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808s & Heartbreak Week: "Say You Will"

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This track and “Bad News” are the only two absolute mis-steps on 808s and both fall back on this sense of letting the music play-out forever; especially odd because they’re both easily the most uninteresting and self-serious songs on the album.

“Say You Will” is three minutes too long. After the fairly stream-lined production on Graduation, it’s more than a little depressing to hear Kanye back in the pseudo-experimental mode of Late Registration meaning, he’s so in love with the soundscape-ish beat he’s put together that we’re going to have to listen to it without rapping or singing for a couple of minutes. Especially odd because the next song “Welcome to Heartbreak” is very similar to “Say You Will”–it’s a little more upbeat and immediate but the songs are very close together–and going through a first track that’s over the six minute mark only to hear a really similar track next, is obnoxious. Still, there’s an incredible transition from the low-end whirs of “Say You Will” to the low-end strings of “Welcome to Heartbreak” and there’s a subtle, upward shift in energy from track 1 to track 2, we just don’t need six minutes to get there.

There’s plenty to like though too. Next to his gutteral, Stevie Wonder in the end of “Livin’ For the City” grunt-singing on “See You In My Nightmares”, his “hey hey hey heyyy” is affecting and the first bit of proof that an album caked in auto-tune doesn’t have to be goofy or ironic. Lazy critics fall back on the idea that Kanye’s use of auto-tune is a distancing effect but it isn’t at all. His vocals become warm and glowing because of it; they gel with the electronics better, and as he pointed out in that bizarre interview on Conan O’Brien, they highlight his inability to sing; they underline the vulnerability of this whole 808s deal.

The structure of this song is weird: Airy vocals, rumbling drums, Kanye says a couplet, cries-out a desperate chorus, another couplet, repeat. And the lyrics here are fairly upfront and honest and not the ponderous, pseudo-deep self-loathing couplets of “Welcome to Heartbreak”. Perhaps it’s by accident, but the line “Mrs. So Fly, crash lands in my room” is actually a really nice (and kinda poetic) description of meeting a girl. Touching on the other-wordly self-involved stuff we all feel when we’re first in love but grounding it in some silly sci-fi space stuff that Kanye’s really into. In the final couplet, when he admits that he still “fantasizes” about her, it’s one of the more honest details on the whole album.

Kanye’s the weird one on this song. He’s the creep and he’s the hurt one. It’s the only point on the album where his emotions seem thought-out and complex. There’s even something endearing and real about Kanye’s hurt, as it’s a little naive. He sounds genuinely baffled when he opens the song with “Why would she make calls out the blue?” and the sentiment in the chorus is the keep-our-love-pure idealism that’s as affecting as it is unrealistic. It seems to be something about the sense that once something’s expressed verbally, it becomes that much easier to act on it later. One can easily transfer this to a fight or an argument in which threats about leaving or going out and fucking someone else or whatever are said for the first time. And at the same time, there’s Kanye admitting to some angry, minor domestic violence that most dudes have done at one point or another and in that case, it’s he who upped the level of the argument. There’s a knowing but still ugly, honest creepiness to a line like “when I grab your neck, I touch your soul”.

Written by Brandon

December 8th, 2008 at 5:53 am

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