Kanye West
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy


4.5
superb

Review

by Adam Knott EMERITUS
November 23rd, 2010 | 74 replies


Release Date: 2010 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The only thing that matters is the music.

I find it quite disrespectful, actually. I mean, maybe not on the same scale as jumping up on stage and ruining Taylor Swift's night, but in a way, it's a very similar and equally misguided ploy of distraction. Every time West emerges with new material, be it musical or otherwise, there's this narrative. "You either love him or you hate him!" they chime in unison, knowing full well that the latter camp is much more crowded than the former. But it serves a purpose, because West has, for many, come to define controversy; they say that if there's one thing we can agree on, it's that there's no consensus when it comes to Kanye West. Blah, blah, blah. What I mean to say is: shut up. Who cares? So often we criticise mainstream artists for taking attention away from their music, and for selling sex instead of songs, but we're hypocrites, because we do the same thing with Lady GaGa and we do the same thing with Kanye West, and now more than ever it's a crime not to focus on the music.

The retort, obviously, is in how integral West's character and personality and already-formed legacy all are to his artistic output. Clearly and surely, his discography cannot be entirely separated from the man himself! But neither are the two attached at the hip; every new record the man releases is touted as the real Kanye West and by now it's clear that the real Kanye West is a very fluid concept. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is brilliant music produced and executed by Kanye West. It undoubtedly says some things about him; it probably also leaves some questions about him too. Again: who cares? Settling down with Fantasy the incredible thing is that the VMAs and every other chapter of the West canon fall below the surface, and the only thing that matters is the music.

For all I've just said, one part of West's personality carries across in abundance to the way Fantasy plays out; neither he nor this album give a damn about, or even own a copy of, the rulebook. This is most clear in the single-note piano introduction ('sparse' would be a wild understatement) to 'Runaway' – a song which itself collapses midway through and is sans-rap for its second half – and the outro to 'Blame Game' which is pretty much the closest thing to masturbation ever put on a disc. Kanye West knows he has your attention – he's earned it, after all – so he's going to do what he wants with it. Not everything is quite so self-indulgent, but almost all of it is just as good; standouts are difficult to pick since everything is so structure-defying and quirky – see the way opener 'Dark Fantasy' pretends to end about four times, grasping its opening motif from nowhere, or how the beat of 'Power' just sprints away from a gorgeous weaving synth line at its three-quarter mark. Yeah, it's one of those records:

An indie record.

In spirit, of course; I mean, a quick glance down the track listing reveals familiar hip-hop tones putting in memorable guest spots and features up and down this record, and it's undoubtedly a hip-hop album, one which melds West's earlier material with some of the understated goodness he demonstrated a knack for on 808s. But at the same time it's also an indie record, and that's not just because Justin Vernon's here – although 'Lost in the World' is truly a phenomenal track. No, it's because for all that it will be called a pop album Fantasy is unequivocally progressive, breaking trends and weaving things together that just shouldn't be done. Some parts of it feel completely unnatural, but nothing ever seems wrong; the interlude track that precedes 'All of the Lights' is a beautiful instrumental sitting just after a song as raw as 'Power', a song which itself juxtaposes soulful backing chants with a sample of ‘21st Century Schizoid.' Ambitious? You bet.

And it pays off. This is a record which runs for over an hour but every moment feels warranted, and it's one of those rare times where the length of an album seems like a flat out virtue rather than a challenge to your ambition as a listener. Fantasy is deep, not so much in its themes but certainly in its musical content; it writhes, spasms, collapses and rises with every passing egotistical verse and every perfectly selected sample, but in the end it emerges on its feet, towering over everything it tackles and ready for every piano note, every arrogant syllable to be digested. It remains to be seen how Fantasy will affect the mainstream, because it really is a monster of a record, but it at least sets its stall out as a nominee for Best Album.

Of All Time.



