With every moment, Kanye West seems to invite his listeners deeper and deeper inside his own head. Appearing both self-confident and self-conscious, he’s showcased his own inner workings, including his spiritual deliberations with the “Jesus Walks” saga (from his album The College Dropout). Now with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye opens the door wider for us to watch him process his blunders and his victories in areas like relationships and image.
Singers have long put their lives on display through their lyrics, so an introspective album is not exactly new. However, Kanye takes a public portrayal of self-awareness to a new level. Many of the tracks on this album monologue against his critics and tell stories from his perspective. Where do they come out of? Insecurity? Self-awareness? Pride? Pain? Perhaps it’s the feeling of being perpetually misunderstood. Kanye’s wit, intellect, convictions, and success have come along with some infamous actions and high profile meltdowns. Getting empathy has been a mixed bag for Kanye, yet he remains one of the most influential figures in hip-hop. There are many public figures like him who long to be truly understood; this is a world where private lives are publicised to overexposure, misrepresented and misinterpreted.
The album is big. It’s huge. It spans genres to harness the power of rock, hip-hop, electronica, neo-classicism, and thundering African beats. The tracklist is incredibly catchy, yet it is dark – making statements of resentment, frustration, or dismissal. Tracks like “Blame Game” cleverly use voices panning from one side to the other to simulate a frustrated internal conversation about a woman. Though it may be upsetting, it’s difficult not to listen with compassion as Yeezy’s aggravations drive his lyrics, darkened with obscenities and statements of resignation and even self-loathing. Kanye masterfully plays upon our sympathies, unknowingly or knowingly dabbling in emotional manipulation.
Do people want to hear singers come clean about the dark, twisted corners of their mind as they attempt to figure themselves out? Is self-centeredness a new major message in art? Decide for yourself, but this album’s sales and reviews indicate that there are a lot of people interested in what this artist has to say. Though our world is dominated by people publicizing their thoughts and actions, it still seems like people’s appetites for that information cannot be satiated. Kanye somehow keeps up intrigue, using his twitter feed, his public antics, his razor-sharp lyrics and musical fearlessness for experimentation to keep people riding the waves the creates.