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Some Thoughts on 808s & Heartbreak Hype

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“Most of the feckless, listless quality of today’s art can be blamed on its drive to break out of a tradition while, irrationallity, hewing to the square, boxed-in shape and germlike inertia of an old, densely wrought European masterpiece”-Manny Farber

-It’s pretty dumb that a lot of people that previously disliked Kanye’s music are on-board for this goofiness. The same thing happened with Jeezy’s The Recession where in some lame attempt to be discerning or not an outright hater, a bunch of people decided this album was so much better or more interesting than previous Jeezy albums when it’s more of the same and is successful for that reason.

-Please note that it’s not Kanye singing that’s weird about 808s & Heartbreak, rather it’s that he’s only singing. Stick College Dropout in and notice that on the first musical track, there’s a whole lot of Kanye singing. Of course, there’s a whole lot of rapping on there too. Dopey critics cool enough to get invite to the big listening party came back comparing Kanye to whatever derivative electronica they listen to–Jeff Weiss was wise to connect this shit to Cameo and stuff like that, because it’s as much that as it is Thom Yorke warbles–and saying there’s “no rapping” on the new album need to put College Dropout in too and again, listen to “We Don’t Care” and plenty of other songs where Kanye uses a kind of half-singing rap style that’s sort of always been there. “Heartless” has as much rapping on it as “We Don’t Care”.

-These songs–again, except for “Heartless”–are really undercooked and boring. Rudimentary synth whirls and some real simple drums–a gross misreading of the Southern Rap use of the 808 which is deceptively simple, not actually simple–and then some “soul-bearing” lyrics, a pretty damn catchy chorus/hook and then repeat. “Heartless”, with that out-of-nowhere “hey!” from some in the distance crew of homies, something resembling a loop, well-placed electronic flutters, it’s a real song. These songs sound like rap songs without the rapping, which is exactly what they are.

-The biggest problem with this album, from the three songs everybody’s been able to hear, is not that it’s not really a rap album or that it’s weird, but Kanye’s painfully obvious, performatively sincere lyrics. “Love Lockdown” and “Cold Winter” are full of singer-songwriter cliches of sleepless nights and losts loves and all that kind of stuff. He hits a more fun and more insightful level of emotion and fun (because even sad music’s fun on some level) on “Heartless” because yes, he’s rapping and so there’s not this slow dirge to the whole thing, but also because he employs the fun and contradiction of rap. There’s goofy lines (“how could she be so/Dr. Evil”) and real emotions. The rest of these songs it seems, are as contrived as the Wes Anderson/Michel Gondry stitched heart he’s wearing in the promotional photos.

-This album is not simply some emotional outpouring from Kanye. His mother died in the Winter, he got divorced or de-engaged or whatever in the Spring (no doubt these two things are connected), and he started working on this album like a month ago or so? He’s appeared on stuff, he’s been touring, it isn’t like he was hiding in his mansion for all these months. What’s really occurred is he tested the waters with “Put On” and got a good, positive response from it and decided to ride it for a quick album. Let’s not forget that as much as this is some weird, experiment by Kanye (and it undoubtedly is), it’s also a fully-planned and conceptualized non-rap album in a time when rappers just aren’t what they used to be and T-Pain rules the world.

-This should be released as an EP. Even if it’s 40 minutes long and as conceptual as his previous albums, he’d be smart to contextualize it as an EP; a nearly spur-of-the-moment tangent that’s weird and interesting and willfully different.

-No doubt every song that’s leaked and every song on the album will grow on me. All Kanye’s music is like that. Part because he’s really smart and makes pretty complicated and interesting music and part because everything’s he’s making seems to mine one small aspect of a greater picture that he’s already illustrated fully on College Dropout and therefore, feels like he could be doing so much more. Kanye West is a a new, weird, post-modern cliche; the artist who’s grown up worshipping and reading “game-changing”, ever-evolving artists and has adopted that as his artistic model, making it as much of a cliche as the boring, non-evolving, stagnant musician.

Written by Brandon

October 20th, 2008 at 4:01 am

Posted in Kanye West

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