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user ratings (2942)
Chart.
4.2
excellent
other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Knott-
Emeritus
November 23rd 2010


10198 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

redundant or something

Realm
November 23rd 2010


2074 Comments


fuckin wao

Counterfeit
November 23rd 2010


17819 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

review rules so hard

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
November 23rd 2010


16921 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

of all time? really? review rules though pos

Digging: Low Roar - 0

Athom
Staff Reviewer
November 23rd 2010


17231 Comments


oh hey, what do we have here? love this album but monster is such a horrible song.

Hep Kat
November 23rd 2010


15399 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

of all time ugh ugh ugh ugh


pos ugh

Digging: Burning Kitchen - Many Wonder About the Meaning of Life

ShadowRemains
November 23rd 2010


21633 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

killer review, pos'd

Realm
November 23rd 2010


2074 Comments


monster is awesome getoutman

plane
Staff Reviewer
November 23rd 2010


6100 Comments


What I like about Kanye is that he is his music. He's one of the few mainstream artists that honestly feels like he's representing who he is. That means we get the asshole who charges on stage to interrupt Taylor Swift in the same verse we get the guy who is strapped to the back of that asshole, a knowing and vulnerable guy who can't call the shots on what the media skews. He shows it here, in his music. The problem isn't that Kanye the Ego can't be separated from his music, but that people don't know how to allow the music to speak for Kanye the Ego, or that it really isn't as shallow as it's presented. I'm not convinced he's trying to get us to forget his exploits but that we see it from his perspective- a guy trying to balance a down-to-earth everyman status while filling a role as a driving force in pop culture. That'd make anyway a little unhinged; worse if you're self-aware about it. The lyrics might not always pull off that great emotional depth those of us keep pointing at, but that's because Kanye isn't a great lyricist, he just happens to write honestly and indulgently.

I like that you tackle the album from a musical standpoint, since most critics I've read have approached it like I just did and no one really seems to justify its classic status on the merits of its strong production. And I can see what you're getting at trying to take the spotlight off the jerk persona for those who won't give the guy a chance at all. I'm just convinced that it's essential to understanding why this album really hits as hard as it does.

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
November 23rd 2010


15082 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

kanye is on a mission they say is impossible

Douglas
November 23rd 2010


9201 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

aaaamazing review

Knott-
Emeritus
November 23rd 2010


10198 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

I can't really argue with what you just said, Lewis, except for the last line. I think in my head the reason why this album is so phenomenal is because of West's personality and whatnot being displayed indirectly through the music rather than directly - through the choices he makes in production and lyrics, which if you think about it arguably is much better because it involves the 'genius' in the process and the 'genius' in the product, whereas the way some people are talking about it I get the impression this album could sound like anything and because of the shit that's happened since/including 808s people would still be giving it 5/5 and praising the shit out of it for all the same reasons and citing different examples that fit the narrative.

conradtao
Emeritus
November 23rd 2010


2090 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Great review, Adam.. it really is nice to read a review that focuses entirely on the music instead of projecting Kanye's personality directly on their analysis.

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
November 23rd 2010


17945 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

hey

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
November 23rd 2010


24098 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

album rules, the hype is well deserved

Digging: Mitski - bury me at makeout creek

FromDaHood
Contributing Reviewer
November 23rd 2010


9067 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Chan just got shat on

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
November 23rd 2010


15743 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

well no

JustJoe
November 23rd 2010


1399 Comments


Good show, Mr. Adam Knott.

Knott-
Emeritus
November 23rd 2010


10198 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

thankyou for kind words!

hi chan

Inveigh
November 23rd 2010


25199 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

whoa this review is awesome

and whoever said that about projecting Kanye's personality on their analysis should probably not say anything anymore; because as much as this review hits home due to the theme of focusing on the music, I think it's equally important to analyze how Kanye's personality (which is inherently projected through his music) affected the events that helped inspire this record. and to ignore that and try to dig at a review that hits on a relevant point (especially when you haven't provided any sort of insight or analysis regarding this record yet at all) is a bit arrogant.



Digging: Nero Di Marte - Derivae



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