For starters, this is an abnormal post for me, because Rap/HipHop/PopArt/Whatever, usually isn’t my style, but this album has particularly gained more and more of my attention as more singles leaked and more info was released. Either way, here it is. My track by track review of
Kanye West – 808s & Heartbreaks
To begin, there are like a million versions of the cover art floating around.
For petes sake…
Now that that’s over…
The first review related item is the sound. 808s & Heartbreak is NOT a rap record. It’s not a pop record either as Kanye has been alluding too, in fact it is the new genre Kanye has created called, Pop Art. Don’t ask me… Either way, there is like zero rapping on this record, and it’s probably for the best. Haters have been hating since the first single Love Lockdown was released. The album is all sung by Kanye with a couple of minor guest appearances. The catch…the entire album is sung using auto-tune. It’s become an increaingly popular affect ultilized mostly by rappers.
that’s the music video for Kanye’s new single, Love Lockdown. As soon as he starts singing you’ll here it. Now that’s outta the way. Auto-Tune is an extremely lame feature, at least I think so, yet somehow Kanye manages to make it cool. The way he does this is by contructing an entire album built around the heartbreak hes suffered in the last year. This includes his break up with his fiance, and the death of his mother. He may have a big ego, but as always his lyrics counteract the tough guy image he projects, I’ll elaborate more on this later. Anyway, The idea behind the album is, when Kanye sings in auto-tune, it is meant to mimic heartbreak. This is an extremely interesting twist on the album and it changes the entire record.
Let the review begin, finally…
1: Say You Will
This song sets the tone for the rest of the album perfectly. It is the longest track on the album just running past 6 minutes. It is a dark and tragic song with a simple beat and some harmonizing background singers. Towards the end of the song there is just an instrumental period where Kanye seemingly wants the listening to feel the mood created by this opening track. The lyrics set the stage for the rest of the album as does the instrumentation. This song just sounds like heartbreak, period. The lyrics are mysterious and deal seemingly with a lost love and especially the actual act of losing this love. The lyrics border on desperate at times and show a much different side than the rapper Kanye who belted out “Stronger” barely a year ago. All in all a very strong opening track.
2. Welcome To Heartbreak (Feat. Kid Kudi)
This song follows in the same ominous tone as the previous track. The beat is still simple and almost tribal (a characteristic of the 808 drum machine used to produce all the drum tracks). This track is the main example I have to prove that I dont think Kanye is as stuck up as everyone else does. He says many egotistical things, but I really think its a front, and I think he knows that. This song is all about how his friends have grown up and have families and kids, and all he has are “sports cars and cribs.” It is a song analyzing and reconciling the celebrity status he’s achieved with having a normal life and with turning your life into something meaningful. A good second song that builds from the first without repeating.
The second single, and current hot track from the album. Again tribal drums and a bit of tribal flute litter the track. This song is much more upbeat and the first time where the Kanye of old shows his face. It is set up much more like a rap song. The lyrics center on heartless woman stealing away the soul of a dude, presumably him. This is the first of three songs that touches on the idea of having a paranoid lover. This is definetly a common theme throughout the album. This track is perfect for a single, though not my favorite on the album.
4. Amazing (Feat. Young Jeezy)
This is a song about reconciling his ego with the rest of the world. The song is extremely simple in stark contrast to the egocentric subject matter. Young Jeezy chimes in at the end and hes…Young Jeezy….The lyrics throughout this song are pretty awesome. “Im a monster, im a killer, I know I wrong, Im a problem that will never be solved.” Throughout Kanye’s most ego centric songs their are constant questions of his own power. “Im a monster, Im a maven, I know this world is changin, never gave in, never gave up, Im the only thing Im afraid of.” That might be my favorite lyric on the album. Maybe.
5. Love Lockdown
“Im not loving you, the way I wanted to, what I had to do, had to run from you” A great lyric to start the first single. The instrumentation in this song is pure genius. The simple tribal drums pound through the verses, then an eerily clean piano comes in and then there is the chorus with its drum line like snare drum attack. The dynamics in this song are great. The lyrics are heartfelt and distraught. This track is mysterious in every way and is a perfect example of how this album is for both the listener to listen to and for Kanye to sing. Great song.
