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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    ‘Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ redeems controversial Kanye

    Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy redeems controversial Kanye

    Kanye West has one hell of a history. It seems like his public life is always up for debate and, usually, his decisions are controversial and perhaps embarrassing. Between the Taylor Swift debacle, the “”George Bush doesn’t care”” comments, and various meltdowns, it seems like West is always seeking some redemption. And with today’s drop of his newest album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, he gets it. Regardless of West’s choices, his new album proves one thing: West is pretty damn talented. Maybe that’s where his crazy comes from — his own weird brand of genius.

    But crazy isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is insane and absurd in the best of all possible ways, letting you know up front that it’s heavy and ambitious through its title alone. The opening track, “”Dark Fantasy,”” is a voiceover from Nicki Minaj, one of the many featured guest artists on the album. Minaj’s voice starts sweet and then contorts, finally yeilding to West’s rap — rap! what we missed on 808s and Heartbreaks — and his rhymes are as good as they were on his first album, The College Dropout, in 2004.

    If there’s anything we’ve learned from West, he is most definitely not a private guy. This latest album not only reflects his disclosure and vulnerability, but celebrates and even flaunts it. The heart of the album is “”Runaway,”” a nine-minute, intense track that begins with a single piano key played over, and over — and over. It’s nerve-racking and anxiety inducing but gives way to some fantastic vocals from West, singing; his voice is stripped and painful in a way that’s surprising. “”Runaway”” is West’s response to Taylor Swift’s public forgiveness of West, which in itself seemed bitter. On “”Runaway,”” West is personal and confides in his audience, conceding to his faults, offering that he “”always find(s) something wrong … I’m so gifted at finding what I don’t like the most.”” My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is West’s revelation about the impermanence and phony nature of celebrity — and that West himself can’t seem to escape it. It feels a little inappropriate to say that West is poignant, but there it is.

    Even the cover art is subversive. The original album cover, which West revealed on Oct. 17, featured a graphic portrait by artist George Condo of West being straddled by a naked, winged woman. iTunes pixelated the cover for their release of the album, and since then, West has revealed four other album covers also by Condo, all of which will be available with purchase. One features a ballerina, one a twisted portrait of West in a crown, the next the decapitated King West with a sword buried in the skull, the last only the crown and the sword in the grass, West’s skull long disintegrated. Even the art echoes West’s message on the album, that he’s just as prone to being forgotten as any celebrity, no matter his greatness.

    Besides its intense personal nature, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is loaded with impressive guest artists and experimental sounds. The album is almost aggressively schizophrenic, but it works, because it’s as close to an aural memoir an artist could get. “”All of the Lights,”” the album’s fifth track, is a veritable who’s who of musical talent. The song features Rihanna, Alicia Keys, Fergie, The-Dream, Ryan Leslie, Elton John, Charlie Wilson, Kid Cudi, John Legend, Tony Williams and Elly Jackson. It seems like with so much talent on one compact track — five minutes, one of the shortest on the album — it could get competitive and West would be forgotten. But he isn’t. In fact, the combination of great vocals and big-band instrumental background do wonders for West’s lyrics.

    The only negative to the release of his latest creation is that it’s probably the best thing West will ever put out. It’s his opus — and though that seems presumptuous, even an early listen of the full-length album leaves little room for contention on that point. The total track time comes in at a staggering hour and eight minutes, but it never seems tedious. Every track is solid, despite minor flaws and a bit of clumsiness — and even that’s endearing, damn it. West lets his friends shine, too, only to the delight of fans — RZA of Wu-Tang is prominent on the album (and did a good part in production), and John Legend and Chris Rock punch out a great track with “”Blame Game,”” Legend’s gorgeous, jazzy piano woven in with Rock’s jokes.

    The album hurtles breathlessly towards its final track, “”Who Will Survive in America,”” a minute-and-a-half outro featuring a speech by Gil Scott-Heron played over a breathy beat with bongo drums and piano throughout. It’s a release from the emotional drain of the rest of the album, but it isn’t light by any means. Heron’s words are provocative and loaded, making it a fitting close. Whatever statements he’s trying to make with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, he’s definitely reminding the musical world that he’s a tough contender.

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