Review Summary: Everyone, I'd like you to meet the emotionally fragile and digitally enhanced Kanye West.
There is a slowly, but steadily rising revolution occurring with R&B artists, and it can be directed towards the Auto-Tune. What the Auto-Tune entails is perfectly tuning pitches digitally, which in turn, alters varying pitches in a glitchy, almost robotic manner, while maintaining the artist’s voice. This artificial method has been used lately by Lil’ Wayne and T-Pain, but also in the past by Cher among other artists. Now, the self-proclaimed ‘voice of our generation,’ Kanye West, is digitally changing his voice to ‘perfection.’ Kanye West’s 808’s and Heartbreaks
is a minimalist album that is free from samples and, for the most part, rapping, which makes his album a revolution within his career.
808s and Heartbreaks
is an emotional trek; it dives into the tribulations during the past few years of West’s life, such as the passing of his mother and his fiancée breaking off ties. The beats and mood of the album certainly represents Kanye West’s emotion vividly and thoroughly through a Roland TR-808 (the 808 in 808s and Heartbreaks, duh). The TR-808 creates lively, pulsating tribal beats in tracks like “Welcome To Heartbreak” and the dynamic single of the album, “Love Lockdown.” Additionally, it creates haunting beats, like in the six-minute “Say You Will,” a track that exposes a desperate man.
With the practical void of rapping makes 808s and Heartbreaks
so refreshing. When I say that, you are less likely to find a track like “Diamonds From Sierra Leone” or “Gold Digger” on this album, even though the prolific dance track, “Paranoid,” would be the closest representation of his past style. Another noticeable facet is the lack of skits. In turn, it makes this album so much more complete and sets a rather serious tone. When Kanye West is at his most emotional moments on the album (“Bad News,” “Coldest Winter,” “Say You Will”), the Auto-Tune vocals take control. Granted the presence is spread throughout the album, when West is at his emotional climax is where the prominence of the device takes shape.
With concern to his story, come the lyrics, which can be plain and rather average, although I will grant an exception of the beautifully crafted “Streetlights.” Yet, Kanye West leaves little room for lyrical creativity, and takes a more straightforward approach towards songwriting. I mean, “Heartless” is about being his fiancée being heartless, “Bad News” speaks of bad news in his life, and you can pretty much assume the rest. However, the predictability should not take away Kanye’s capability to express his emotions through singing, which is ultimately the driving point of the album. In fact, “Coldest Winter” is Mr. West’s defining moment of 808s and Heartbreaks
, which is riddled with elegant, hip-hop beats and compassion with a simple message about a huge loss.
Perhaps the biggest thing to take from 808s and Heartbreaks
is the well-knit structure of the album. Every track finds it’s spot and the fact Kanye West is always on topic lyrically makes 808s and Heartbreaks
a desirable, interesting listen. After all, it is not easy being acclimated with the removal of Kanye West’s signature rapping style along with the addition of the Auto-Tune. I will admit, it was a mini shell shock at first, but slowly, an appreciation for his newfound style appeared. Everything takes time, but it is more or less, whether you are willing to take the time to commit to such drastic change. So please, meet the emotionally fragile and digitally enhanced Kanye West.