OK, for the next hour or so I'm going to listen to the new Kanye West album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. It's my first listen. I know who Kanye West is, but I know next to nothing about his music. Since everyone seems to think this is the/one of the best albums of the year, I thought I'd give it a chance. Going in, though, I should stipulate that I'm not a big fan of pop/rap/hip hop blends...
First tune, "Dark Fantasy" did nothing for me. The guy can sing/rap, the production is slick, etc. But nothing. I should stipulate that as far as I'm concerned, music without a readily discernible band has to be something wonderful before it can be elevated beyond the level of dog shit.
Some OK rapping in "Gorgeous." I guess pop artists these days save a lot of money by not having to hire actual musicians. Or do they actually have real musicians play and then make it sound like there aren't any real musicians?
"POWER" samples King Crimson. I'm somehow impressed by this. Nice drum machine beat, too, and some good rapping. This would be cool if I were wasted at a club. An old fart like me, though, couldn't be seen diggin' it at the kind of bar they'd play this at. Better to maintain an aloof sense of cool; mysterious, but not obviously drunk.
"All of the Lights" really sounds like a club tune. Annoying drum machines, over-bearing production, and that angst-ridden, boy-band-sounding "listen to me, look at me, I'm rich, pity me" kinda vocal that reminds me of guys who couldn't do gym because they had asthma. Or something. Ugh.
Hmm... the intro to "Monster" is very promising. Further in sounds more like some pure rap. Of course, Jay-Z and a few other rappers will do that for a tune. Best tune so far. No pop, just rap. I can dig this. I do dig this. I'd pay for an album of this stuff... Er... [And yeah, this geezer likes rap and hates pop. What can I say?] Oh-oh, some sappy shit near the end...
[By the way, I'm not going to say anything about lyrics unless I hear something really stupid or really brilliant. Music ain't about words...]
It was really a sad day when rappers started using fake string sections in the music. "So Appalled" pretty much sums up my impression of this tune. The beat is even limp, and that's about as damning a thing I can say about an alleged rap tune as I can think of. Christ, I just heard some lyrics... "I never met a bitch that didn't need a little guidance..." "Life can be sometimes a little ridiculous..." "I keep bitches by the twos..." "Fucking ridiculous" repeated ad nauseum... No shit.
"Devil in a New Dress" is going for a neo-soul sound that I've heard done better on old Pharcyde albums. I highly recommend old Pharcyde albums, while we're on the topic (and because I'm trying to think of something to say until the next tune). I've heard shit like this before done lots better. Whoa... is that a guitar solo? Pretty bold... I guess...
OK, "Runaway" has got some stuff happening in the intro. "Let's have a toast for the douchebags." Best line of the album! I'm looking and I see this is a 9-minute tune. This is OK, but where's the bridge!? Bunch of echo-y shit... This one note on the piano thing was a lot cooler in "Raw Power" by The Stooges. Hmm... "Raw power, honey, just won't quit/Raw power I can feel it..." Oh, shit... Yeah... Nine minutes... Whoa! Some kind of robot voice! Wow! I'm truly moved. Well, not really. More boring strings with the one-note piano thing and some kind of robot guitar shit. A minute to go. Kanye (or somebody) is breathing heavy like he's actually playing the guitar or something. Auto tune! It was just a matter of time...
Oohh! Funky bass and beat for "Hell of a Life." Good rap shit. Fuck!! Lame auto-tune shit with arpeggio-ated keyboard. Lame drum beat shit ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba... Fuck this. I hear a bunch of special effects pretending to be a song. How a song with a line like "I think I fell in love with a porn star" can suck so hard... really sucks.
Two more songs to go...
"Blame Game:" Like most everything on this album, the rapping is good. But it's surrounded by such crap. Anyone over twenty who's actually moved by this "moving" music needs to get out more and listen to some real music. Now we've got Chris Rock (?) doing some kinda shit about "pussy." He's talking while some sad, "touching" piano shit plays. Fuck, does this ever suck.
The intro to "Lost in the World" actually has a chorus of auto-tuned vocals. If there is a lower form of music (unless performed by Devo), I don't know what it is. There is quite a nice melody in this tune. Now we got some world/African stuff... Sudden ending.
Pop music (and that is all that this is) should never take itself so seriously. Pop music relegates the musician to a kind of non-status (at best), or eliminates him/her altogether. It's very status as "music" is questionable. Look, I love a good catchy tune as much as the next person (who's Frank Zappa, in my imagination), but when so-called critics claim that an album like My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is the best album produced in a given year, they sound to me more like industry hacks than legitimate "music reviewers."
Clear your palate with this: