Second Opinion: Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Fucking Kanye, why do you insist upon invading my life? As if invading television and radio wasn’t enough, now you invade something I actually partake in: the internet; and this was before the “10.0” from Pitchfork. Well, ever since that internet zeitgeist blew it’s load over the album, forums haven’t shut up about. Sure, everyone loves to pretend they don’t read such “hipster garbage”, but the second they give Mr. West their first new release 10.0 in years, the internet goes wild. Not that I ever had a problem with the site (I’m a frequent reader), but guys, come on. It’s not sacrosanct.

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy has been talked about here before, all the way back when “Power” was still hot shit. Well, we reviewed the album (and by “we” I mean “I”) with the early rip, where the bitrate would change arbitrarily between tracks. Now I’ve got my hands on the real deal and my thoughts on the album have become a jumble. Is it a good album, is it his best album, does it deserve a perfect score, and why does everyone care so much? To answer in order: yes, no, no, and because someone had to stop Taylor Swift’s reign of terror. He didn’t kill her career, but hey, baby steps.qw

So once again I find myself talking about this album: honestly, I want to tear it apart simply for ruining the internet for what seems like the next few weeks. However, to ignore the quality and care that went into the album would be a critical oversight even the likes of Rolling Stone would do a double take to. In terms of where it fits into his career, I still think Late Registration is better, but this one tries awfully hard to be better than everything else he’s done. And it almost succeeds. First, lets talk about what works about the album.

The first thing you’ve got to talk about in terms of what the album does right, it’s the production. Songs like “Devil In A New Dress” and “All Of the Lights” shine with the same glittering soul that imbued tracks like “Jesus Walks” and the fantastic “We Major” with such power. “Hell Of A Life” is a powerhouse beat, “Power” makes good use of King Crimson’s “21st Century Schizoid Man”, and “Who Will Survive In America” rushes into an African death dance in the last seconds. Moments that I mentioned in my original review like “Devil”‘s bridge between West and Ross’s verse and the “All of the Lights” interlude are still as breathtaking as anything hes done.

As far as lyrics go, this is as succinct as any artist has come to defining themselves. The good, the bad, and of course, the ugly, are all on display in the album, from “Runaway” and it’s masochistic ripping apart of Kanye’s love life to “All of the Lights” mourning over the death of his hero MJ. Most of the album however rely on exercises of pure hedonism, realms Kanye is familiar with. Sure, he raps about everyone being self-conscious on The College Dropout, but hes also proud to say that he’s “the first one to admit it.” Hes a bag of hypocritical juxtapositions and odd sentimentality, and while sometimes you just want to smack him for all of his drama, you can’t help but realize that MBDTF is about as close as you can come to imbuing Kanye’s very soul into an album.

So what keeps the album from being perfect as I believe it isn’t? Well, for one, some songs just aren’t enough in comparison to the rest of the pack. “So Appalled” repeats itself for a minute or two too long, “Blame Game” is just plain tedious despite excellent sample work, and overall, some songs, even ones that work fine like “Runaway”, are a bit too long. This was obviously the point, but the best tracks on the album are also the shortest: “Monster” has the verses of a lifetime from Minaj and Z, “Power” hits hard and keeps it coming just long enough”, and “Devil In A New Dress” explores it’s fantastic beat between verses: it doesn’t dwell, it explores.

Apart from that, Kanye is still distractingly lacking as a rapper. Hes nye unbeatable at the table, but on the mic, he can still use some work. As I stated in my Big Boi review, he sounds distractingly obtuse compared to old pros like Pusha-T, Jay-Z, and especially Ross, who’s pimp persona rules the songs he’s on. Its a problem even without the terrific guests just plain schooling him sometimes; I’ve heard Kanye rap better than this even as far back as “Jesus Walks”.

He’s become to fond of relying on the “huh” and breaking into his singing voice, which needs some work. Hes trying to be the triple threat that Michael was, but he only has one talent, and even that is shakey on this album. And besides that, some lyrics completely fall apart; not even Kanye can make the lazy juxtapositions on “Lost In The World” work. He sounds almost as bad as Rivers Cuomo when he concedes that “your my devil, you my angel/your my heaven, your my hell”.

Beyond the more nagging, larger issues listed before, some small things can still bother. The skit with Chris Rock is enough to ruin the terrific slide into “Who Will Survive In America”, “Lost In the World” lacks the production depth of previous shiners, and some songs (I’m looking at you “So Appalled” and even “Devil In A New Dress”) like to repeat their chorus a bit too much, sometimes up to seven times in the same song. Along with the skipping verses and obligatory “huhs” that slide into the singing bits, Kanye is already meandering a bit too much for my taste.

All of these problems don’t ruin the album; it’s still probably his best since Late Registration, but it’s not perfect. He’s still not the best rapper, and juxtaposing him against the top of the game in the same songs isn’t helping. The production is fantastic, but some songs get tedious around the 6 minute mark. The lyrics fit into what we’d normally expect, but ramped up to the maximum, but the dopey lines are all the more obvious by comparison. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy tries to be perfect but simply becomes great. There have been better albums to come out this year, but not too many. It’s a defeating feeling, but it all doesn’t matter anyways; Kanye is critic-proof, but for what it’s worth, it’s a really good album, but not the really good album. Not that theres a problem with that.

by Trevor “Two-timing” Johnson

1 Comment

  1. 11/24/10: Happy Thanksgiving! « Avery Island: Musical Opinions From Music Geeks said,

    […] Second Opinion: Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Trevor Johnson LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

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