Well I am apparently Greg Peck today, listening to Guns N' Roses and playing online poker. But besides that I just wanted to put out my initial thoughts of 808's & Heartbreak before I (hopefully) write a full-fledged review of it.
- For the most part it sounds good, not necessarily saying that it is good. The production is pretty solid and I like the sound Kanye is going for. For the most part. There are some missteps so far. On the Glow in the Dark Tour and at Lollapalooza Kanye loved belnding songs together by way of extended outros and interludes. This was alright, but somewhat frustrating live, mostly because i just wanted to hear the next song. These outros show up in a couple of occasions on 808's. Now, he has done this before, Late Registration in particular, but there is a difference here. On Late Registration, the songs were layered with strings, drums, horns and anything Kanye and Jon Brion wanted to throw in there. They were well orchestrated and lush. The outro at the end of "Say You Will" is just 808's some "Exit Music"esque vocals and those pong noises. These aren't very interesting to hear on their own for a minute if they never change.
-The singing. I am not going to talk shit about the singing because it's not the point of the album. Kanye has said he just loved using the Autotune, and he didn't want to stop so he made a whole album. The only times I ahve a problem is when I hear his voice and wish someone else was signing. This realy hit me today while listening to the new "Robocop" with the strings supposedly added by Herbie Hancock(?!). Kanye's voice does not sound right with the strings. Even with the Autotune he sounds like he's in a different key or something than the strings. I could only imagine how much better it would sound if a talented singer was singing that. Kind of had the same feeling with "Street Lights" but I like that song.
-Finally, a thought I should probably save for my review if I want it to be good, but I don't want to forget my point.
In his review of Chinese Democracy for the A.V. Club, Chuck Klosterman, a writer I still like at his most grating, and whom I a aspire to be at his best, talked about how the album was maybe the last of it's format(CD) to have this feeling of anticipation. That the new age of leaks and the fact people have been waiting fifteen years to hear this album give it a feeling of anticipation that is not common in the music industry anymore. I feel as though 808's represents the antithesis of that opinion. Before the whole album leaked, nine out of eleven tacks had leaked individually. Now Kanye claims to have been responsible for a few of those, but I am not totally sure I buy that. The point of Kanye leaking the songs appears to me to be a way of getting initial reaction from listeners and making changes from there. Hence why I have four different version of Love Lockdown on my hard drive and the song was only introduced to my ears two or three months ago. It seems as though Kanye doesn't care about the sense of anticipation due to his outrageous pursuit of perfection. He wants people, all people, to think what he is doing to be the best. I think that hurts the final product. It all feels too calculated. That was the problem with Late Registration, and at this point in time it seems as though that will be the problem for me with 808's & Heartbreak. I think the opposite is what made College Dropout a classic, and still so fun to listen to. There was clearly a genius behind it, and that man had some tracks he wanted to say a whole lot and be important("Jesus Walks.") But there was also a sense of fun in tracks like "Workout Plan" and less of an ego on tracks like "Two Words" where he does not spit the best verse, and maybe even the worst. It appears as though that will never happen again on a Kanye CD. In his current state of mind he cannot allow anyone, at anytime, appear to be at all better than him. Which is good for driving himself, but he can't always be the best. This is something I have just come to realize. Up until very recently I admired his bull-headedness because it defined him. Now I think it is a little ill-conceived, and it is also probably what has led to him being so depressed now. He puts way too much pressure on himself. If he went back to having fun while making great music I think the product will improve and he won't talk about how "lonely it is at the top" and suicide or whatever.