6. Paranoid (Feat. Kid Kudi)
One of my favorites on the album. A tribute to 80’s synth pop. This song is SO 80’s it hurts. But in a totally awesome way. This song reminds me so much of a Michael Jackson song or something. The lyrics are so catchy you’ll be singing them for the next few days after you hear it. Don’t be surprised if this song is the next single, it would be a stronger choice. This is one of two instances where Kanye almost reverts back to his ways as a rapper and ditches the “Pop Art” soundscape, this is not a bad thing either. It gives the album variety and this song is a total party track. The lyrics are all about a lover who is super paranoid about him and does everything from searching through his shit to reading his texts. No one likes a jealous lover, especially not Kanye. However he isn’t as mad as he is discouraged by it. This is evident during my favorite lyrics: Baby dont worry bout it, baby we’ll go out to the floor, they don’t know you like I do, theyll never ever know. Baby dont worry bout it, baby dont even think about it, you worry about the wrong things, the wrong things…” God that is catchy. One of my favorites. This track and Robocop are amazing songs.
This song piggybacks off of Paranoid. It is also about a jealous lover, but if Paranoid was his endearing words to discourage his lover and gain some privacy while saving his relationship, than Robocop is him just completely fed up. The chorus, “you’ll never stop it now, you need to drop it now, youre moving like a robocop, when did you become a robocop, somebody please make her stop” This song is super catchy and would also make a great single. I wouldn’t be surprised if this way. The ending of the song breaks down to just a strings section playing the chords while Kanye chimes in “you spoiled little LA girl, you’re just an LA girl”. He’s not fucking around anymore. The days of Paranoid are over, bring out the Robocop. A great song.
This song is extremely somber. They lyrics are pleading and heartfelt, something Kanye is usually not known for. This semi-ballad details a lonely night where everything is more vivid to him that before. Its about being lost and being somewhere, but not actually being there. This is a profoundly deep song. One of Kanye’s better songs I think. I suspect this song has a lot to do with his mom’s death.
9. Bad News
This songs seems to be explicitly about his mothers death and his break up with his fiance . And really that’s all there is to say about it. It’s pretty freaking sad.
10. See You In My Nightmares (Feat. Lil Wayne)
This is another super simple song. Classic Kanye sound only way over simplified. Its a decent track. I really dont care too much for Lil Wayne and his lazy rapping. The lyrics are pretty cool though, mostly daring his ex-lover to tell everyone that she knows that its over.
11. Coldest Winter
This song Kanye has been quoted as saying it was about his mother. Its a pretty heartfelt track comparing his mothers death to the colest winter. Its a fitting way to end this album. Its a fairly short song but it ends just the way it should.
All in all…
It would be wrong to compare this album to Kanye’s other albums. It’s just not the same. It’s like comparing Thom Yorke’s solo album to Kid A, apples and oranges, whatever..they just aren’t the same. This can’t be emphasized enough, it is not a Kanye West album, I almost wish he’d created some sort of alias, but that would defeat the point of expressing such personal feelings. This is an albums worth of coping with some tough shit and he does it so beautifully. I suspect Prickfork will give this somewhere between a 6.1 and a 7.4. But I’d give it much higher. This album has that IT factor carrying it. It’s something new and interesting to listen to and most importantly the heartbreak is so apparent that you are sucked into this emotional last year he has lived through. The instrumentation, the 808 tribal beats, the album dynamics, the raw emotion, the samples are all phenomenal. Kanye said he’ll be remembered as the voice of a generation, and while Im not ready to agree to that I will say he won’t be forgotten. This album is/has: originality, style, great lyrics, amazing concept, and makes the auto-tune not totally suck…I’d have to give this 4.3 outta 5.
808s & Heartbreak drops Monday November 24, 2008. Get it.
Now tell everybody that you know.