My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is unquestionably the best album of the year.
It reaches further and demands more from the listener than any Hip Hop or Pop record in recent memory. West shatters stylistic and conceptual boundaries at every turn, painting a fascinatingly complex portrait of rock stardom in all of its glory and dissonance, categorically crushing just about everything else in pop music right now.
It is an epic in the truest sense of the word; mindboggling in its scope, enthralling in its depth, and all-consuming in its grandeur. Like Prince’s Sign o’ the Times, U2’s The Joshua Tree, or Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (MBDTF) is one of those rare and electrifying moments in popular music when a prodigiously talented artist with an almost blemish-less track record sees the light and finally unleashes their magnum opus.
Kanye has never released a less-than-stellar album, but My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is his masterpiece.
The highlights are endless. The sprawling posse cut “So Appalled” features arguably the most haunting, ominous beat on any track released this year, with its swirling, gloomy strings imbued with a sense of impending doom that is downright hypnotic. The Rick Ross-assisted “Devil in a New Dress” shimmers and strides along elegantly until swirling strings and a distorted guitar solo elevate the track to sublime heights, while “Power” features handclaps, backing vocals and heroic synths that give the song a truly awe-inspiring sense of the majestic. However, the album’s grandest statement is definitely “All of the Lights.” Over an infectiously funky, horn-driven beat, the song mirrors its call for artistic excess and unfettered creative expression by assembling an unprecedented roster of guests, including (but not limited to) Rihanna, Kid Cudi, Elton John and Fergie.
But what makes MBDTF truly special are the moments that absolutely should not work, yet somehow work flawlessly. “Blame Game,” featuring John Legend, is a somber and scornful R&B-leaning masterwork that inexplicably ends with a 2 minute-long Chris Rock monologue that comes out of absolutely nowhere and is hilarious. Meanwhile, the Pusha-T-assisted “Runaway” is probably the most bizarre composition of West’s career, with light, plinking piano, mournful strings and corrosive, rumbling bass providing the musical backdrop for a genuine attempt on the part of West to figure out why he’s such an asshole, crooning “Let’s have a toast to the jerkoffs/That’ll never take work off/Baby I got a plan/Runaway fast as you can.” And just when the song hits the 5:50 mark, and you think it’s over, it’s reignited by stately cello and faint guitar feedback as Kanye mumbles and moans through a vocoder for another 3 minutes. Clocking in at just over 9 minutes, “Runaway” is an oddball work of genius, and West’s finest moment on MBDTF.
There are literally no weak, uninspired moments on this album. The production is top notch, every guest appearance is essential and unforgettable, and Kanye’s verses are as witty and honest as they’ve ever been. With MBDTF, Kanye has clearly thrown down the gauntlet to fellow artists and fans. And the message is clear; go big, or go home. How any of Kanye’s peers will top an album this gutsy and fully realized is anyone’s guess. But one thing is for sure; anyone who thought that a little incident at the VMAs might derail this man’s reign at the top was wrong. Very wrong.
In the words of Mr. West himself:
“It’s like that ya’ll
Cause I don’t really give a fuck about it at all
Cause the same people that tried to blackball me
Forgot about two things:
My black balls.”