Sunday, 30 January 2011

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
released 22 November 2010 on Mercury

There are many reasons to admire Kanye West. His use of social media and constant self-promotion make him one of the best marketers in the business. He’s created some of the best tracks of the past decade, from slow jams to meditations on religion. He’s not afraid to try new ideas and he always makes the uncompromising albums that he wants to make. Unfortunately, this time, Kanye’s aim isn’t true.

Despite receiving almost blanket praise since its release, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is an arduous listen. Kanye’s always believed the hype surrounding him (in fact, most of it’s self-generated) but here he descends into solipsism all too often. He’s clearly a man on a mission, keen to tell the world that he’s still the top dog the others have to beat, but he takes it too far. Interludes aside, only three tracks clock in at under five minutes, making My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy over one hour long. That’s a large amount of space for any record to fill, and Kanye tries to do it with little more than braggadocio at times.

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy has its share of good tunes, they just tend to outstay their welcome. Also, Kanye isn’t as good as he think he is. The album is littered with guest appearances and, as a rule, they show him up and provide a welcome relief from Kanye’s monologues. Monster is a case in point - it’s one of the best tracks but would be better yet if it featured no Kanye whatsoever. If the intention of Monster is to showcase how threatening you are, Kanye comes off worst, with Nicki Minaj in particular putting in a performance so intense as to be positively unnerving.

It must be said, however, that the production on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is top notch. It’s edgy, it’s brooding and remarkably gritty for a mainstream star. Kanye is arguably the biggest star in hip-hop since the salad days of Eminem, and thankfully he hasn’t gone down the same route of bouncy pop novelty like Shady did.

There’s a fantastic album lurking within My Dark Twisted Fantasy. It has the same number of tracks but is about a third shorter. It’s not so obsessed with revenge and retribution, and it features Kanye in the form of his first two records. Unfortunately, what we’re left with is a bloated mess and the promise of what might have been.

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