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Album Review

808s & Heartbreak Album Review

January 7, 2019

As easily the most out of place album in Kanye West’s discography, it’s clear that

808s and Heartbreak

would be quite a polarizing record. After releasing three classic hip-hop records and becoming a breakout pop star, Mr. West would come out of left field and release an album that’s hardly a hip-hop album at all.

808s and Heartbreak

finds Kanye at his lowest. His longtime girlfriend had broken up with him and his mother had recently passed radically changing the tone of his music.

This shift in mood is apparent on the album’s opening moments. "Say You Will" opens the album up with a haunting choir of synthesizers and a sparse drumbeat. Kanye himself is no longer rapping, but singing from a very broken place. This is the case for the majority of the album. Such a radical change in vocal delivery opens Kanye up to a more vulnerable place. Instead of filling up another album with his usual boastful rapping, Kanye exposes the listener to one of his biggest weaknesses throughout the entire record, further showing his vulnerability. Even though Kanye is not a traditionally great singer, there’s something about the vulnerability and honesty of his singing that I just love.

The next track is the equally depressing "Welcome to Heartbreak", in which Kanye finds that through gaining stardom he has lost hope for an emotional future. There’s a quick break from utter despair in the stretch of songs from "Heartless" to "Robocop". "Heartless" is a song I instantly recognized as a hit from my childhood. Luckily, the song still stands up and is easily the defining single of the album. "Amazing" sees Kanye return to his boastful self. "Love Lockdown" is incredibly danceable with these pulsating energetic drum beats. "Paranoid" also continues to feel pretty danceable with its clear synthpop inspiration and great guest vocals from Mr. Hudson. Robocop is a little cheesy but the bright synthetic strings make it sound like something out of a Disney movie. Despite this, it actually manages to be one of my favorite songs on the record.

The optimism fades away in the second half with one of the saddest tracks on the entire record, "Street Lights". Kanye’s earnest vocals have returned as he slips back into sadness joined by a choir of other voices. “I know my destination, but I’m just not there” This track is incredibly beautiful and heartbreaking, any attempted description I make cannot do it justice. Following this is “Bad News”, by this point, any light left in this record is gone. I can feel the despair in this track, being left alone and learning the fact that your mother has passed. It’s so cold, and “Bad News” captures that shock and despair so well.

My biggest problem with

808s and Heartbreak

are the rap features. Lil Wayne and Jeezy’s features just kill the mood. I really want to love "See You in My Nightmares", the bitterness and hurt of heartbreak are there but Lil Wayne kills the mood. The same problem is apparent on "Amazing". I’m here to empathize with Kanye’s pain, I have no interest in watching my sodium intake.

808s and Heartbreak

is just such a personal record for Kanye, no feature is worth getting in the way of that.

“Coldest Winter” is the song the entire album has been building to. Kanye somehow manages to make complete despair and heartbrokenness sound so grand and epic. “Memories made in the coldest winter. Goodbye, my friend. I won’t ever love again.” These lyrics hit like a rock. And just when I thought Kanye had created the perfect closer with “Coldest Winter”, he one-ups himself once again. "Pinocchio Story" is amazing not for the song itself, but for the picture it paints. This moment IS

808s and Heartbreak

. Kanye did it. He’s a star. The world is finally his, but it won’t listen. This man is up on stage getting everything off his mind. He got everything he wanted, but only wishes he could be real again. But the crowd just cheers, they do not know him, not like his girlfriend did, not as his mother did. Nobody can hear him. He is alone.

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