Passing Opinion Off As Fact Since 2009

Passing Opinion Off As Fact Since 2009

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

My Favorite Thing: November 2010 Part II

The Record


It all would not matter if it were not for the fact that My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is a great, great, great record. Like supergreat, great.


"Dark Fantasy"*



Back in my humble days as a Psychology undergrad I learned that Manic Depressives are at a greater danger of committing suicide when just coming out of depression than when they are at their lowest. This is the same fact that separates Kanye’s last release, 808’s And The Heartbreak, and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

At the time I wondered at the raw honesty that was 808’s; however, the recency of the emotion that lead to its writing also resulted in a scattered, unfocused, simplistic, and a bit too on the nose album. Even fans of the record, which I was and still am, acknowledged it was pact with few too many cringe worthy moments. On the other hand, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy sounds like pain honestly examined and a genius ready to work again.

A lot of people are called perfectionist these days but Kanye is special combination of perfectionist and crazy person. In the last week I have read multiple quotes saying that they never saw him go to bed during the recording, instead he would fall asleep mid-sentence while working in the studio. You can hear this effort, as the album’s dense production can only reveal itself over multiple listens.


"Monster"



Take “Monster” the most the most straightforward track on the album; the beat constantly changes to best support the vocal at the given moment. The beat changes 8 times during Nicki Minaj’s ridiculous verse alone!


"Gorgeous"



Yes, there are A LOT of guests on this album, which is not out of the ordinary for the genre. What is special is how each is so perfectly used and placed: Raekwon’s verse on “Gorgeous”, Rick Ross’s short but powerful 10 seconds on “Monster”, the insanity that is “All of the Lights”. Like a director, Kanye is able to place his character’s exactly where they need be and for exactly as long as they need to be there. I am reminded of a prime-era Woody Allen (of course I am) in that Kanye can get whomever he wants to play any part. No longer does John Legend need to sing every hook if some one else’s voice fits a song better. It is one of the many examples throughout the record of his brilliance in understanding the timber, tone, proportions, and space of music. Listen closely, preferably with headphones, as it is astonishing how much depth there is each of the songs.


"Blame Game"



After multiple close listens “Blame Game” has emerged to me to be the masterpiece of a masterpiece album made up of masterpieces. There is a lot going on, from the beautiful Aphex Twin sample to the improbably affective, darkly comedic Chris Rock epilogue. Still, what stands out is the schizophrenic second verse made up of a push and pull of sped up and slowed down vocals. Upon my third listen of the album as a whole, this moment brought me almost to tears. I do not relate to a lot of the content of record, still I believe why this record works is musically the meaning is a bit more abstract.


"Runaway"



“Runaway” is a very literal song that seemingly speaks to something very specific that happened. Upon my first 20 listens I appreciated the song as a gorgeous manifestation of a man trying to reconcile himself with his flaws, but then there was the 21st time. I was driving through central California as a quixotic exercise of blind idealism and “Runaway” came on exactly when my GPS directed me to cut through the Santa Lucia Mountains to get to the 1. As I swerved through the 9-mile stretch, the sound of the “dying cyborg” second half so drastically contrasted the pristine surroundings. It is the sound of a person “Lost in the World”, of self-inflicted isolation. We might not all be famous or workaholics or asshole, but that is universal.


"Lost in the World"



I am able to distance myself enough to determine that this is a 10.0 record - its progressive, complex, ambitious, emotionally candid, and fun – still it is stories like the above that makes it special. And knowing that there are millions of others who at the same time are also cementing their own unique bond is a heartening thought. As much as the polyculture is celebrated, it remains quite isolating. It is in this respect that My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is as much about the excess in American popular culture as it is Kanye’s. For the time being, redemption for both comes in the form of a universally celebrated piece of art.


"Who Will Survive in America"


* All of these embedded clips are from the Leaked version of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, which was cleverly released with radio edits. Intentional leaks are old hat nowadays but this record got all the hype benefits albeit people will still likely need to buy the album in its official version.

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