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Kanye West trades auto-tune for out-of-tune pianos in his meticulously crafted, luxurious fifth studio album, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.”
Clinking, off-setting piano notes open the nine-minute opus “Runaway” while West surprisingly addresses his shortcomings in his most unconventional single yet. While it is nice to know that West has some sense of humbleness, the song serves better as a representation of how unconventional this album really is.
Hip-hop artists are not supposed to write sing-along hooks about “jerk offs who never take work off” and other terms that cannot be printed in this publication. In an era where the music industry focuses on short and glitzy singles, the songs on “Twisted Fantasy” are complex and almost Metallica-esque in length.
West makes the current radio format look outdated. As a serious producer and rapper who should be concerned about his street credibility, he throws this contrived conception out for graceful ballerinas and dapper tuxedos. He brought in an independent rock musician, Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, on two of his songs and did the seemingly impossible by getting Jay-Z and the legendary Wu-Tang producer RZA to collaborate on the same track.
In the process, he is able to create his own standard for hip-hop (and popular music in general) as something that should be a unique pursuit for art, no matter the consequences.
West is a great proprietor for this goal as he has tried to do everything in his life to destroy his career in sacrifice for artistic integrity. He needed to create his best album this time around.
Mr. West delivered.
This album is nowhere near perfect but that is what enables it to be a complete effort making the “next track” button on the iPod obsolete. West’s imperfections are what makes this album compelling. All the tracks complement one another and encompass many aspects of what West has been trying to establish on his last four albums.
The Smokey Robinson-sampled “Devil in a New Dress” easily could have been a standout on West’s soulful sophomore album “Late Registration.”
West heightens the production by including a mesmerizing cathartic guitar sample. His perfectionist state-of-mind seems to have rubbed off on the track’s guest, Rick Ross, as he gives one the best verses of his career.
West’s last effort, “808s and Heartbreak,” was extremely minimalist to the point where his robotic voice couldn’t express the authenticity of devastation he felt during his personal losses.
“Twisted Fantasy” seems to start where the stadium status album “Graduation” left off, rather than to be a sequel to “808s.” “Heartbreak” now seems like a platform to put his latest effort on a grander scale, instantly increasing the value of its average predecessor. West’s songs are more triumphant than ever and he comes into his own as a better lyricist on this album.
The album starts to detract though with “Hell of a Life.” While the Black Sabbath’s Ironman looped chorus is entertaining, it is hard to follow West’s proclamation of wanting to marry a porn star.
His fantasy is twisted, indeed, but the music may face larger problems as these tracks might prove to be too intricate to reproduce on stage. The extravagant “All of the Lights” has over a dozen artists, including a strings and brass section, not mentioning Sir Elton John on piano. The music is a large factor as to why this album works coming out of speakers, but translating it to a stage will be the artist’s biggest challenge yet.
The album’s standout, and possibly one of West’s most complete works, is “Blame Game” with John Legend singing the chorus. West is able to indulge in everything “Heartbreak” couldn’t. The song depicts a relationship gone violently and emotionally wrong against a desolate Aphex Twin piano sample. Anyone who has had love torn away from them can relate to the loneliness of the song:
“Things used to be, now they not /Anything but us is who we are/Disguising ourselves as secret lovers/ We’ve become public enemies/We walk away like strangers in the street/ Gone for eternity/ We erased one another/ So far from where we came/ With so much of everything, how do we leave with nothing/Lack of visual empathy equates the meaning of L-O-V-E/ Hatred and attitude tear us entirely.”
The track is sickly addicting as West warps his voice which sounds more like a 21st century schizophrenic man than anything he could sample in the album’s lead single “Power.” The song is more gripping because West starts singing “I can’t love you this much,” repeatedly, seemingly without the aid of a computer.
The album’s menacing opener “Dark Fantasy” repeatedly asks the question “Can we get much higher?” By the time the rousing closer “Lost in the World” thumps in, the sentiment for the audience is “yes.”
There is an opportunity to live above Nikki Minaj’s spoken word opener of “twisted fiction” and “sick addictions.” This alluring piece of art only increases the desire for West’s music to get much higher.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Ben Macaluso at Ben.email@example.com.