11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Interesting, if Mediocre Background Music,
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This review is from: 808s & Heartbreak (MP3 Music)
After Graduation [Explicit], I thought that Kanye West might be incapable of making a bad song. He was the rare musician who made albums without filler. After a very good first album (The College Dropout [Explicit]), West tightened up his act to make two consecutive albums without bad tracks (aside from the skits on Late Registration [Explicit]). On these three albums he showed that he was the rare producer whose rapping talent matched his production talent (Dr. Dre and Timbaland are examples of great producers who can't rap). On 808s & Heartbreak, however, West showed that not only could he make a bad song but he doesn't really rap (he sings instead) and his production is subpar for his very high standard. The result is an album almost completely different from his first three and while decent on its own, it is not great and it certainly does not approach the greatness of Late Registration or Graduation.
The most notable thing about this album is West's overreliance on the Auto-Tune. Unlike T-Pain's use of the device, I don't find it irritating to hear West use the Auto-Tune, but it does have the effect of making the album rather sterile. It's harder to hear emotion through the distortion of the device. The Auto-Tune also has the effect of making some of the songs drag on a bit. Part of this is because West is singing the lyrics rather than rapping them, but somehow the Auto-Tune seems to exacerbate this slow delivery.
The other notable characteristic about this album is a very different production style when compared to previously albums. It could be considered a downgrade from the three previous albums, but even when looking at on its own, the production is lacking. On several songs, with "Say You Will" being the worst offender, the beat drags on for up to three minutes after the lyrics are complete. This is not like a guitar solo but instead is simply a loop of the same three second clip. In "Say You Will" there is a 20 second break in that loop about a minute and a half after the lyrics stop, but the original beat resumes thereafter running the time post-lyrics to over three minutes. On half of these songs (four of eight), the beat runs for 30-40 seconds after the lyrics stop. The other four run longer.
Aside from this apparently deliberate editing mistake, the production is unremarkable. On songs where less is more in the beat department, the singer's delivery carries the day and a more complex beat would seem to only take away from the singer's voice. Whitney Houston's I Will Always Love You and Mariah Carey's Hero are examples. Obviously Kanye West is not anywhere near their level in terms of singing ability. As far as I can recall, when a musician lacks the ability to sing remarkably, the production is more complex so as to make up for the singer's deficiency. An example is Britney Spears' Blackout, which featured mediocre singing and stellar production. To this album's detriment, Kanye West went in the opposite direction and created an album that works as background music but doesn't really jump out at you. West was apparently attempting to evoke the sound of tribal drums, but the only instance where that really works well is on "Love Lockdown" where the beat is alternately simple and very complex. The complex parts are what grab your attention.
With these significant drawbacks in mind, there are still quality songs on this album. They are listed below in order of my preference for each:
1. "Love Lockdown" is the best song on the album. Its production is superior to the other tracks because of its complexity but also because it seems to fit what West is saying and how he is saying it perfectly. The beat drags on for 55 seconds after the lyrics, but unlike in the other tracks, it is complex and varied enough to keep my attention.
2. "Heartless" is probably faster-paced than any other song on the album. West also raps the most of verses, which is a welcome break from the rest of the album and well done.
3. "Amazing" is average until Young Jeezy's verse, which makes it one of the better songs on the album. He's as good as ever in his rapped verse.
4. "See You in My Nightmares" is a duet with Lil Wayne and has the least use of the Auto-Tune on the entire album. West does well on the track but is outperformed by Lil Wayne. It probably has something to do with West singing while Wayne is rapping.
Most of the songs on the album are mediocre. They won't make you want to buy the album but they won't ruin it for you either. There are, however, a few that might ruin it for you:
1. "Pinocchio Story" should not have been on this album. The audience can be heard more clearly than West and his freestyle is unremarkable.
2. "Paranoid" has the most irritating beat on the album. It's an 80s throwback that doesn't fit the album.
3. "Robocop" is apparently the most hated track on the album. Apparently even Kanye West doesn't like it. I think it's kind of funny that he uses the Robocop sound effect in the beat, but funny probably isn't the reaction he was trying to elicit.
My advice to buyers is to buy the album if you're a big Kanye West fan because it's interesting to hear this change of pace, especially in light of the terrible events that went on in his life in the last year. If you're not a fan, though, I'd suggest buying the highlights only.