Artist: Kanye West
Album: 808s and Heartbreaks
Comments: The songs on 808s and Heartbreak themselves are not particularly interesting. As advertised, the majority of the album is nothing more than Kanye West's auto-tuned voice over some above average R&B production. The only song really worth bringing up is the first single "Love Lockdown," which boasts a super-catchy hook and the kind of thumping percussion that only top notch hip hop production is capable of producing.
No, what's interesting about this album is not the songs as much as what this album means in the Kanye West legacy.
West, partially through his own self promotion but mostly through his skills, will be remembered as one of the landmark artists of our generation. If I'm right, West will not only be remembered as an innovator but as the catalyst responsible for sparking hip hop's second coming. However, up until this point, West showed no signs of being anything more. What 808s and Heartbreaks represents is his shift from generational icon to universal music deity, a giant upon which future generations will stand on.
Ok, a crappy R&B album doesn't exactly vault him to those levels, but it puts him on the right track. See, for an artist to truly transcend, he or she has to try new things and explore all possibilities of their persona. I don't mean try new things in a "lets use the auto tuner" sense, but in a "let's push my music forward and see if I can't create something" sense. This idea is paramount to what is redeemable about the album. West as always hinted at his weaknesses, but 808s and Heartbreaks is the first album in which he drops his over-confident persona and shows a different side of himself. This album represents a desire to grow, a need to change.
Forget history for a moment: I'm still glad West put out this album, a deeply personal and dark collection of songs about dealing with loss. West has had a rough year, what with the loss of both his mother and his fiance. This album is his way of dealing with these tragedies. No doubt he'll carry these scars for life, but by focusing an entire album on them he is able to get it out of his system, in a sense, and get back to the business of making the world dance.
History will do doubt look back on this album much more kindly than I look on it now. By then, Kanye West will be a more significant version of Prince, an artist who created something new by taking piece of the old and cobbling them together with bravado and fresh ideas. As a confessional, as a farewell, 808s and Heartbreaks is a fine album. While this is his first totally unnecessary album on a song by song level, an album for fanatics only, what it represents is far more important.
Seriously, wait for the drums to kick in. I mean, goddamn that shit is catchy.
Rating: 4 out of 10
Key Tracks: Love Lockdown
Buy, Steal, Skip: It's worth buying only to say " I was there when..." If you aren't an archivist audiophile, don't bother.