Kanye West - 808's & Heartbreak

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For many, auto-tune is only tolerable in small doses, if at all. Through little more than sheer talent Kanye still managed to make an album that begs repeated listens; even if it is only for 75% of it. Welcome to Heartbreak.

Supportive or critical of this album's movement, you have to admire Kanye West's courage. In the days of shrinking albums sales and sticking to proven formulas, one of music's biggest artists has done a complete 180 after having last year's top critical and commercial album in Graduation. Some call it a slap to the face of his fans, others call it a true artist's evolution. Implementing auto-tune is hardly a new idea, but criticism that Kanye is just piggybacking some T-Pain money and not just doing this because he felt like it ignores the trends of this man's career.

Combining the emotions of a lost mother, a called off engagement, and the stress of mega-stardom and "pap-snapping" celebrity, Kanye has taken a detour from his "school" series, as well as his proven comfort zone for 808's & Heartbreak. The album opens triumphantly, in fact the first five songs are as good a start to any work this year. He may be singing a different, computer-assisted tune, but Kanye's trademark attention to detail remains in tact on the minimal opener "Say You Will." By the time it is running on at the end of the song, the beat has built and evolved beautifully. Kanye's songwriting takes center stage on the Kid Cudi-assisted "Welcome To Heartbreak," as he laments his drive for fortune and fame costing him everything else in his life, specifically building a family. Sampling may have been set aside, but 'Ye's production here - between the opening cello and the piano throughout - it's as moving as anything he's ever done.

"Heartless" [click to listen] is the most evocative song in 'Ye's artistic evolution, and not just because it is one of the few instances in which he actually raps. It is the perfect marriage of Kanye's 808's & Heartbreak experiment, with all the pieces coming together in a way they seldom do over this album's 11 tracks. Put this song on any other Kanye album and while it might walk the perimeter, it'd still be pretty fresh. "Amazing" [click to listen] isn't far off either with it's excellent song structure, visceral production and welcomed rapping guest Young Jeezy [click to read].

After hit single "Love Lockdown" [click to listen] bookends a phenomenal start, the album begins to slide as the attention to detail starts to reflect a T-Pain album rather than a Kanye West album. "Paranoid" [click to listen] sounds like a Tangerine Dream album cut from two decades ago, equally as understated today. "Robocop" [click to listen] follows, and despite its rugged intro and title, it is more Peter Pan than Peter Weller. "Street Lights" is quality work, but "Bad News" is quite dull and "See You In My Nightmares" [click to listen] featuring Lil Wayne is one of the biggest disappointments of the album. The duo doesn't come close to finding the chemistry they showed on Tha Carter III [click to read], and their combined auto-tuned stylings ignore the definition of overkill. "Coldest Winter" [click to listen] is 'Ye's highly-publicized tribute to his mother, and while it is a good song from an aesthetic standpoint, it's a letdown. Obviously you can't fault the man for making what he felt, but the song came as an abstract surprise from the man who was so specific three years ago on "Hey Mama" [click to read]. West offers unfamiliar fans a breakup anthem, in what is arguably the most personal song on the album.

If anything, this album proves once and for all what an incredible artist Kanye West is. Being that 808's & Heartbreak is a completely different beast than his past work, it is impossible to compare. But consider how drastically different this is than his debut, and that he still pulled it off very easily. Few artists can stray so far from home and succeed. This is even more impressive when his art project was made using the musical equivalent of paint-by-numbers known as auto-tune. For many, auto-tune is only tolerable in small doses, if at all. Through little more than sheer talent Kanye still managed to make an album that begs repeated listens; even if it is only for 75% of it. Welcome to Heartbreak.

21 Comments

  • 808s & Heartbreak

    5/5 obviously

  • Not an Idiot

    Kanye tries to do something different and people are too dumb to understand it, so they rate it low The autotune is there to make the album seem soulless. Can't you tell by the goddamn album cover? Can't believe how stupid people can be

  • Jake

    the more i listen, the better it gets

  • wtf

    co-sign the nigga under me 5/5

  • Nabeezy

    OMG, I can't believe ppl rated this so low... This album is beautiful, exactly what Hip-hop was missing. even musically challenged ppl will give it 4.5/5!!

  • Rap Quote .Com

    This album holds up really well, and will continue to do so especially after t-pain and weezy's autotunes have been forgotten.

  • Jeremy F Taylor

    Appreciate it

  • Johnnnybay

    I guess the singing was to show what a low point he was in his life, and the auto tune made him sound more vulnerable than if he would've rapped. I didn't mind the autotune at all, it made this album so much better, shows kanye's more human and emotional side much better than if he did the entire album without autotune. He probably can't sing as well without autotune assistance, and not like he wasn't singing about nothing. He was poetic throughout the entire album, and sang from the heart, for that i commend the dude on the risky change from rapping to singing. this was an amazing album hands down.

  • lankaistai

    Garbage,sell out music, i agree with phonte: when you want to sing, just sing, no autotune, look at lauryn hill on miseducation of lauryn hill, she sang, no autotune, and it was great.So kanye, stick to rapping and please please please, no souljahboytell em productions or collabos on your next album, or else you will lose fans.smarten up artistically, kanye, and dx, i disagree with your review, it was crap

  • lankaistai

    Garbage,sell out music, i agree with phonte: when you want to sing, just sing, no autotune, look at lauryn hill on miseducation of lauryn hill, she sang, no autotune, and it was great.So kanye, stick to rapping and please please please, no souljahboytell em productions or collabos on your next album, or else you will lose fans.smarten up artistically, kanye, and dx, i disagree with your review, it was crap

  • Timmy to the

    all the haters shut up! kanye had to do this album. he went through sh*t. his mom died!! imagine your mom dying, you wouldn't come back from that and do songs like 'goldigger' , 'celebration' 'new workout plan'. they are great songs and i love all his albums but it wouldve been wierd if he did his traditional witty verses. oh and he used autotune in a symbolic way. he lost his soul with the people he lost so now he is a robot

  • Murphs56

    Underrated as fuck...down the road people will appreciate this innovative work...

  • ahhhxcfdd

    ight album but kanye need 2 get bak 2 hip hop