West releases a new, fabulous ‘Fantasy’

by Staff

Courtesy of Roc-A-Fella / Def Jam Records

By Drew Scoggins, Staff Writer

It is very, very hard to root for Kanye West. Through these past years it has felt like one debacle after another. People get so wrapped up in West’s persona that they forget he is a living, breathing, feeling man being lacerated by the media and the public. What people tend to overlook is that he is a musical genius and “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” may just be his magnum opus.

The album introduces itself with Nicki Minaj speaking in a phony British accent over shifting layered vocals, but then her voice shifts and snarls for the listener to listen. This is a fitting intro to a CD that is so multifaceted at times it seems schizophrenic. West shifts seamlessly from orchestral arrangements to grungy guitar, from being self-aggrandizing to painfully self-aware, but every song is a different adventure, a different glance into the brain of a tortured artist who just can’t seem to do right in the world. Song after song the listener is forced to deal with this man’s reality. It’s painful, it’s muddy, and it’s incredibly beautiful and refreshing.

A perfect example of this is the single “Runaway.” For those who missed West’s stunning VMA performance or those who just haven’t heard the song yet, “Runaway” is a sparse piano-driven song that might be the most powerful on the album. Silence and a single repeated piano note draw the listener deep into the song before West begins demonizing himself. It’s reminiscent of Al Pacino in Scarface, when he is in the restaurant fighting with Michelle Pfeiffer and tells the stunned onlookers that they need bad guys like him in the world. West embraces this antihero image, branding himself as the devil while sacrificing himself on the cross.

But what shines through the bombast, the flashy production and the artifices designed to distract the listener is the simple honesty of it all. “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” is exactly that — a tapestry of different colors and techniques mashed together to create something the listeners can experience themselves. Every single person has been the antagonist at some point in his or her life. West asks people to take an hour-long walk in his shoes, and at the end of the journey it is very difficult to keep from empathizing with him. Guest appearances from artists such as Elton John, Rihanna, Bon Iver and John Legend underscore his message all too perfectly.

In the present day and age most listeners want a happy ending, or at the very least some sort of nice and neat summation. West instead strives for reality — and that’s much more complicated.  As harsh and challenging as it is, reality is stunningly gorgeous and at the end of the album, West leaves the listener with one thing, and that is hope. Hope that the damned can find redemption, the wicked can change their ways and that respect and empathy will eventually bring people of all walks of life together. Hope that people will understand that not everything is a competition and when it comes right down to it, everyone is in this together.