don’t believe the hype

808’s & Heartbreak Review by caseyly16

You have to respect Kanye West as an artist.

Because of his stellar resume, Kanye is one of the rare pop acts in the world who is able to step to his own beat (Coldplay being another). The famed producer-rapper has fought to obtain an immense amount of creative space, and therefore he is able to completely express himself in his works. Watching his evolution from the College Dropout to Graduation has been incredible, and this is the next big step.

Read the review after the JUMP

Welcome to 808’s & Heartbreak.

With this new direction, Kanye has taken his ever-apparent visions of grandeur and focused them into a series of 808 drum patterns and synthesizer-laced melodies. The result is an innovative sound scape that is reminiscent of Coldplay’s Viva La Vida in terms of ambition and scope. It is very impressive, and a true testament to Kanye’s abilities as a producer.

But are the vocals able to match the production?
Kanye’s new obsession with the Auto Tune has been widely criticized by hip hop fans for being annoying and unnecessary.  Personally, I find it to be exactly that: annoying and unnecessary. We’ve heard his singing before on Hey Mama and other tracks, and it worked well because it was used as a supplement to a rap track, and his vocal range did not have to be strained. So does Kanye successfully overcome this barrier on 808’s & Heartbreak?

Yes, and no.

His singing, especially when he is required to sing at a range outside of which he is comfortable, gets distracting and obtrusive at times. For the most part, however, he is able to fit it in without causing too much of a ruckus. It definitely takes a backseat to the music though, which is benefitial to effect that Mr. West is trying to create because it allows time for the music to set the mood and fully sink into you.

The content, however, is where 808’s & Heartbreak falls short. It is not nearly as introspective as you would think it to be, and many of Kanye’s troubles are simple celebrity complaints or female woes. There are definitely some deep moments, but for the most part it is short on content.

Track by track:

Say You Will: A dark track defined by the slow pulse in the background. It features excellent production and Kanye’s vocals fit the track well, but it’s nothing special. A solid opener. 6.5/10

Welcome to Heartbreak (featuring Kid Cudi): “My friend showed me pictures of his kids/and all I could show him was pictures of my cribs.” Kanye’s opening line sets the mood for the rest of the CD. The hook sang by Kid Cudi is definitely a pleasant surprise, and this track would have served better as the actual opener to the CD. 7.5/10

Heartless: One of the more upbeat tracks on the CD, this single is good, but not great. 8.5/10

Amazing (featuring Young Jeezy): Well produced track with a thumping beat and beautiful opera voices in the background. However, the hook is way too repetitive. Jeezy does a decent job, but his lyrics do not really fit the theme of the song very well. 7/10

Love Lockdown: The first single of the CD. Everyone knows it by now, so I’m goign to take a pass on this one. 6.5/10

Paranoid (featuring Kid Cudi): The synthesizers set the 80’s tone for this song right away. The electro-pop mood is an excellent divergence from the dark atmosphere of the first few songs. FIrst track that caught my attention. 9/10

Robocop: When I heard the initial release of this song I was very disappointed. I thought it was very creative and intelligent, but the track simply did not work and it fell flat of my expectations. However, this album version is an astounding improvement on the original and it meets my initial expectations. 9.5/10

Streetlights: Like a scene from Michael Mann’s original Miami Vice, this song radiates the moody 80’s style of the television show. It is an especially touching track that ends way too soon (even though it clocks in at a standard 3:09). Beautiful. 10/10

Bad News: This track illustrates how Kanye feels when he found out about his lover’s affair with another. It not a particularly effective or intelligent track, and feels like a bit of a letdown after Streetlights. However, the violins were well placed and accented the track well. 7/10

See You In My Nightmares (featuring Lil Wayne): Another synthesizer laced track that brings some of the fire back into Kanye’s voice. Lil Wayne’s singing is well matched with the Auto Tune, which is neither good nor bad. His actual rap is passionate and matches the track extremely well. A surprisingly good track, especially for Lil Wayne, whom I expected to ruin the song with his outrageous punch lines (he only has one, and it’s pretty bad.) 8/10

Coldest Winter: A beautiful, haunting track that illustrates Kanye’s heartbreak. And that’s about all I have to say about that. 9/10

Pinocchio Story (live freestyle from Singapore): Somewhat of a bonus track that found its way onto the CD through the urgings of a certain Beyonce Knowles. It opened brilliantly and passionately, but it drags when Kanye gets to the actual Pinocchio part. Decent closer. 7/10

Closing Thoughts: This album could have easily been one of the largest flops of the year. Luckily, Kanye is able to take his creativity and vision and provide us with one of the year’s most intriguing albums. While certainly not perfect, Kanye delivers yet again.

Final Score: 8/10

Tracks to download: “Coldest Winter”, “Robocop”, “Streetlights”, “Paranoid”, “Heartless”


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