Pitchfork gives Kanye’s new album a 10

Today, Pitchfork gave Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy a 10.0. Considering that, if Wikipedia is to believed, they’ve only given nine non-reissues a 10 since they opened shop in 1995, that’s a big deal, whether you agree with their tastemaking qualifications or not. I mean, they only gave a music a 6.8.

I’ve listened to it once through, and I’m cautiously optimistic about Pitchfork‘s crowning of this album as great. It’s certainly the first hip hop album in a very long time without a bad track. But a 10…

As a result, the record comes off like a culmination and an instant greatest hits, the ultimate realization of his strongest talents and divisive public persona. And since the nerd-superstar rap archetype he popularized has now become commonplace, he leaves it in the dust, taking his style and drama to previously uncharted locales, far away from typical civilization.

[Pitchfork]

Kanye West, “Monster (ft. Jay-Z, Bon Iver, Rick Ross & Nicki Minaj)”

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14 Responses to Pitchfork gives Kanye’s new album a 10

  1. What do you mean, “without a bad track”?

    Here are four of them:
    1. So Appalled
    2. Devil in a New Dress
    3. Blame Game (which is rotten to the core)
    4. Who Will Survive in America?

    Also, “All of the Lights (Interlude)” is unneeded, and the three minutes of vocoder garbage on the end of “Run Away” is a complete waste.

    This album is no 10.0. It is a good album, but there’s plenty of filler on there.

    • David G says:

      Well, disagree strongly about “So Appalled,” disagree less strongly about “Devil in a New Dress,” and I’m really up in the air about “Blame Game”: you might be right there, although the audacity of its absurdity is a little compelling. I like the interlude and the end of Runaway (though it’s the song I might be the most iffy on). As to “Who Will Survive in America,” well, nope: Gil Scott-Heron can close EVERY album and that’d suit me fine.

      But, as to whether it deserved a 10, I’d probably agree that it doesn’t. It’s certainly one of the best hip hop albums in quite a while, though. Kanye’s good for nothing if not arguing over…

  2. Matt K says:

    A little late to this, but I’m always amazed at how so many people can come to definitive opinions about albums in less than a week. I don’t think I have that kind of ear.

    All I can say so far is that there are some pretty exciting things about this record:

    1. The cornerstone sample of the leadoff track is a transcendent squeal from Yes’s Jon Anderson. Prog is dead, long live prog.

    2. The lyrics contain multiple references to the work of Washington Irving.

    3. This is probably more controversial, but I think the 35-min movie is wonderful. The colors, the breasts, the ballerinas — all of them bodacious, intoxicating, and completely unashamed of themselves. It’s a brilliantly unsubtle masterpiece, I think, and a brilliant emotional map of the album, too.

    4. Maybe it’s absence from the film is holding it back, but so far the track that’s rewarded me the least is “Monster.” It still sounds aggressively unmelodic to me — as much as I appreciate the sarcophagus-fucking lyrics, it all feels a bit forced right now. But everyone else seems to love it, so maybe I’ll get there in the next few weeks.

    5. Dave, get off the fence about “Runaway” and join the rest of us. I don’t care if Kanye can’t exactly sing — this is the anthem at the heart of the entire album. And if you can’t ride the main groove, you’ve lost your pass the pop amusement park, and may be banned for life. Get on board, sir.

    • David G says:

      Matt, that means you’re just not cut out to be a blogger: offering unconsidered definitive pronouncements is lesson #1 in Blogging 101. For comparison, see lesson plan “talking about books you haven’t read” in Grad School 101.

      That said, I have listened to it many more times since, and it’s pretty damn good.

      1. No.
      2. I did not notice that.
      3. I haven’t seen the movie. On my list.
      4. “Monster” isn’t melodic, but it’s killer. Rick Ross is sick on it. The production is banging. And I love Justin Vernon’s Antony Hegarty impression. I also love it as the flipside to “All of the Lights.”
      5. Runaway is clearly the least interesting track on the album, although it’s very good (in a radio ready boring way).

      Blame Game is totally bewitching. It’s obviously the worst track on the album. Chris Rock’s bullshit is insane. But… I’m not sure I want it off the album.

  3. Matt K says:

    1. Yes! Yes! See here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_High_Places_%28song%29) and here (http://www.whosampled.com/sample/view/66471/Kanye%20West%20feat.%20Nicki%20Minaj%20and%20Bon%20Iver-Dark%20Fantasy_Mike%20Oldfield%20feat.%20Jon%20Anderson-In%20High%20Places/) Definitely Jon Anderson. I’ll be disappointed if Ye’s next album doesn’t have something from “Starship Trooper.” And Prog is not dead.

    2. Kanye seems to be obsessed with “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”
    3. It’s totally ridiculous, but also kind of mesmerizing.
    4 & 5. Maybe it’s just that you like “banging” rap, and I prefer “radio ready” pop. I’m not ashamed of my position.

    • David G says:

      I wasn’t disputing the Yes sample. I was just disputing it being a “cornerstone” or “transcendent.” Also saying no to Yes is fun.

