808s & Heartbreak was a major detour from Kanye West’s previous material for those who only follow his studio work. But for those who caught a show on his worldwide Glow In The Dark tour, the album is a natural evolution.
The tour featured a musical direction dominated by booming synthesizers, arena-rock guitar riffs, thunderous timpani and taiko percussion, classic pianos. And yes, Kanye abused autotune on his meandering extended versions of “Good Life” and “Put On,” and was unafraid to sing his heart out on “I Wonder.” For people who witnessed this, 808s isn’t as much of a shock.
It might be blasphemous to say, but on the album, Kanye blends the synethesized with the organic (spacey synths paired with tribal percussion on “Coldest Winter,” lush orchestral arrangements paired with syncopated drum machines on “Robocop”) in ways that would make Herbie Hancock and Stevie Wonder proud. The wildly imaginitive beats are definitely the album’s highlight.
For anyone who’s been through a bad breakup, 808s is a therapeutic analysis of the entire process, from denial (“Say You Will” and “Heartless”) to resentment (“Love Lockdown” and “Robocop”) to finally prevailing and declaring “I don’t love you no more” in the Lil’ Wayne-assisted “See You In My Nightmares.”
Say what you will about Kanye’s singing (it ranges from tolerable to cringe-worthy), but you can’t knock him for his honesty and passion. Very few hip-hop artists would have the balls to dedicate an entire album to crying about a girl ditching you.
And it’s that passion that keeps me anxiously awaiting Kanye’s every musical move.