Wednesday, August 24, 2011

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Last year in November, an album that I had been waiting for since 2009 came out. That album was My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West. I am a music connoisseur, so after months of listening and evaluating, I devised the ratings of each track on the album in individual categories as well as a final comprehensive category.  I’ve also provided links to each song in the final rankings.

Lyric-Based Track Rankings - Probably not my strongest ratings, I am not a lyrics guy by default (choruses and bridges NOT included)

11.) Hell of a Life - Really not much here as far as lyrics are concerned, therefore a non-factor on this disc.
10.) Lost in the World/Who Will Survive in America - This is unfair. There are not many lyrics in this song so it can't contend with some of the heavy hitters. Also the preaching at the end loses it some points.
9.  Runaway - This, along with ”All Of The Lights”, was incredibly hard to rate lyrics-wise. The courses are dynamite, and the songs are both moving and emotional. However, both tunes power comes from the chorus, not the overall lyrics, which deals damage to both.
8.) Dark Fantasy - Another song that’s strength is in the production value, but I won't discount Kanye for presenting us with some nice lyrical wordplay to open his album.
7.) All of the Lights - Tough rating. Nikki Minaj ALMOST pushes this into sixth place with a hard verse, but, honestly, the beauty of this song is production, production, production. I feel decent giving this seventh best pure lyrics.
6.) Blame Game - Interesting tune lyrics wise. You could argue that with more POW it would have moved up a few spots lyrically, but I would contend that altering it in that way would destroy the song as a whole. This is right where it belongs.
5.) Devil in a New Dress - The heavy hitters start here.  Lyrically infused, snappy, it does the job. However, not enough to land itself any higher. The last 4 are just too good.  Kudos to Rick Ross swooping in after the long bridge though and nearly stealing the show
4.) Gorgeous – Kanye really gets after it in this song. As the second track of the CD, it really sets the table after the introduction track. This song really lets us know that he has departed from the college/school based theme of his first 3 albums. It begins a beautiful change for Kanye.
3.) So Appalled - Probably the toughest choice here in the lyrics section. In the end, while West drops a nice verse and Jay-Z drops his best verse by FAR on the album, the other two lyricists in the song don’t do a whole lot for me.  Also, it took a few listens back and forth to realize that my real love of this song is in the production value...that beat, amazing.
2.) Monster - I would debate all day that Kanye raps maybe his best verse (in a song with other artists featured) here. Also, I am very near calling it undeniable that Nikki Minaj drops the best verse of the album on this track. The one glaring negative is that Jay-Z’s verse just doesn’t carry any weight for me. It just seems so weak. I'll describe this song like this; I hated it when I first heard it, but the lyrics have made it one of my favorites on the album.
1.) Power - Was there ever any doubt? NO, there wasn't. It seems like every word violently spewed here is classic. This song is destructive lyrically. You really couldn't have picked a better opening single from the album. A year's hiatus, and Kanye drops this? Basically he's saying, "I’M BAAAAAAACK!"  and an eff you to boot.

Production Value - This is my baby, you better believe I'm taking it seriously (choruses and bridges considered)
11.) Hell of a Life - Wow, I was hoping this song would make it further down the list, because I enjoy the beat. However, that's just how good Kanye is, this song couldn't make it beyond 11.
10.) Devil in a New Dress - Tough call between this one and number 9. Such a clever beat, but no chorus hurts it (though not in overall ranking) and it gets a little too repetitive.
9.) Gorgeous – Not too high up on the list for production value, but honestly, this song was made to be a stunner lyrics-wise and that’s where it delivers. The nice simple beat and chorus are good compliments to it.
8.) Blame Game - Song that really grew on me in the late stages. Nice beat as a change of pace song. Also, John Legend crooning the chorus is excellent. How did they come up with a song like this? Oh yeah, "Yeezy (Kanye) taught me" (I'm counting that towards production value).
7.) Monster - I feel extremely comfortable putting this song here. The beat is nice, but not spectacular, however, that's ok; this song is lyrics and lyrics only. Can I bob my head while I rap to Kanye during this song? Yes I can. After that, I don't care.
6.) So Appalled - Tough call here, but this is sort of the end of the songs where Yeezy doesn't try to make the perfect beat. The chorus here is great; it's f’ing ridiculous.
5.) Runaway. Tough, tough, tough, tough, tough decision. In the end, I had to remind myself that this section is based STRICTLY on production. I know what my top 3 are, so this and number 4 have flip flopped 100 times. This track just doesn't quite top number 4.
4.) Dark Fantasy - The song that has arguably the best intro of any Kanye album belongs here. I'll be honest, the vast majority of production value here lies in the "Can we get much higher?" segments. To me, that makes it almost more impressive that he's hitting me with the same thing over and over and yet I love every one of them and they're all different from one another. Masterful.
3.) Power - On any other album, this is number 1 hands down. The choir, the drums, the chorus, everything is seamless and obliterating here. The only separating quality from this song and the top two is that this lacks anything super wild (which would have destroyed the song, so kudos to West).
2.) Lost in the World/Who Will Survive - Of all categories and all songs, this is the most difficult decision. If you had asked me this question the first month I had the album, I vote this song number 1. Again, I have to remind myself that this is strictly based on production value. A snarky critic would complain repetitiveness here (I most definitely would not and will not, but that's the only separating flaw).
1.) All of the Lights – This is really a no brainer when you think about it. The best beat, hands down, always catching you off guard. The interlude comes into play here as well, setting up the song nicely. The chorus is dominating and empowering, superb.

