I wrote a review of MBDTF for the upcoming issue of Melt. Will post later.
Wow, where to begin. Firstly, I was really looking forward to hating this album. From the pitched-up, overly enunciated “white” voice that asks/sings “can we get much higher?” on the opening track, it seemed like the usual mix of obnoxious self-assurance and musical naivety that has rendered me less than a fan. The video for ‘Power’, which was released as a promo for the album in May, was an interesting enough portrait of Yee’s egocentricity, but even the use of King Crimson’s ‘21st Century Schizoid Man’ in that song came off as simply weird for weird’s sake. Appropriating a song from one of the most influential “progressive rock” albums of all time to symbolize one’s own “progressiveness” in the world of mainstream pop is a move that only the hollowest of human-shaped, money vacuums could pull off. So, when I “acquired” the album last week, I was expecting to jam on a verse or two and then delete the fuck out of it. That’s when things got complicated.
At least seven of the top music magazines have given West’s manic manifesto PERFECT scores. On the album’s release date, Pitchfork.com issued an accompanying term paper length philosophical inquiry in place of an album review, that actually made a hell of a lot of sense. The consensus among our time’s top purveyors of culture seems to be that it’s just too damn hard to argue against his extravagance, thus it is legitimate.
Excess is certainly a central theme throughout, both lyrically and in composition/production. The excessive and elite guestlist (Rihanna, Jay-Z, Elton John, Bon Iver, Kid Cudi, RZA, etc.), the over the top lyrics and the sheer scale of the sounds he is using come together in a listening experience not far from seeing a Salvador Dali painting for the first time in the 1930s. The first third of the album leading up to the most accessible track ‘All of The Lights’ seems sane enough, but by Nicki Minaj’s ecstatic, dancehall flow on ‘Monster’ that sounds crazy enough yet too well written to be on a Die Antwoord track, it is clear that someone has dosed the studio water cooler. From there, four more tracks break the six minute mark (that’s two regular pop songs each, for those of you counting) and fill time between Kanye’s most abrasive, offensive and impassioned words to date with long, instrumental/noise zone-out sessions unlike anything heard before, let alone on a hip-hop record.
I’m admittedly struggling for an original thought here after reading like twenty LONG reviews of this album but Bjork’s last record Volta keeps coming to mind. While certainly more subdued (definitely more enlightened), that album touched on some similar vibes and being produced by Timbaland and all, it had the same musical worlds colliding with an artful (and not corny) outcome. Or maybe it’s just the fact that both albums have the same red field for a cover and the horn section parts sound nearly identical. At any rate Kanye’s attempt to marry hip-hop and high art is truly something to behold.
‘Fantasy’ is the most jarring, belittling and all around NOT easy to listen to mainstream pop album that I have ever heard, which like the big boys of the print/web press are spelling out, equates a welcomed wake up. Without doubt, this is one of those love it/hate it situations, or at least a “value it’s artistic merit”/ hate it split. Michael Jackson. Kanye West. Lady Gaga. In that order, for now at least.