Tuesday, November 18

Kanye West- 808's & Heartbreak

. Tuesday, November 18


Kanye West: the one man headline generator. He derides homophobia in hip-hop, declares George Bush doesn’t care about black people, says Justice make terrible videos and has beef with everyone from 50 Cent to Newcastle’s paparazzi. West is supremely confident and with good reason, it’s perfectly conceivable that he is the most innovative and successful mainstream artist in the 21st century. This confidence is sometimes confused for arrogance though (See his various claims of deserving every award going) and ‘808’s & Heartbreak’ might just be the most arrogant move West ever makes.

There have been whispers of this album being the ‘Hip-Hop Kid A’ and that West has ditched rapping all together to go in a self professed soulful Phil Collins direction. The latter claim is most definitely true, this album bears no relation to Kanye’s previous three albums and is a bold step away from the chart friendly anthems of ‘Gold Digga’ and ‘Stronger’. The Kid A thing remains to be seen, it’s certainly an innovative album but it’s far from revolutionary. The move away from the more crowd friendly material backfired on Kanye when he leaked ‘808’s first single 'Love Lockdown' onto the internet. Fans complained about the vocals and the drums and Kanye was forced to re-record the song. A good choice it seems as the album version is a sparse but intensely passionate modern pop song that bridges the gap between the old Kanye and the new one.

From the outset the cold, metronomic beats descend creating a brooding and introspective atmosphere for West to launch himself into. ‘Say You Will’ is an epic introduction that sounds like a heart monitor in a hospital being serenaded by a chorus of angels. The sombre mood continues with ‘Welcome To Heartbreak’, ‘Heartless’ and ‘Amazing’ all slipping along at a slow but impressive rate. By the time ‘Love Lockdown’ comes around things start to noticeably pick up pace. ‘Paranoid’ is the first party track on the album with an 80’s synth backing and guest vocals giving the track an infectious chorus, a possible future single. Other potential hits on the album come in the shape of ‘Robocop’, ‘Coldest Winter’ and ‘Street Lights’

The hanging point on ‘808’s & Heartbreak’, the real deal breaker, will be people’s tolerance towards the auto-tune production. Most memorably used on Cher’s ‘Believe’ the device to correct vocal imperfection is on over-time dealing with Kanye’s weak vocals. By over-indulging in the method the vocals take on a robotic and futuristic style that elevates them beyond a human sound however this still fails to mask the lack of harmony or presence in the vocal itself. It was always going to be a risk for a renowned MC to change his style so dramatically and by and large West gets away with it. You suspect he will return to rap and hip-hop for album number five but ‘808’s’ is a risk worth taking.

'Love Lockdown'



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