What you've been waiting for, overall final ratings
A short preamble here. Sloppy readers would try to take my previous two categories and try to mathematically determine the final rankings. I'm adding a third criterion variable here though; how much emotion does this song evoke? In other words, how much am I feeling this song and how much is it reaching out and moving me? This adds the intangible element that is crucial in determining final song order.  So, without further ado.....

11.) Hell of a Life - Things get difficult already. I like this song, I really do. There are just too many good songs on the album and this song doesn't really do anything emotionally. Listen here
10.) Devil in a New Dress - Probably my most subjective rating. I just don't feel this song so much, and I know a lot of people do. I know the verses are great, but as a non-verse guy, that doesn't affect me as much, and in no way does this song move me. Listen here
9.) Dark Fantasy - You really start to see now it's not because the song is bad, but that the other songs are so good. This is a great song, yet it can only crack top 9 on this album. Listen here
8.) So Appalled - By FAR the most shocking turn in the rankings. At one time, this was my second or third favorite song on the album. This ranking for this song is astonishing because the lyrics are still outstanding and the beat is still fresh, but the other songs just aged like a fine wine. Listen here
7.) Blame Game - Like the above song, this has made the biggest jump up in the ratings. The first month that I had this album, I had it rated as my least favorite at the time. You could say this song has gone the opposite path of “Devil in a New Dress”; it has clearly benefited the most from the "feeling it' criterion. Listen here
6.) Gorgeous - Funny thing is, if you would have asked me 6 months ago, this probably would have made number 11. I've since realized just how emphatically West raps on this song. It’s not the best song lyrically, definitely not the best production-wise, but it’s the second track, and it lets us know that Kanye is here to stay. Listen here
5.) Monster - Hot verses; ridiculously hot verses. At the end of the day (to borrow from Rick Bucher) though, this song just doesn’t have the “it” factor production-wise to rise any higher. Listen Here
4.) Runaway - A lot of people probably disagree with this since this was the breakout track of the album, but even so, I had this at number 5 for the longest time. At the end though, this song is off the charts for the emotional scale. He thought this through, looked himself in the mirror, disliked what he saw, and wrote a song about it. It’s difficult to not sympathize with Kanye here; the most heartfelt song of the album. Listen here
3.) Lost in the World/Who Will Survive – Until about 4 months ago, this was my favorite song on the album.  I’m not exactly sure what happened. If I had to put my finger on it, this track ultimately fails in the emotion department. If this is number 3, what does that say about the top 2 tracks? Listen here
2.) Power -  Listen here. This song has flip-flopped a million times between number 1 and number 2. It could very well be the most remembered song off the album. It's truly an anthem. It is the announcement of West’s return that shall not go lightly. However, if the world was about to end and I had a couple minutes left, I would press the fast forward button to get to.....
1.) All of the Lights – BOOM! This track hits you like a grandiose explosion of sound and feeling. Although I initially wasn’t too high on this song, with time I realized it has the perfect blend of heartfelt lyrics and incredible production value, and found it was the only logical choice for number one. Simply, it’s one of the best, if not the best produced song I’ve ever heard; and on top of that it has a lyrical value that can move the soul. This song not only is the best of the album, but also may very well be the best of 2010. Listen here

Thus endeth the My Beautiful Dark Twisted Family song rankings. It's been a long time coming, and I hope it was worth it. I strongly encourage you to give this album a listen, as it truly is the best album of 2010.

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