Possibly the most hotly debated release of 2008 was Kanye West's 808s & Heartbreak. I've been listening to the album off and on since the November release, in hopes that it would grow on me and I'd find some rare gem or piece of inspiration behind it. Alas, I'm still quite dumbfounded and undecided. There's no party without one of Kanye's club hits, whether it be "The Good Life," "Stronger," "Gold Digger," etc. but this album lacks the energy and fun vibe that West is known for.
Using T-Pain's technique for Auto-Tune, 808s & Heartbreak introduces a new side of West. His usual cockiness and danceable tracks are now masked by robotic-like vocals and even more somber lyrics. While the album lacks many of his club-thumping hits from the past, current singles "Heartless" and "Love Lockdown" have been gaining heavy rotation.
Understandably, West has had quite the emotional year. With the death of his mother and a broken engagement, his album, aptly titled 808s & Heartbreak, brings about a side many haven't seen before. Whether he's lamenting about his life on opening track, "Welcome to Heartbreak" ("My friend shows me pictures of his kids/And all I could show him was pictures of my cribs/He said his daughter got a brand new report card/And all I got was a brand new sports car") or how past girlfriends have done him wrong — see most of the album — if one thing is certain, this is definitely not your typically confident, entertaining Kanye West. Though, not necessarily a bad thing.
West distinguishes himself on 808s & Heartbreak. Sure, it's a breakup album but this record exemplifies that even world renown musicians like West don't always have it so easy. West opens up and shows listeners that he is just like them — struggling with death, heartbreak and questioning it all the while, albeit with a more luxurious lifestyle. He is dealing with heartache the only way and best way he can — by immersing himself into his music, giving the listener and the world a little more of himself.
As depressing as the record may sound on the surface with titles like "Welcome to Heartbreak," "Heartless" and "Bad News" West does bring about some surprises. Six-minute long track "Pinocchio" exemplifies his powerful live performance as well as his complete honesty in the heartfelt song. A man of his word, he has told fans and media alike that he wants to reinvent the industry and be "the next Elvis." While he hasn't accomplished that goal just yet, 808s & Heartbreak proves that he's willing to take the plunge and try something new, regardless of what critics or fans think, once again differentiating himself from the crowd.
What are your thoughts on Kanye's new album? I'd love to hear what you think.