Out since Monday, Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy finally hit stores to what is seeming to us like mass audience acclaim. It's hitting in the right spots, lyrically and musically, and now, one by one, the critics are weighing in.
A week or so ago Rocks Off turned in our own overview of the album, while also showcasing some of Fantasy's best rhymes and lyrical slashes. This is what we had to say about the album, which we are still spinning after more than two weeks.
Fantasy is West's fifth album and coming-out party. If the first two were West gaining his footing, and the last two chronicled him warping his persona, Fantasy is the sound of the guy in him going online and fully functional.
Rocks Off was modest in our appraisal of the album. We like it, and it's definitely growing on us. Even while we type this, "Power" just started up on Rdio. Fantasy is a well-rounded album, holding our attention for all 13 tracks. There's nary a track we find ourselves skipping through or cringing at.
Some find Kanye's media personality laughable or grating, but if you separate the public persona from the one that comes across on Twitter and in interviews, the album reaps great rewards.
If you can separate the art from the artist, you see the album in an altogether different light. Alternately if you root for West and you swallow both down equally, it's like reading notes from the rapper's shrink visits.
But was it worth a rating of 10.0 from Pitchfork's Ryan Dombal, and five stars from Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone? We are some of the biggest fans of both outlets you will ever find, and Sheffield is on our top five list of rock writers and pop-culture physicists we have ever read, but the question has to be posed.
Take into account the albums that have previously received perfect scores from Pitchfork: Radiohead's Kid A and OK Computer; The Flaming Lips' The Soft Bulletin; Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot; and Bonnie "Prince" Billy's I See a Darkness. Is Fantasy on the same par with, arguably, those artists' most critically revered albums?
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As fans of all of the above and West, Rocks Off can't agree that Fantasy will be on the same page as Kid A in ten years, or match the brain-melting creativity of Yankee - just yet.
Sheffield concluds his RS piece on the album by stating:
With Fantasy, he makes everybody else on the radio sound laughably meek, but he's also throwing down a challenge to the audience. Kanye West thinks you're a moron if you settle for artists who don't push as hard as he does. And that means pretty much everybody.
True it is that West makes his brethren on rap radio seem trite and calculated, but is Fantasy on the same level as The Joshua Tree, Doolittle and Appetite for Destruction? Less than a week after its release, it's way too early to start calling this album West's The Queen Is Dead, another RS five-Star album.
SPIN threw the album a 9/10, Entertainment Weekly's Simon Vozick-Levinson gave it an A, and Metacritic has it sitting at a 93 on it's charts. Houston Press sister weekly Village Voice has it at around a 90. The New York Times, New Musical Express and Paste have all followed suit with grades in the 90s. AllHipHop.com loved the album, deeming it also a ten-star work.
Dissenters include Dot Music's Jason Draper, who turned in a flat grade of 60 and attracted the ire of dozens of irate West fans. UK paper The Guardian got nasty, giving Fantasy two stars. Critic Alex Macpherson opening the review with this indictment of West and his work:
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A fascinating public persona is not synonymous with fascinating musical output, and while West's attention-seeking behaviour may be grotesquely compelling, the manchild himself is not. He fancies himself a tortured artist, but his mixture of ego and self-loathing could not be more of a cliche.
West himself dropped by the Rolling Stone offices to wax philosophical about his album, bemoaning the loss of the rock star spirit and railing on hipsters and indie-rock. Dressed like '60s Secret Service agent, the rapper held court for about an hour.
Rocks Off normally doesn't do album reviews, so we don't have some sort of regular grading system. But, we suppose, if we were to hand Fantasy a grade, it would either be an 85 or a B+.
What do you think of the album? Is Fantasy worth the adoration or will we forget about in a year? Is it a classic rap album of the highest order, or is it just benefiting from West's public outbursts?