Review: Kanye West

Like it or not, Kanye deserves to be crowned the new King of Pop.

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Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>5/5

Just in case you were wondering how to come back from being called a jackass by last year's Nobel Peace Prize winner, here's your answer: Make a record as absurdly good as My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

Of course, part of the pleasure of listening to the album—the first few times, at least— is hearing what Kanye West has to say in response to his supposed misdemeanors: "Everybody knows I'm a muthafuckin' monster!" he leers. But, as the adage goes, it's not what you say, but how you say it.

Thus, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is 2010's best record because its execution is equal to the boldness of its ambition. That brashness is evident in obvious ways, like the rowdy brass fanfare that opens "All of the Lights" and the stars who join West on that number: Rihanna, Jay-Z, Justin Vernon, Sir Elton John, Fergie—more an index from a Madame Tussauds's brochure than a guest list. As a great big "fuck you" to the haters (and West has more than most), the album is not just a custard pie to the face; it's also smooshing that pie around for sheer pleasure.

But the appeal runs deeper still. If Kanye really did go to hell post-Taylorgate, he must have made one heck of a Faustian pact while he was there. The record is saturated in melody and pop hooks, and the rhymes are breathtaking ("Restraining order/can't see my daughter/her mother, brother, grandmother/hate mein that order"). On the whole, the tone is defiant and righteous, with West riding a surge of creative energy from album opener "Dark Fantasy," through the anthemic "POWER" (best line: "They can kiss my asshole/I'm an asshole") and the campy menace of "Monster."

But a kind of inevitable emotional hangover kicks in right after seduction song "Devil in a New Dress," with its slow, slippery breakdown. "Runaway" is the album's 808s moment—its spluttering vocoder wig-out is the point you remember West bawling on the floor in VH1 Storytellers. Similarly, lingering kiss-off "Blame Game" (which features John Legend) offers a kind of disgusted distress, the sonic equivalent of an "ugh" in the pit of your stomach. "With so much of everything, how did we leave with nothing?" West asks, before segueing into a bizarre, X-rated imagined telephone call—the heart of his dark, twisted fantasy, if you will.

West's "real" life may be unimaginably outlandish, but the sentiments he evokes on MBDTF cut right through the bullshit—both the Twitter blurts and his ongoing, curious dance with the media. You will recognize yourself in West, like it or not. This is not a comeback— it's a go-forward.

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My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (GOOD Music/Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam)

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