808s and heartbreak.

so it’s been a little more than a week since kanye west released his latest, 808s and heartbreak. granted, i didn’t have loads of time over break to digest it, but i feel at least introduced to the album now. here are my initial thoughts.

actually i want to start by saying that i am excluding pinocchio story from any review i do of this album. that song is so terrible and i’m so confused as to why kanye tacked it on the end. kanye might’ve said “scrotum” in graduation’s closer, big brother, but that tune is far and away better than pinocchio story. so i’m not even counting that as part of the album. moving on.

right off, i knew it was gonna be different. i did my very best not to go into it thinking it was “kanye’s fourth album”. and it’s not at all. the whole thing feels like a side project rather than an album in the “kanye west” discography. obviously as time goes on, as his listeners absorb this album and he releases more, we will find where it fits with the rest of his albums. but right now, a week after it came out, it doesn’t feel like it fits anywhere with his previous three records. he sings and makes use of the auto-tune through the whole thing. no real rapping here, at least by kanye. this isn’t really a bad thing though, at least it doesn’t take away from the album. kanye isn’t a good singer (if you’ve ever heard him live…egh.) but the auto-tune corrects his off pitches and gives him a robotic element that is pretty cool. very importantly though, he doesn’t overdue the robot voice like t-pain, so i haven’t gotten sick of that.

the thing right away that was hard for me to get around and i’m still trying to get used to is the music. talk about veering away from what worked for him. kanye was one of the kings of sampling and organic, original hip-hop beats. this is so far away from that. he used a drum programming machine, the roland tr-808, for most of the beats, and instead of actually sounding like a real drum kit, a lot of the foundational beats of this album sound really computery. still, not necessarily a bad thing, but what he layers on top is what i didn’t warm up to right away. there’s more piano here than his previous work, which isn’t bad, but a lot of it is just really repetitive. and that’s where i think i go off track with this record. there is so little variation here. almost all the songs are just one chord progression with little difference between the chorus and verses. there isn’t enough that draws me in. lots of reviews i’ve read are saying things like this is a bold move from his previous work and it’s a really new original thing for him to do. i’d say it’s a bold move, but i wouldn’t say it’s original. so many of the songs sound like what everybody else is doing right now. with a few exceptions, this could’ve been an album from t-pain or akon. it’s new in terms of kanye’s catalogue, but in terms of popular music right now? not at all. heartless is such a bore to listen to for me because not only it is super repetitive, it sounds like a thousand other people’s songs. same with robocop (especially robocop) and see you in my nightmare. amazing sounds like it was made 100% by timbaland. street lights sounds like a postal service tune with a black guy singing. it just didn’t sound new to me, didn’t seem fresh.

i could go through song by song and pick out things i don’t like, but i don’t really want to do that. i think my biggest critique is that this doesn’t seem that new to me. i feel like i’ve heard songs like this before from other artists of whom i’m not a huge fan. i was hoping for something totally off the wall in terms of not only kanye’s music but music in general, not something inspired in any way by lil wayne. there seems to be a lot of potential on this album, it’s just not pushed as far as it could go. like love lockdown, it’s an awesome song, whenever the african drums are getting pounded. but when they stop it’s like are we even listening to a song anymore? this whole album is sparse and i think i was hoping for a little more.

i’m in kind of a rough place cause i don’t want to bad talk this album a lot, i don’t even want to go as far as to say i’m disappointed in it. cause i kind of knew this is how it was gonna be and this is how i was gonna respond to it. but after my first listen through, there wasn’t a single song that i really wanted to go tell colleen about or made me jump around my room. there weren’t any flashing lights or good life type tracks. this just isn’t exactly my style of music. if this album had been released by anybody i probably wouldn’t fall in love with it. kanye hasn’t alienated me with this, he just released an album i’m not particularly crazy about.

least favorite track: see you in my nightmare feat. lil wayne
awful. all the way around. sorry, where the heck is the beat? there is nothing solid at all. and that synth. did kanye choose the “mosquito” setting on his keyboard? horrible sound. and lil wayne…man i am still confused where this guy came from and how he is so popular. i guess i never listen to the radio so i never, ever hear his songs, but i feel like he just popped up like 9 months ago and was suddenly the most popular rapper around. whatever, that’s something for another blog. what is important is that his verse on this song is not good. this whole break-up theme, “see you in my nightmare” idea isn’t good at all. i love break-up songs as much as the next guy, but if you’re really gonna complain about your break-up, do it in a way that is engaging. this is not engaging. this is engaging (#4 for the best angry break-up song ever). it’s just not an original concept.

favorite track: paranoid. this is my jam. my favorite for sure. super fun beat, great sing along chorus, the chords keep me guessing, it’s just an all around awesome tune. thanks for this one ‘ye.

-jon

p.s. give me another week and i will like this whole album more than i do now. i started writing this yesterday and listening to the record while finishing this up, i’m liking all the songs even more now than before. so this review only really applies to the first week of listening to the album for me.

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