  4. “Monster” is very probably best song on the album, Matt, melody or none. THAT is how you do a too-long song with too many guests and make it work (as in “Forever,” having all those big names raising and reraising the bar on one another provides for some fantastic verses–Nicki’s is her best ever, and the single best verse on the album). “Monster” does what “So Appalled” doesn’t do: “SA” is merely too long with too many guests, the beat is bland, and the hook (if that “ridickiliss” thing can be called a hook) is embarrassing. Swizz Beatz. Give me a break. He’s an amateur among champions in a song where all the champions phone it in.

    “Run Away” is undeniable. Don’t hate it because it’s catchy.

    At least we agree that “Blame Game” is the worst. I guess I have less patience for being bewitched.

    Length is a problem Kanye has a problem with on this album. So many of these songs have what, four? five? fakeout endings before they finally finish. This makes the album more interesting as an artistic statement when it works, but when it doesn’t, it takes blah tracks and makes them interminable. “Blame Game” would be bad at four minutes, but at eight, no way. “Devil in a New Dress” was fine if needless when released on G.O.O.D. Fridays at two and a half minutes, but at over five, blech. Stop wasting my time, Kanye.

    His other work (i.e. music) notwithstanding, the Gil Scott-Heron crap is simply that: crap. It’s a boring, trite, misinformed, misguided rant that sounds like an editorial from an angry late teen.

    To offset all that crankiness, though, let me nominate “Hell of a Life” for best beat on the album, and let me say that the remaining tracks constitute a terrific eight-song suite that’s easily one of the best albums of the year and one I’d give a solid 9.0.

    • David G says:

      Don’t disagree with GSH’s dogmatic rant being a bit callow (which makes it all the more fitting for Kanye), but this is still a compelling piece despite its content: bubbling, bubbling, bubbling.

  5. *Length is a problem Kanye has on this album

  6. Material Lives says:

    Ugh. 10? Hilarious. I’m mostly with Chadwick: the album takes a serious dive towards the middle, with “Devil in a New Dress” being the most boring track on the album and “So Appalled”coming in at a close second. Where I depart from Chadwick is that I can’t be as generous with the rating: I give this–at most–an 8.5. I hear nothing new here, nothing staggering, nothing that makes me want to get on the dance floor, nothing that moves me, nothing that makes me think (save, perhaps, Justin Vernon’s lyric). Just a few driving beats, a few pithy lines, and a lot of length. I’m not saying I don’t like parts of the album, but I don’t think I’ll be spending much time with it.

    • David G says:

      I’m probably with Chaddwick on the 9, although I have less beef with his length problem. I can only think of a very few hip hop albums that wouldn’t be completely better off with many less tracks, so I’ll cut Kanye a break for a few borderline songs. And I don’t think any of them, including the admittedly weaker “Devil in a New Dress” (Rick Ross kills it again on this) or “So Appalled,” cross that line, except maybe “Blame Game.” Will it be my #1 album of the year? No. Will it rank top ten? Definitely. I’ve been more compelled by it than almost any rap album in the past decade.

  7. Material Lives says:

    David, I think that says more about the state of rap than this album. Granted, the album has high points and will likely travel broadly across the airwaves. I’m just disappointed that this is the type of album, music, and thought that the highest praise is reserved for by musical influencers such as Pitchfork.

  8. Katherine Hill says:

    As a passive appreciator of music (i.e. I fail Music Blogging 101) I have nothing new to add other than I love the album but I don’t trust myself to have actually come to this opinion independent of all the hype.

    That said, some thoughts:
    – I dug “Monster” when I first heard it on the radio a few weeks ago not knowing who anybody was. It has that great rocking basement feel. Sarcophagus/esophagus actually gave me chills. As for Nicky Minaj, her voice is everywhere — the full range of sound and attitude — which is pretty hard to beat.
    – Yes, the tracks may go on forever on this album, but I like them, so I’m content to keep listening. Better than having to start the songs over all the time as I usually have to do when I’m just getting addicted to something new.
    – I wasn’t sure about “douchebags” having to shoulder so much meaning in a refrain, but then I saw the movie and am now totally 100% sold on “Run Away,” Kanye’s douche-y pain and those painfully beautiful ballerinas. Come on, his mom died from a botched liposuction! Jesus.
    – I love “Blame Game.” Call me sappy and self-indulgent. I truly do not care.
    – My favorite, though, is “Lost in the World.” A sublime climax that for some reason makes me want to run through a green wood in search of my gorgeous departed phoenix.

    • David G says:

      Typical false modesty lede with insightful body, KHill.

      – Right on about “Monster.” It does sound like a basement jam. And Minaj’s voice being all over is exactly right. Though I still think Rick Ross steals it with his four lines. Also, are you Power 99-ing it in your car?
      -This movies makes “douchebags” seem like a great chorus anchor? I really must watch.
      -re: “Blame Game”: Even the 2 minutes and 20 seconds of Chris Rock inanity? (yes, i checked)
      – “Lost in the World” is a perfect ender. If Kanye West is James Cameron (pyrotechnic, meglomaniac, insanely gifted, substantial without substance… actually, has anybody seen them in the same place at the same time?), then this is certainly his Avatar.

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