Review Summary: 'And I'mma let you finish but I got Beyoncé on the track.' You see him now, ladies and gentlemen, you see him now.
Kanye West has had many a meltdown at award shows; he’s even claimed George Bush doesn’t care about black people. His most controversial moment, however, was without a doubt his stand for the greater good against Taylor Swift at the 2009 VMAs. Feeling his pal Beyoncé had been left out of the limelight unfairly, he went up on the stage as Taylor was accepting her award for best female video and said the famous quote, "Taylor, I'm really happy for you, and I'm gon’ let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time!" The whole ordeal exploded into a media circus, with memes quoting Kanye running rampant across every mainstream website on the internet almost instantly. Everyone entitled to an opinion now saw the artist as a laughing stock or worse, thinking there was no way his career could recover. Kanye certainly did apologise to Taylor as soon as he recovered from his state of inebriation but by then it was too late, he was now the guy it was cool to hate. He knew there was only one way he could come back from something like this.
When Brian Wilson first heard The Beatle’s Rubber Soul
, he exclaimed to his wife, ‘I'm gonna make the greatest album! The greatest rock album ever made!’ Now Kanye was in the same position, only this wasn’t to best the Beatles, this was an effort that would make-or-break him; his only chance to redeem himself.
The album opens with Dark Fantasy
, which has Nicki Minaj introducing us to what we’re about to be exposed to by reworking Roald Dahl’s poetic take on the fairy tale, Cinderella. After this brief introduction, we’re hit by a swirling choir of voices; some of them looping; some of them altered by studio magic; all of them repeating the same phrase: ‘can we get much higher?’ It’s as ambitious as it is ambiguous, with Kanye rapping about the literal highs of the celebrity lifestyle but also using the song as a little less than modest way of announcing he knows he’s created a masterpiece – he’s successfully redeemed himself.
Homer Simpson once told his wife that, ‘being famous is great, people know your name but you don’t know theirs.’ If anyone has the grounds to disagree with that, it’s Kanye. He knows just how poisonous being famous can be for anyone; he proclaims on Power
that, ‘no one man should have all that power,’ alluding to how easy it is to be corrupted when you’re rich and famous. He goes a little bit further than merely observing the problem and being disgusted by it, he even contemplates suicide, ‘now this would be a beautiful death, jumpin’ out the window!’ On first impression, it’s easy to be confused. The man has as much money as anyone could ever want; he’s got talent, being able to make top-notch productions whenever he wants to; he leads the celebrity life he’s rapped about loving so many instances before now... so why does he want to kill himself? It’s not too hard once you look at the downsides of being famous or, really, just being Kanye West himself. Anything he does will always be in the public eye and everyone who watches him will be constantly judging him; no matter how hard he tries to be nice, he’s just going to end up being stabbed in the back*; the people he tries so hard to please with his music are more vultures than friends, ready to turn on him as soon as it’s convenient for them.
Kanye seems to conveniently forget how much he despises his life when it comes to songs like All of The Lights
and Lost In The World
or maybe he’s just analysed himself so much, he’s become completely okay with being a hypocrite and contradicting himself at every possible turn. All of The Lights
is quite an ambitious track, with an instrumental interlude before it, featuring Elton John playing a piano piece he composed, accompanied by a violin. When the interlude comes to a close, you’re assaulted by an addictively good brass section. Kanye has been described before as an alchemist, as if he’s just gifted at putting lego blocks together. Simply speaking, that’s what he does with All of The Lights
: he rounded up the voices he liked the most from around the world and got them to sing the same parts, then he merged their voices together to create a unique flurry of sounds. And it works damn well. In the song, Kanye literally raps about all of the lights associated with celebrity culture, showing off (once again) how awesome his life is. Lost In The World
is a little more interesting, with a surprising Bon Iver sample thrown into the mix that mostly dominates the song. Kanye’s new in the city and he’s down for the night and man, is he gonna have fun or what? This is just the life Kanye leads and it is
the life. At one stage in the song, a group of female vocalists pop up imploring Kanye or perhaps the listener to ‘run from the lights, run for your life.’ Maybe the grand disillusion with the life Kanye has created for himself that we saw in Power
is not completely gone.
