For the love of God, don’t make him take out the toys!
Kanye West’s latest album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, dropped in November to rave reviews—particularly of its hit single “Power.” As our own Ryan Reed noted Friday in his review of “All of the Lights,” (Fantasy‘s fourth official single), the hype is pretty well founded.
Where “All the Lights” is a horn-infused killer, however, “Dark Fantasy” is a lackluster album opener that makes the record seem a lot worse than it is.
On the positive side, I guarantee every West fan can find at least forty to fifty seconds of pleasure in “Dark Fantasy.” For instance, if you’re like me and you value how great West’s flow is, you’ll enjoy the middle of the song, once he finally makes his appearance. Unfortunately, the rhymes themselves are so peculiarly disjointed and contrived (“And the fires did declare us/But after that, took pills, kissed an heiress”) that the few truly great lines are buried in fluff poetics and West’s signature breathy falsetto warbling.
But the bookends to West’s two verses and one bizarre bridge are what make the song a chore to listen to, and that face almost prevented me from giving the rest of the album a chance before I’d even heard it. “Dark Fantasy” samples heavily from Mike Oldfield’s “In High Places,” and by “heavily” I mean that the chorus (housed in an opera house and accompanied by a lonesome grand piano) ooh and ahhs “Can we get much higher?” and never finds the answer, even after monopolizing the entire song. (For a guy who claims he’s “just a Chi-town nigga with a Nas flow,” you’d think that flow would show up more often.)
Everything great about Oldfield’s original is cut out, which is strange; you’d think that West would be the first person in line to sample the xylophone.
Everything becomes irretrievably colored with the same mass-produced R&B nonsense that pollutes so much of West’s catalogue, mired in schlock and mediocrity. Kanye used to know how to make an album opener—“Good Morning,” anyone?—but his slow decline seems to be speeding up in that department.