, but are aided by their inclusion as a whole work.  The focus is one of the album’s greatest strengths – there are no silly skits or mediocre fillers, only prodigious masterpieces.

While he certainly is not the greatest rapper lyrically, it is as a producer where Kanye shines.  Every moment on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is calculated: the guest artists, the orchestral flourishes, the samples.  The choir that opens up “Dark Fantasy.”  Nicki Minaj’s insane verse on “Monster”.  The three-minute vocoder solo on “Runaway”.  Chris Rock’s hilarious monologue on “Blame Game”.  The piano interlude that opens up “All of the Lights”.  Gil Scott-Heron poetically closing the album on “Who Will Survive in America”.   Sure, it’s all self-indulgent, but it is this extravagance that makes the album a work of art.

On the chorus of “Runaway,” Kanye sings, “I’m so gifted at finding what I don’t like the most/So I think it’s time for us to have a toast.”  He realizes he is a perfectionist to a fault, but in the end decides to celebrate his flaws.  This same logic carries over into his music: this is not a perfect album (see Fergie’s ridiculous rap on “All of the Lights” and Jay-Z’s lazy verse on “Monster”).  But every masterpiece has its flaws, and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is no exception.  It is deliberate, diverse, focused, excessive, emotional, arrogant and an absolute tour de force.  Kanye recently admitted on Twitter, “I’m not a good celebrity but I’m a great artist.”  He isn’t a pop star, but the world has enough of those already.  He is an artist and Fantasy is his masterpiece.

Rating: 10 out of 10

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