Monday, Nov. 03, 2008

808s & Heartbreak by Kanye West

Imagine if you took an album's worth of blues lyrics and removed all the blues. That's what West does on this hastily produced record about the death of his mother and the dissolution of his recent engagement. The words are brutally introspective ("Chased the good-life, all my life long/ Look back on my life, all my life gone") but they're sung through the anonymity of Auto-Tune over beats generated mostly by the ancient Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer, one of the first drum machines, so you'd expect their power to be muted. Instead, West turns his gimmick into an innovation; the effects make him sound ghostly and sad (and better, since he can't actually sing). Not everything on 808s & Heartbreak works, but what does is fascinating — and haunting.

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