A work of seemingly spontaneous inspiration, Kanye's 808s and Heartbreak challenges even the most renaissance of expectations. A global musician fighting to stretch the lens and be recognized, refereed, and ratified as a global artist, Mr. West interrupts our regularly scheduled programming to deliver this message, sometimes it hurts too. If this compilation were to be compared to that of another artist, it seems best suited for comparison to Pablo Picasso’s Blue Period. Earnestly enough the album starts with a question and a problem posed in the first six seconds of “Say You Will”. One could ask why Kanye chose to spend half of the track painting the background so. Perhaps it is there to make way for a formal “Welcome to Heartbreak” in which he confesses, “My friend showed me pictures of his kids, and all I could show him was pictures of my cribs.” Questioning sacrifice and trailing backgrounds are recurring themes throughout this collection.
The main body of the album is with as large a panorama as one can achieve prioritizing one drum machine for production and one topic for discussion. “Heartless” cuts, “Amazing” feels the most familiar in this great departure, and Love Lockdown anchors the theme of heartache. “Paranoid” taffies relationship issues with light-hearted instrumentation and tone as “Robocop” follows suit at the heart of the album. He put the shades back on. “Street Lights” eases you back into the heavier things abound in the latter end of the album as Kanye wanders back out there.
“Bad News” sounds like the conversation one has with him/herself after hanging up the phone in frustrated despair. “See You In My Nightmares” is the anger that proceeds the anguish. The synth reminds of the tone from “Can’t Tell Me Nothing”. And then, the lonely nights come again bringing with them memories made in the “Coldest Winter”. Speculation has been laid that this song is about Kanye’s mom but I don’t hear a sad song about mom in this. Instead, there’s this short, conclusive track to an album about love lost and the bluer notes of relationship. The song sounds like someone marching through a snow storm. Question being, where are they going and what are they leaving?
I’m not sure it’s right to require a master piece from every artistic offering. Venerated masters of art from literature, music, cinema, and still visual didn’t produce “that” piece every time. Not every Miles blow was hallowed. Can you name another book that Ms. Neale Hurston wrote? A far greater point is that master work is essentially a matter of perspective, popular as it may be. Even Picasso, during his blue period, struggled to accurately express perspective with human subjects. So what did he do, put them on one line, parallel to the horizontal axis of the canvas. 808s’ lyrical apex comes in the final track, “Pinocchio Story”. Have you listened to the track/the man/the boy? The orchestral apex happens somewhere between Heartless and Coldest Winter. A sonic master piece, this is not. But for now…