No Trivia

808s & Heartbreak Week: "Love Lockdown"

leave a comment

Everything I said here about “Love Lockdown” is still valid and that’s why it’s such a strange song, part of an album. Some points where I no longer agree with myself though are related to the “critic bait” accusation and musical signifying.

The album’s just too bizarre and of it’s own weird, ugly, wonderful genre (I said similar things about Jeezy’s Inspiration) for it to be the the gives Rolling Stone a boner “breakup album” I thought it to be. Musically, whether it’s properly mastered version of the songs, Kanye’s drastic changes since the first version of this hit the internet, or my waning cynicism for 808s, a lot of the musical signifying isn’t there or just plain works.

The pounding drums that starts and end the song are so rich and resonant they doesn’t resemble a heartbeat anymore. The explosions of drums still feels glorious as both a surge of energy and as something that sorta swings and well, let’s get to maybe the best thing on this album: Crazy manipulated female soul samples turned into some primal or from hell or something wail.

I called them “pterodactyl groans” because it reminds me of like some shit in Jurassic Park or something, but who knows what they really are. There’s a fluidity to them that almost sounds like an instrument instead of a voice, or like free jazz sax through auto-tune or some other musical filter, but they sound aching and human too. Did Kanye search out Linda Sharrock and stick her in a cave or something? In a way, this is the twisted twenty-times over extension of Kanye’s earliest foray into vocal manipulation: chipmunk soul.

There’s some connection between the primal howl that announces Jeezy’s return or it’s placement amongst piano and drums at the end of “Lockdown” (again with the using some cool musical effect for a song or two and then moving on) and those African Tribesmen that invande Kanye’s Patrick Batemen abode in the video for “Lockdown”, but fuck if it can be literalized; of course, that’s why it’s so smart.

Leave it to me to turn an obvious American Psycho video homage into something a little more intellectual, but that shot of Kanye in the corner, the stoic tribesmen looking ten feet tall, reminds me of the end of Terrence Malick’s The New World (a movie about devastating heartbreak). The film’s ending montage that slowly unveils Pocahontes’ death (spoiler alert!) and in one jarring cut , goes from the empty bed of Pocahontes, to an Indian in full body-paint sitting like a King in the same room. Who knows what it means, but it just makes sense and’s the point where my eyes tear-up when I watch that movie.

“Lockdown” should be the first track of 808s, a direct address to his ex that sort of introduces all the ideas smart and stupid you’ll hear on the album, but musically, it’s part of the brilliant middle of the album and the logical extension of the ideas of the first four songs. The big loud drums that first showed-up on “Amazing” are here as well, and of course, the defiant pianos, frayed and fuzzy auto-tune, etc. of every track keep weaving through. If there’s a narrative here that’s not fractured and mixed-up, it’s a musical one, as ideas fade in, grow prominent or even transcendant, and then move to the background for another new weird instrumental flourish.

Still, there’s something of a logic to these songs that for whatever reason, I feel a little more like I’m projecting onto the album than usual, but also makes a lot of sense. The first two songs were sad sack self-loathing, “Heartless” is self-loathing but musically and conceptually it’s a little more confident and there and then, “Amazing” is wounded Kanye lashing-out. “Love Lockdown” has the vulnerability of the rest of it, but his ideas about his relationship and his musical ideas gain confidence and focus.

The next two tracks (“Paranoid” and “Robocop”) are the most unsophisticated and least revelatory when it comes to content, but repeated listens make you realize Kanye’s earned the right to be a dick (still, there’s something real awkward about the “bitch I almost married was CRA-ZEEEE!” thesis of the tracks) and musically, they’re perfect. And then, that My Bloody Valentine electronic wail that opens “Streetlights” cuts into “Robocop” and it’s Kanye like, “whoops, I was a real dick there. I know it. I’m trying to figure it out”

So, the narrative’s musical, and the narrative’s emotional, it’s just not linear. More a melange of scenes from a disintegrating almost marriage, snippets of dialogue, wounded douchebag talk, actually wounded talk, personal details, and break-up album cliches mixed up, rearranged, to exhibit Kanye’s sorta evolution from wounded weirdo celebrity to angry wounded ex-boyfriend and then, kinda regretful. And once he gets over it all, there’s “Coldest Winter” and the problematic–there’s that word again–live “freestyle” in which he’s like “Oh yeah! And my mom fucking died in fucking plastic surgery. Man, the world is fucked-up place sometimes.”

Written by Brandon

December 11th, 2008 at 7:04 am

Leave a Reply