Here’s the deal. If you don’t like Kanye West, you might be an idiot.
Ok ok. Maybe you’re not an idiot. Just misinformed. I’m not one for telling people their opinions are wrong, but well, here we are.
My favorite quote about Kanye West comes from my college music professor/director/boss/friend, who, coincidentally, showed me the error in my ways of thinking about Yeezy:
“I think Kanye West is a brilliant musician. But if I saw him walking down the street, I would probably hit him with a folding chair.”
I bought 808s and Heartbreak at a Barnes and Noble on a drive from Ohio to New Jersey. I don’t know how many times we listened through it, but as states whizzed past, my eyes were opened. That album is brilliant.
I remember being in enchanted disbelief of the first track– of the sheer audacity of the repeated choral progression that makes up the last 3 minutes and 16 seconds of “Say You Will.” It’s ridiculous… but so haunting. I rarely skip through the second half of that song.
And over the next 5 months (or maybe even the 2 and a half years since that summer) as my life changed and crumbled and grew, that album seemed to follow every turn. Previously ignored tracks became miracles that only occur when you hear an artist voice what you could not. This album comes in the tradition of an entire album as a work of art– where individual tracks are fulfilling, but nowhere near as powerful as the arc the songs follow. This album followed a year of upheaval for Kanye with an ended engagement and the death of his mother, making loss prevalent through the whole record. But what I love about literature applies here: while author intent matters, it’s not the only thing that matters. Because through my relationship with this album, for the carefully trained Zari-historian (or, you know, me) it’s the revealing soundtrack to chapter 21 of my own life.
This album has everything. It gets dirty and it gets devastating while being catchy and self aware. I’m trying to decide what song to post for you and I can’t even make the choice. I’m going with “Paranoid,” because the video is killer (as is the song), and I think the other song I was going to post may warrant a post entirely to itself someday.
So maybe this is more about why I love Kanye rather than why you should, but aren’t you intrigued? I think probably everyone who listens to music with the remotest regularity has at least one album like this, but I don’t believe all artists could make albums like this (my favorite square-rectangle analogy… applies to everything). Maybe that’s not true, and maybe my ideas of how human emotions function are biased and limited. But the truth is I can’t think of a reason why you shouldn’t like Kanye West. Which is weird. I can think of reasons why people might not like Rufus Wainwright, or why people might not like Animal Collective or Joni Mitchell or Stephen Sondheim…. But somehow I have become convinced that Kanye is simply a flavor that if you think you don’t like it, you just haven’t truly tried it yet.
(Side note I might feel this way about Paul Simon too)
(Side note 808s isn’t even Kanye’s best album. So you should definitely be intrigued.)