Review Summary: Kanye West: deservedly arrogant.
It’s fair to say Kanye West has caused quite a bit of controversy in his time; from insulting America’s favourite folk princess to effectively calling its former president a racist, he has undoubtedly upset his fair share of people. On top of this, his arrogance is totally unrivalled and his frequent on-stage outbursts make even the mere idea of seeing him live almost unbearable. It’s remarkably easy to forget about the music this man is creating and write him off as just another talentless, materialistic mainstream rapper due to his personality – unfortunately, this impression could not be more wrong.
You see, everything about this album is beyond huge; the juxtaposition between the effortlessly massive, swaggering opener [i]Dark Fantasy[i] and the beautifully vulnerable and revealing closer [i]Lost in the World[i] perhaps best highlights what makes this album such a masterpiece – that, surprisingly, Kanye West understands when to tone down his arrogance and when to use it to his advantage. For example, on songs such as Power and Monster his superciliousness is clear in the lyrics – [i]“everybody knows I’m a mother*****ing monster”[i], for instance - yet instead of coming across as abrasively egotistical, Kanye West manages to convey his overconfidence as vitality and achieves what most mainstream rappers at: making it an enjoyable listen.
At the other end of the spectrum, you have songs like the aforementioned [i]Lost in the World[i] and [i]Blame Game[i], where Kanye West’s conceited facade disintegrates and you see an exposed, emotional musician. Perhaps the most powerful of these quieter moments is the nine minute long epic, [i]Runaway[i]. What makes this song particularly remarkable is that when watching Kanye West speak, he comes across as having the emotional maturity of a 5 year old, yet at points in this song he sounds as if he has the self-understanding and honesty of an experienced guidance counsellor.
Due to its extremely long track length and fundamental simplicity, in the hands of a lesser producer [i]Runaway[i] could easily be perceived as a pretentious, tedious ballad – yet because of its heartfelt production it manages to captivate for its entirety. In fact, glancing down the track listing and seeing an average of about 6 minutes per song and almost every track having a guest star, you would be forgiven for expecting the result to be a disaster. However, the songs never come across as elongated or dreary and the multiple guest spots seem to serve their purpose to support Kanye West only, and they never steal the show from him nor come across as awkwardly out of place.
So, when listening to [i]My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy[i], try to forget all preconceptions. Close your eyes and put the tantrums and the narcissism out of your mind and just listen to the music. And who knows, maybe you too will come to the conclusion that Kanye West’s arrogance isn’t [i]totally[i] unfounded.