First and foremost let me say that I am a Kanye fan, his first three solo albums have an average rating of 4.33/5 from me, so that being so, and this being so well received by most, I have tried to enjoy this album more, giving it forced listens after being vastly underwhelmed upon my early ventures to get through the disc. This thought takes me back to 2004 when I first heard Jesus Walks on TV and immediate loved it, nothing on this evokes that emotion. There are four or five tracks I enjoy such as 'Dark Fantasy', 'Power', 'Hell of a Life', ‘So Appalled’ and 'Monster' but not much if any I love enough to see myself going back to in a week or two. What's more is that everything is fairly new to the ear as I purposely stayed away from the tracks he had been releasing every Friday.
As for the tracks not mentioned, I find 'Gorgeous' dull, featuring the extremely vapid Kid Cudi. 'All of the Lights' is extremely overproduced - there is too much going on. ‘Devil in a New Dress’ and 'Runaway' feature Kanye singing for some reason, they are too long, and while the beats are heralded for not being loops like most hip hop, they don't change up enough for me to wanna listen for 10 minutes., and the sample is annoying on DIAND. Likewise with 'Blame Glame', particularly with Chris Rock's two minutes of rambling. And finally, 'Lost in the World' is almost up there with the aforementioned tracks in the last paragraph, but again I think it's overproduced, particularly during the chorus and toward the end of the song - you've got the drums, Kanye singing, the background chants and the synthy deep vocal thing, etc. It's all too much! Sometimes less is more.
Kanye is without a shadow of a doubt a better producer than rapper, so when I'm not enjoying the beats, I don't enjoy Kanye. He ain't a Rakim and the like that can turn an unlikable beat into a good song. Not enjoying the beats as much as previous work from him leads the lyrics to be more of focus, which I don't find very interesting. The whole thing seems egotistical/whinny and the overemphasising Kanye does can become annoying. People have said to me they have found Kanye hard to listen to since he blew up in 2004, and I could understand why, but I still loved the music. With this album though, I myself do find him annoying at times. Also when Kanye could no doubt get anyone he wanted on his albums, I'm not sure why he has to hop on the current 'in rappers' and get the uninteresting Rick Ross (twice) and Nicki Minaj, who while I think has some talent, I can't help but find her annoying in most, if not every featuring verse I've heard from her, so that brings 'Monster' down a notch - she is much more tolerable though on most of her new solo album.
While I have compared this album to Kanye's previous material in this review, the rating is based on the album itself. Overall, as mentioned, I just can’t see myself going back to much if any of this and I am very surprised by the almost unanimous praise this has received from critics and fans alike. The best tracks are good, but not outstanding, and with every song I enjoy I could pick something that I don't like about it. Even 'Power' to me at times sounds overproduced. Lastly, the whole overall mood and feeling Kanye has tried to portray here does little for me, and on every listen unfortunately too much of me wants to hit skip too often. On to the next one!
Best Tracks: Dark Fantasy, Power, Monster, Hell of a Life, Lost in the World