When you look deep into your own mind, promising yourself you won’t try to sugarcoat or hide anything you might be embarrassed by, what you find is always dark and worrying but at the same time, beautiful and reassuring. The end result is twisted and conflicting. That’s what we as humans are: we’re too complicated to be purely good or bad, on the side of the greater good or evil. We just... are, with all of our hopes and dreams and all of our selfishness and flaws. Kanye’s fifth album draws you in despite being incredibly repulsive. It gives you hope about the future of humanity even though it displays some of the worst any human has to offer. Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
is aptly titled, with all of its adjectives ringing through during every song. The thing is that – and this is probably the main point most people miss about this album – this is the furthest thing from a fantasy of Kanye’s as you can get. This is Kanye for the world to see; a man at his core coming clean to himself; coming clean to the rest of the world. And what we see is mesmerising because most of us can’t even deal with being truthful to ourselves, let alone confessing all of our great qualities and all of our brutal faults to everyone who’s ever judged you. Throughout the album, we see Kanye try and figure out how he’s coping with his own moral decline; his grandiosity; his celebrity lifestyle and his own self-doubt brought upon him by these factors and the fact that everyone had turned against him. That’s why so many of the messages in the fourteen songs on the album contradict themselves: when have any of us ever been able to remain consistent with the big issues in our own personal lives?
The unstable emotional peak of the album comes with a set of songs, all of which deal with Kanye’s incompetence when it comes to his love life. The first of which is Devil In A New Dress
, which features the best production on the album and some of Kanye’s wittiest lyrics, ‘the way you look should be a sin, you my sensation.’ It is, however, one of his most brutally honest songs, with him accepting that perhaps he became wealthy and famous the wrong way; that the record companies he worked with were the same as selling his soul to the devil. He is human though and therefore concedes, ‘I love it though, I love it though.’ Despite the fact that he feels he compromised himself and brought more emotional turmoil on himself than he could deal with, he still feels he’s better off where he is than where he’d be if he hadn’t started producing in the first place. On top of the self-doubt in Devil In A New Dress
is Kanye’s failure at trying to stay committed to someone, ‘text message break up, the casualty of tour.’ If that tells us anything about Kanye and his problems with women, then Runaway
must be an encyclopedia of sorts, with a strong, simple piano beat keeping Kanye company throughout the song. In it, he admits, ‘And I always find, yeah I always find something wrong,’ referring to his constant inability to just be happy with what he’s got, mostly talking about relationships but also alluding to his life as a whole. The first half of the song is as self-introspective as anyone can get but apparently Kanye can take more of an emotional teaspoon than I can. His rapping and singing come to a conclusion and several cellos start playing alongside the piano as the man starts sobbing into a vocoder that renders his voice incoherent. Even when you’ve poured your heart out to millions about every subject important to you, I suppose you have to give yourself the self-respect of hanging onto something for yourself. I may not be able to hear what he’s saying during the last three minutes of Runaway
but I’ll tell you, it’s probably the most emotional and honest segment of the entirety of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Kanye knew he’d have to pull out all the stops on this album and that means being brave and crazy enough to do things nobody else would; he sampled Bon Iver for Lost In The World
; he sampled King Crimson for Power
and he sampled a piano solo composed by Aphex Twin for Blame Game
, a song sung by John Legend narrates the breakup of Kanye’s. The rapping segment literally tells the story of the breakup, from a relationship that was imploding to Kanye deciding to walk away before he finds out his girlfriend was cheating on him. Once again, Kanye is left to wonder how such a horrible thing can happen to a guy with such a great life, ‘with so much of everything, how did we leave with everything?’
So there you have it – a man destroys his reputation and successfully builds it back up with one of the greatest hip-hop albums ever made. He looked deep inside his heart, ripped it from his chest and offered it to the legions of people who hated him. And he did it with a set of great songs, from the way they were composed, produced to their lyrical content. That’s where the bonus track, See Me Now
comes in. Just as he predicted on Dark Fantasy
, Kanye had successfully made his way back into the hearts of the people by creating a masterpiece and now that you, the people, have listened the whole way through, here is his triumphant victory song. If it was anyone else, you’d think of it as unnecessary bragging but with Kanye, you sort of want to sing along. In a case of Kanye West versus The People, Kanye came out on top. He has a right to celebrate; Because of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
, I forgive him for what he did. You should too.