Last week, Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy hit retail shelves with a resounding roar. It’s the best reviewed album of the year! Jim DeRogatis of the Chicago Sun Times compared Kanye to Brian Eno. Pitchfork awarded him a 10.0 rating and “Best New Music.” “I’d rather listen to this album than get head in a Jacuzzi while smoking weed Snoop Dogg gave just because he thought I was cool,” raved People. (That magazine has gotten really filthy, btw.)
Critics are tripping over themselves to blow sugar up Kanye’s ass, and we’ve read every drop of hyperbole they could muster. Here, we comb through only the most “OMG HE IS MUSICAL JESUS” of them, pluck the best lines, and annotate who wrote what, with only a few transition words added to smooth it all out. Let the games begin:
The music world should be grateful to have [Kanye West]. I know I am. (1) My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is his most maniacally inspired music yet, coasting on heroic levels of dementia, pimping on top of Mount Olympus. It’s a rock-star manifesto for a downsizing world. (2) He samples atmospheric noodling from Aphex Twin and bombastic nuggets from Black Sabbath and King Crimson, and he gets help from some of the biggest names in pop, rap, and indie rock. West crafts these influences into a fever dream with a crescendo around every corner—the Beautiful Fantasy of the album’s title. (3) He can’t get much higher. (4) It’s terrific—of course it’s terrific—a startlingly maximalist take on East Coast rap traditionalism, (5) Fantasy oscillates between manic highs and depressive lows emotionally, as West and his collaborators create sounds big and cinematic enough to house all that mad-prophet ambition. (6) He’s right about his own greatness. (7) But West isn’t claiming to be flawless anymore. He’s trying to make a masterpiece. Trying to be honest with us. Trying to be honest with himself. Trying to figure out if he’s closer to God or to something else entirely. Far more important than his aim, however, is the fact that he tries at all. (8) Dark Twisted Fantasy is also a much stronger work than anyone could have reasonably expected from West. (9) It’s his flashiest, fanciest, and best yet. (10) So don’t believe it if someone tells you, “The new Kanye West record is not even ironically good. ‘No more drugs for me, pussy and religion is all I need’ sung as if it was Black Sabbath’s ‘Iron Man.’ Seriously? Bon Iver has two guest appearances. Wanker. The ‘d-bag’ song is nine minutes long; the second longest song is a fucking duet with John fucking Legend. The Gil Scott-Heron outro is a travesty.” (11)
(1) David Amidon, in a 1,900-word review for Popmatters, which gave the album a 10 out of 10.
(2) Rob Sheffield, five star review for Rolling Stone.
(3) Simon Vozick-Levison, Entertainment Weekly.
(4) Sean Fennessey, Village Voice.
(5) Jon Caramaica, New York Times.
(6) Nathan Rabin, Onion AV Club.
(7) James Reed, Boston Globe.
(8) Chris Martins, Spin.
(9) M.T. Richards, Paste Magazine, which is still reviewing albums, apparently.
(10) Bill Chenevert, Philadelphia Weekly. (It’s right up there at the top of the page.)
(11) Philadelphia Weekly’s Elliott Sharp, via Facebook.
PW's Music Issue 2014