Kanye West has been acting a fool long enough now that it’s easy to forget he released some very good music back in the day.
West’s second album, 2005’s Late Registration, remains the early pinnacle of a career that has gone off the rails due to West’s ego and (on a sadder note) his mental health issues.
Co-produced by Jon Brion, who Kanye discovered through his work on the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind score and Fiona Apple’s second album, Late Registration is still a great listen.
Each January I like to check out the annual Village Voice Pazz & Jop poll, now in its 44th year, to get a sense of what critics thought of the previous year in music.
It usually leans a little more toward infuriating than illuminating, as critics tend to flock toward the same obvious choices. If Kanye West farts on record, it has a 100% chance of making the top ten in this poll. That said, I have also discovered some great songs there that I wouldn’t have otherwise heard.
Amid all of Kanye West’s silliness and tabloid shenanigans, it’s easy to forget that he can lay down some fascinating music. Today’s Random iTunes track, ‘Blame Game,’ is a great example.
An emotional climax of West’s excellent 2010 album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, ‘Blame Game’ chronicles the end of a relationship with a mix of jealousy, name-calling, self-loathing and bravado. And it’s all topped off with a hilarious Chris Rock monologue riffing on the song’s themes.
At #5 on this week’s Billboard chart is the unexpected collaboration between Rihanna, Kanye West and Paul McCartney. How cool that Macca is charting for a whole new generation more than 50 years after The Beatles reigned.
‘FourFiveSeconds’ is an acoustic country folk pop song that features a great vocal by Rihanna, who isn’t exactly known for her great vocals. The song has a rawness that works for her and works in general.
Has anyone ever been as simultaneously laughed at, despised and revered as Kanye West?
He is often portrayed as a joke for his tremendous ego and outrageous statements, not to mention his marriage, and yet his last four albums have all topped critics’ lists and received praise so lavish it borderlines on absurd.
Rounding out the Village Voice Pazz & Jop top ten is the third Kanye West song, and by far the worst of the bunch.
‘Bound 2’ is so bad it makes you wonder if it’s bad on purpose. Kanye’s rapping, never his strongest suit, is just awful here and the production, always his strongest suit, is disjointed and unpleasant.
In the seventh spot on the Village Voice Pazz & Jop list is another Kanye West track — he really dominated the poll this year.
I like ‘Black Skinhead’ better than ‘New Slaves’ but I still don’t see how this is one of the best songs of the year. I think the brazenness of Kanye’s music, and the man himself, scores him points with critics. He doesn’t just make music, he makes performance art.