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Kanye West – 808s and Heartbreak (2008)

November 22, 2008

This album fooled me. I was expecting the worst. Initial single “Love Lockdown” was good, something different and something I could get on board with but a whole Kanye album full of auto-tuned vocals is a different story. The good thing is that 808s and Heartbreak is actually decent, it surpassed my (low low low) expectations and it’s at times sad, fun, different and for the most part, enjoyable. Sure there are missteps and I could see why people wouldn’t dig it, but as a pop album it’s something I think people with a passing interest should look into. Maybe at least to satisfy their curiosity.

Things start off slightly awkward though, with the 6 minute long “Say You Will”. It might have worked if it were cut shorter but the minimal glitchy beat with soft tribal drumming can’t really sustain some weak melodies from Kanye’s computer enhanced vocals. It at least succeeds at setting up what the rest of the album is going to sound and feel like. “Welcome to Heartbreak” is a lot better with some of the album’s best and most heartfelt lyrics as Kanye ponders the nature of his success compared to those around him. “My friend showed me pictures of his kids/and all I could show him was pictures of my cribs” mourns Kanye coupled with a dark and reverb drenched atmosphere. It sucks that he can’t keep the lyrical standard this high throughout the whole album but it’s nice to see a more vulnerable side shining through in his work at least occasionally and to be fair this is quite an emotionally honest album.

“Heartless” is more upbeat and rides again on the auto-tune train with some smooth bass and snazzy piano chords. The melodies are stronger and the lyrics focused more on Kanye’s ex. It’s all pretty obvious but it’s a fun break up tune. “Paranoid” is one of the best things here and it really reminds me of earlier Cut Copy stuff, the 80s synths and the quick beat are great. The auto-tuned faced paced vocals really suit the music here as well and it shows what this version of Kanye is capable of. Following that is “RoboCop” which again conjures up thoughts of another band (and lazy blogging); this time Arcade Fire. Hmm? Well yeah I’m not sure why, it’s probably the upbeat string section coupled with the fast pacing. The vocals are more natural here and the mechanical sound effects provide a good hook in the chorus.

It’s a pity the whole album can’t be so solid. But where Kanye doesn’t quite make good with tracks such as “Street Lights” and “Amazing” there are at least interesting ideas in each and throughout the whole album. While yeah the auto-tune vocals can get annoying the beats are solid, the melodies often are too and the lyrics range from okay to great. It’s nice to hear something different and Kanye not really giving a shit what critics think so I’ll say this is definitely worth listening too.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Philippe permalink
    November 24, 2008 4:38 am

    A lot of people tell me this is Kanye’s “Love Below”…

    I dunno about the amount of auto tune that I hear is on the album though.

  2. Tiffane permalink
    November 29, 2008 11:52 pm

    Comparing Kanye West to Arcade Fire is pretty murderous. Also, cribs. hehe.

  3. James permalink
    November 30, 2008 1:56 pm

    I’ve been listening to this today (finally got hold of it…), and I really like it a lot! You can kind of see the progression from Graduation, though. Admittedly the vocals can be a bit strange at times, and nothing on it will never beat ‘Gold Digger’ as one of the best driving songs ever, but it’s really catchy and accessible.

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