November 23, 2010

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“Even in those times when I was considered to have done something so wrong, my motivation was from a good place. It’s very pure and from a good place.” – Kanye West

“I have never questioned the motive of another member of the Congress or Senate with whom I’ve disagreed. I’ve questioned their judgment.” – Vice President Joe Biden

Kanye West is a space cadet. I can’t relate to him. It’s unfortunate because my ability to relate to him was the very reason I’d first supported him. I found his passion endearing. I admired his self-assuredness; he seemed to know how to balance it with a sense of humor. The Kanye I voted for drove a Benz wearing a backpack, loved Mase and Scarface equally and featured Mos Def and Freeway on the same song. He proved hip-hop’s “Us vs. Them” argument didn’t have to exist. and the moment he’s managed to capture was rightfully promised to him.

But My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy does not fulfill his promise. To laud it simply for its insanely bold but aimless ambition would be a distortion. To hail it as perfection is beyond foolish, reckless. When the stakes are this high the critical community has a responsibility to be more judicious with its praise. Yes, this album is important; it’s also indulgent, exhausting, ponderous, all the things we tear less fashionable albums to shreds for being. It’s a blockbuster first with delusions of making a grand artistic statement second and I suspect Kanye is keenly aware of this; his obtuse 35-minute companion film is just Kanye doing what Kanye does best: overcompensating. The record itself fails to coalesce into anything meaningful to anyone besides Kanye and maybe the ghost of an Andy Warhol that never existed. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy believes itself to be perfect; it’s shallow at best and at worst contrived.

Perhaps it is true that for this album to have had any artistic ambitions at all given its size and scope is cause enough for celebration. If this is what you think music aspires to then I can understand a positive review. But ambitious failures aren’t inherently better or more worthy of praise than modest successes. This album is a triumph in every conceivable way but the one that matters most: is it an effective piece of art? And that’s what I’ve always believed we were supposed to be concerned with. —Disco Vietnam

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