When Kanye went insane is not really a matter of great importance but this record is clear proof that he has, in a magnificent if exceptionally confusing way. You may have already read Pitchfork’s 10.0 review and thought ‘what is this madness? Better than Funeral or Merriweather Post Pavilion?’ You’d be right.
The self-proclaimed gods of the rap scene have, of late, been rather disappointing so perhaps it should be no surprise that critics have been so rabid in their praise of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Both Jay-Z and Eminem have managed to sacrifice critical for commercial success in a way they never have before, so hip-hop needs it saviour. And who better to play the role than Kanye, the man who still isn’t entirely certain that he isn’t the Messiah. And if you think I am exaggerating just go and watch ‘Runaway’. The man falls in love with a phoenix for crying out loud. And the vast self-belief that convinced West he could fall in love with a mythical creature that rises from the flames is evident on this album.
This album is so bloated, so full of things going on that it must be hard for reviewers not to equate the sheer scale of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy with brilliance. The album constantly sounds like it is about to collapse under the weight of musical ambition. Nowhere is this more apparent than album centrepiece ‘All of the Lights’, perhaps the most star-studded single since Band Aid (and without Paul McCartney! Excellent!). In its five minutes it manages to squeeze in appearances from Elton John, Alicia Keys, Fergie, M.I.A and Rihanna. Amongst others. Unrepentantly brilliant pop though this song may be, it is hard not to wonder how Kanye can call this a solo album when he is so often shunted aside by his collaborators, whether they are superstar comedians (Chris Rock) or shy indie-types (Bon Iver, whose ‘Woods’ in transposed almost in its entirety on ‘Lost in the World’).
Where Kanye is at his best is when he plays to the crowd, and to his reputation to narcissism. ‘POWER’, in particular, is Kanye at his most-magnificently egocentric: “every superhero needs his theme-music”. Again on ‘Runaway’, Kanye gives a shout-out to all the knobs of the world. Although he does at least have the humility to include himself in that list. This is the West we all know and love, clearly covering for his lack of self-confidence by being the most arrogant man on the planet.
Despite the criticism I have been loading on Kanye the man, the musician is still without a doubt magnificent. This album might be overblown but that’s what makes it so enjoyable. You truly have no idea where you will find yourself in another ten seconds. The title gives you an insight into what this album is about; it’s an insight into Kanye’s mind. And it is indeed beautiful, dark and twisted. That’s the album by the way. Oh and it’s brilliant. Insane, but brilliant.