Album Review: Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Kanye West

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (released Nov. 22, 2010)

Finally, Kanye West’s new album has arrived and I couldn’t be happier.

Not because I’m a huge Kanye fanatic, you see. It’s because, hopefully, Kanye’s embarrassing PR antics will finally come to an end. Since the last time I reviewed a Kanye album – the reviled 808s & Heartbreak – the man has made America’s sweetheart Taylor Swift cry, pissed of President Obama AND former President Bush, replaced his teeth with diamonds and made a fool of himself on the Today Show.

And that’s just the dumb stuff that sprung to mind off the top of my head.

All those ridiculous stunts have paved the way for Kanye’s fifth album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (what’s with all the long, bizarre, comma-less album titles this year?). And it’s a reflection of Kanye’s long, strange journey.

“Dark Fantasy,” the sinister album opener produced with the help of the RZA and No I.D., shows us that Kanye has grown leaps and bounds lyrically from his early days in the teddy bear costume: “The plan was to drink until the pain over/But what’s worse? The pain or the hangover/Fresh air, rolling down the win-dow/too many Urkels on your team, that’s why your Wins-low.” That might be my favorite line of the year.

As the album continues to delve into Kanye’s psyche, it becomes a reflection of all his tabloid mishaps of the past two years. “Power” and “So Appalled” sees Ye wrestling with fame, again spitting some of the best rhymes of his career, while “Devil In a New Dress” and “Blame Game” detail his constant relationship woes. For those, like me, who thought we’d never again hear the self-conscious, backpacker Kanye of the mid 00s, check out “Blame Game.” Listening to Ye go at it with his lady, and himself, over such a soulful tune will remind you why we put up with the guy in the first place. He’s as intriguing as he is infuriating. The Chris Rock outro is hilarious, as well.

The album’s most impressive trait is how it’s able to meld contrasting genres into one package. “Lost In The World,” which swagger-jacks Bon Iver’s “Woods,” somehow becomes a weird, upbeat – yet still haunting – dance track. It will set techno clubs ablaze. And “Runaway,” which I initially was not a fan of, fits much better in the context of this bleak album. The single, repetitive piano note makes it sound like a score from a horror film.

Many fellow reviewers have christened this album a near-perfect work – um, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The album is far from flawless. It tries much too hard to be epic, instead of letting it happen organically. “All of the Lights” is a perfectly good song (even with whiny Rihanna on the hook) without 294 additional vocalists on the track. Alicia Keys, Charlie Wilson, The-Dream (ugh) – what’s the point, other than to show off Ye’s celebrity ties? It doesn’t matter if Ye added the California Raisins – Fergie totally ruins the song anyway. “Monster” suffers from the same problem – too many cooks in the kitchen. And sure, I like the aforementioned “Runaway” but it begins to wear out its welcome after about five minutes – why did we need five additional minutes AND auto-tune?

Kanye gets caught up in his own hype. Surprise, surprise.

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is all things Kanye: complicated, hilarious, dark, extravagant, perverse, intricate and brilliant – although, at times, not as brilliant as it thinks. It’s truly a diary of a madman.

Let’s have a toast for the douchebag.

Best tracks: “Devil In A New Dress,” “Blame Game,” “So Appalled”

4 stars out of 5

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