Review Summary: the man everyone hates to love has returned with an ambitious scope to lay claim to something undeniably brilliant that’s (for once) worthy of its praise.You might think you've piqued a scene, but you haven't: the real one’s far too mean. The watered down one - the one you know - was made up centuries ago. It made it sound all whack and corny, yes, it's awful, blasted, boring. Twisted fiction, sick addiction; well gather ‘round children - zip it, listen!
Obnoxious, chauvinistic, crude, arrogant, presumptuous, egotistical - they are all words pertaining to Kanye West’s persona, but let’s give credit where it’s due: he’s a god damn genius. Despite whatever your perspective of the man is, we can’t deny that he’s a marketing aficionado. Whether he’s sampling Daft Punk’s well-known, infectious electronica anthem “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” or collaborating with any number of artists, he’s done his part in making himself relevant in pop culture and has become the subject of much controversy (his proclamation of being the “new Michael Jackson” and his recent notorious spiel at the Video Music Awards Ceremony during which he publicly embarrassed Taylor Swift.) Up until this point, his personality has been swiftly conveyed through his albums in such an in-your-face manner that it’s off-putting and difficult to enjoy the music of a man who’s so clearly riding a wave of vanity all the way to the top of the charts. However, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
is a statement - something that could only derive from the psyche of someone as sporadic and odd as Kanye; distinguishing itself from anything the boisterous star has done in the past, while still feeling comfortable enough to retain old fans.
As previously stated, Kanye has asserted that he is the new king of pop, a comment I noticed many people met with disdain. But isn’t he? Justify it however you need to - be it that you think he is the personification of pop music, or just that of the predominantly watered-down radio pop - in the end you have the same answer. Essentially, he’s transcended his art to the point where people are more wrapped up in him than his actual music, but that just helps make his music so much more authentic, because had anyone else released this album, it wouldn’t have been met with laudatory notice. His unrelenting ego has become a staple of his persona, which is further fueled by the general media and his ever growing fan-base, which I’d normally say is a bad thing, but after contemplating it I’ve come to a new conclusion. You see, whereas most people are modest, Kanye is overtly confident and pleased with himself in everything he does, almost to the point where you’d think he believes he’s some celestial being sent here to grace us with his presence. Aren’t a lot of us guilty of building up such a complex, though? Perhaps Kanye is simply more self-aware of this than most are or are willing to admit, which is why his music sounds so fearless and confident - because it is. It’s embedded all throughout this album; especially when Kanye boasts: ‘The same people that tried to blackball me forgot about two things: my black balls’ on "Gorgeous”. The charm of his aggressive candor knows no bounds, but you really have to respect just how honest and ‘out-there’ he is. His extroverted nature has worked to both his advantage and disadvantage in the past, but on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
he opts to take things more seriously and as a result, has laid claim to something undeniably brilliant that’s (for once) worthy of its praise.
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
is led with Nicki Minaj’s elocution of Roald Dahls’ rework of “Cinderella”, which leads into an uplifting choir, crooning “Can we get much higher?” on “Dark Fantasy”. This retelling excerpt’s changed context brings a good point to the surface- the scene we’ve come to know is mostly a watered-down expression of hip-hop. It’s an excellent introduction that serves to show that this is a large departure in sound from 808s And Heartbreaks
’ front-loaded nature. It’s more extravagant and vastly superior in sound and style (the reduction of vocoder was a wise decision). The album’s tracks are very catchy - each and every song features some hook or vocal croon that just captures the mood perfectly and sticks in your head, notably the choruses. While most infectious pop music is tempered somewhat by the fact that it’s simple and gimmicky, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
is intricate and artistic for several reasons. Kanye has acquired the talents of Jay-Z, M.I.A., Raekwon, GZA, Bon Iver, Rick Ross, Elton John, Alicia Keys, Rihanna, and many, many more; all of them contributing to the best of their abilities and adding creativity (on “All of the Lights” Kanye enlists 11 artists!). Many people were also called upon specifically for hand clapping, french horn, cello, trumpet, and so much more. Quite possibly one of the biggest and most pleasant surprises is Elton John’s piano contributions, specifically “Blame Game”, a gorgeous, evocative song. “Blame Game” has possibly one of the crudest, most foul-mouthed tongue-in-cheek sections on the entire album, delivered by Chris Rock, as the emotionally cripplingly story of being mentally exasperated comes to an end with alluringly dirty admiration. Sections like this seem a little unconventional for Kanye, but they add immeasurably to the final outcome as they weave a tapestry so grand that it takes more than a couple of listens to fully gorge on all of the subtleties - all of which culminate into one exquisite listen with the phenomenal closing one-two punch “Lost in the World/Who Will Survive in America”. Supplying the best chorus on the entire album, “Lost in the World” builds and builds until it explodes with thundering drums and vocal shouts - leading right into the spoken word outro "Who Will Survive in America".
The lyrical content, while not necessarily adequate at points, still translates well and undeniably tugs at the heartstrings of its listener: such as those found in Blame Game - “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?” It could be argued that lyrical content like this works simply because of how relatable it is to the listener. Another notable moment is the spoken word closer “Who Will Survive in America”, a scathing criticism of the deterioration and degradation of America.
So, be it the quizzical nature of “Monster”, the beautifully piano laden “Blame Game”, the chopped sampling of King Crimson’s “21st Century Schizoid Man” on "Power", the brilliant latter half of the 9 minute epic “Runaway”, the serene prelude to “Power”, or the tranquil beauty of “Lost in the World”’s ending vocal intonation evocative of African chant, there are just too many reasons to love My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
. Kanye has reinvented the wheel and restored faith in popular music and knowing the man behind the music and his journey to this pivotal point in time seems almost key to fully enjoying and appreciating My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
. Kanye’s obviously appealing to a larger demographic and although we know that the last thing he needs is to have his ego further stroked, the reception his latest LP is garnering is more than validated. Like it or not, he’s here to stay, and he’s welcomed gracefully.