Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Album Review - Kanye West "808's and Heartbreak"

Let me ask this: Where would music be without Kanye West?

Kanye West does not do Subtle. He does not do humble. He does however give everything he has to his craft….absolutely EVERYTHING.

I say this after seeing his jaw dropping “Glow in the Dark Tour” this summer in Toronto.

Kanye, unlike most artists insisted his performance be just him, on stage showcasing his music. No Band, no backup singers just him….and he pulled it off flawlessly.

There aren’t many artists that I can think of that can pull this off for 1 or 2 songs let alone an entire 1 ½ hour show (save for Lupe Fiasco’s brief appearance onstage at the end of the show). Kanye pulled it off and then some.

So it would be understandable for a someone like Kanye to want to take a break. I mean he is coming off 3 hit records (College Dropout, Late Registration, Graduation) in 4 years AND one of the years most successful tours. Wouldn’t you want to take a break and enjoy life for a bit?

Not Kanye West.

He is motivated, driven and always pushing the boundaries of what he’s capable of and what defines music today. So instead of taking time off to enjoy life, Kanye ventured back into the studio where he is most comfortable and proceeded to write, record and produce an entire album from start to finish in 3 months.

Enter “808’s and heartbreak. Kanye’s latest, and most ambitious effort to date.

Those looking for the traditional Kanye West flash won’t find it here. With the exception of a couple of rhymes on the albums best and most accessible track “Paranoid” Kanye has decided to try his hand at singing, albeit with the assistance of today’s most popular Studio tool the Autotune. And not surprisingly it works.

Sticking to distinctly non-hip-hop rhythms and new-wave-era Synths, Kanye has managed to reinvent himself as a vocalist. It’s also VERY important to note that the production on 808's is the best it has ever been...EVER.

Lyrically Kanye has never been more introspective as evidenced by the albums 2nd track “Welcome to the Heartbreak” where he bemoans: “My friend showed me pictures of his kids/And all I could show him were pictures of my cribs/He said his Daughter got a brand-new report card/And all I got was a brand-new sports car.”

The first 2 singles “Love Lockdown and Heartless” set a nice tone for fans venturing into this album. They set a nice scene for what to expect kind of like dipping your toe in before wading into a pool for the first time.

As mentioned the albums best track (other than the 2 singles) is the bouncy Synth infused “Paranoid” which is one of the only tracks where we’re treated to a traditional Kanye verse.

Another standout is the Drum heavy string enriched club anthem “Robocob” where he sings “'Bout the baddest girl I ever seen /Straight up outta movie scene /Who knew she was a drama queen /That'll turn my life to Stephen King's”

Overall Kanye has managed to reinvent himself even if it is for a short time. There is no way he continues this Autotune progression into a new record. In fact one of the things that for me reduces the impact of this album is that I know there is no way this album sustains itself like his other work will 3 years from now when the Autotune phase of music is long dead and buried.

But again that’s reason enough for Kanye to make this album now. So that when people look back on this time in music he can say he made one of the best albums of its time in that mold.

Bottom line is that as long as we have a guy like Kanye West around who is willing to take chances and push not only his own boundaries but the boundaries of music then I think we’re all going to be ok.

So I ask again: Where would music be without Kanye West? I hope we never need to find that out.

8 out of 10

Download these: Paranoid, Robocop, Heartless, Love Lockdown, Welcome to the heartbreak

1 comment:

San Fran said...

Solid, solid review Steve! Ashir told me you posted a review for this, so I had to peep it!

This day in age our accessibility to leaked versions, advance copies, etc is like never before in the history of recorded music...but I've found myself purposely waiting until that specific Tuesday's release date and running to my local Best Buy or FutureShop to cop the latest release of a specific artist.

This past Tuesday was no different when I went and picked up my copy of '808's and Heartbreak'.

I love the way you compared Kanye's first 2 singles like the way a new swimmer puts their toes in the water for the first true! I knew I was getting something fresh, and something definitely different for Kanye - but I have been enjoying this album steadily for the past 4 days.

Although I'm not a huge fan of 'Love Lockdown' (although the percussion on that track is stellar!) I agree with you on all of the standout tracks you mentioned. 'Amazing' feat. Young Jeezy would be the song I'd replace 'Love Lockdown' with for my personal favorites.

Again, well written - I'll keep checkin' for your thoughts. Feel free to peep my musings on my blog when you get the chance.


P.S. - I too am glad we don't have to wonder what music would be like without Yeezy's contributions!