My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
[Rating: 4.5 stars]
You already know if you want to listen to this – at this point in the decline and fall of western civilization, it’s hard not to have an opinion on Kanye West. The most celebrated and vilified entertainer of the post millennial era, West is the tantrum-throwing enfant terrible of the Twitter-era, a car crash caught on YouTube, more infamous for acting like a brat than for anything else. And if you happen to be a fan, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is the album your hoping for – a soul-baring journey into twisted, out-of-control world of modern celebrity that explains, without excuse, the man’s rather unwieldy public unraveling since the release of 2008’s 808s & Heartbreak. And if you’re not a fan, well…you’re entitled to your own opinion. Sadly, you’ll be missing out on this year’s most compelling and progressive pieces of popular music.
The new album is sonically more akin to the heavier, weirder end of ’70s prog rock and it’s R&B counterparts from that era, full of fuzzy bass riffs and out-of-the-blue-orchestral flourishes, and a willingness to get lengthy and abrasive when necessary, than what we’ve come to expect from commercial hip hop. Think Van Der Graaf Generator, Arthur Brown’s Kingdom Come or pre-Collins Genesis, but with guest appearances from Jay-Z and Rick Ross and lush, layered choral background singers, and you’ve got yourself an inkling of just how different this is from your run of the mill record, hip hop or otherwise. From the King Crimson-sampling “Power,” to Dadaist-club bangers like “Monster” and porn-fuzz thump of “Hell of a Life”, to the nine minute album version of “Runaway”, complete with extended noise freakout, Fantasy goes about the task of reshaping our conceptions of modern music in hopes of overshadowing some of the most epic public transgression of the Internet.
And in that it succeeds wonderfully. After the celebri-beef and ALL CAPS blog posts fade away, Fantasy will stand as an album that dared to push the entire medium of recorded music forward, for better or worse.