Alt V: RED (continued)
In this article, we’re reviewing the next two articles in the RED cycle:
1. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – Kanye West by Nathanael
2. Red – Taylor Swift by Jillian
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – Kanye West
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy a good album. Actually, it’s more than good, but the superlatives don’t really do any justice when the music itself is already the sonic equivalent of superlative. It’s almost impossible to pick just one word to encapsulate the thirteen tracks contained behind the splendid red album art, but if it really came down to it “spectacular” might be a good choice. There’s nothing minimal or restrained here. Everything is blown up, magnified to extravagant proportions – music to perhaps represent an artist himself known for some extravagant behaviour.
Confidence is key for Kanye West, so much so that the first two voices you hear on the album aren’t even West himself. Everything starts off with Nicki Minaj’s venomous spoken word intro that just vaguely rhymes, before a swaying chorus plays and Teyana Taylor wonders “can we get much higher?” Kanye only appears after almost a quarter of the track is done, but once the beat shifts into gear it’s time for some of his best ever swaggering, posturing, yet surprisingly insecure lyrics. His tone is straight and level, no intonation needed to exaggerate raps which already blur the line between bravery and bravado.
An album on such a huge scale as this with so many collaborators and West’s own iconic presence could easily have devolved into a huge mess of star-studded singles but no proper through-line to keep the listener interested. West soars past that though, deftly holding everything together and keeping it coherent. Stellar production on every track from West and an army of producers results in a current of instrumentation that picks you up and transports you to places you never thought existed in a world encompassing the biggest ego that ever existed. Kanye’s lyrics, not usually thought of as his strong suit, have never been more direct or hard-hitting. Nothing is hidden in the words, and at times it seems as if West’s mind and even his soul has been laid bare for us to experience.
The beats switch and pound and generally sweep the listener along, but West’s snarky, atonal voice might sometimes get a little boring, if not for some cleverly placed and masterfully executed guest spots from some of the brightest talents in music today. The above-mentioned Nicki Minaj reappears five tracks later for possibly the greatest verse of her life, while artists ranging from rap old-guard Raekwon to 2000s diva Fergie slip in for guest spots of their own. Even Bon Iver and Elton John appear, and like all the collaborators on the album they don’t distract us from Kanye’s original vision, but rather contribute to the whole sound, the whole feel of the album.
Overall, MBDTF isn’t just meant to be heard. It’s meant to be felt, to be experienced, over and over again. After a while, you stop questioning the meaning of everything poured into the songs. There’s just too much to take in. Eventually, you just sit back and bask in the sheer magnificence of sound and colour that washes over you on every listen.
“If I ever wasn’t the greatest, I must have missed it” Kanye West deadpans, and you can almost hear him shrugging it off, as if he’d simply told us that water is wet. Pretty much sums up the whole thing.
Gorgeous, POWER, Monster, See Me Now (deluxe edition bonus track)
“They said I was the abomination of Obama’s nation / well that’s a pretty bad way to start the conversation / at the end of the day, god damn it I’m killing this” – Power
Red – Taylor Swift
My friends find it extremely unlike me to be so fond of Tay Tay’s music but I don’t find it surprising at all. What’s there not to love about T Swizzle and her music? I have come to appreciate her artistry after listening to all her albums over the last 5 years and singing them at the top of my lungs whenever they come on the radio. And I owe it to this album for cementing my love for her music.
Red, Tay Tay’s fourth album, marked a swift change in her illustrious career. This album showcases her experimentation with different styles, dabbles into various sounds and a more mature side to her emotions and songwriting. This album undoubtedly shows the progress Swift made as an artist and human being. Despite her change in style and sensibilities, Swift manages to retain some of signature country sound and does not veer too far off from her usual sound.
The lyrics in this album still revolve around the same concerns about love, loss and longing but they definitely show more depth and sensitivity. This is most clear in ‘The Last Time (Feat. Gary Lightbody Of Snow Patrol)’ in which both singers are crooning sorrowfully about the warmth and familiarity of someone once close and the struggles of letting that said person go. The complexities of their emotions brought out by the lyrics is complemented beautifully by the music gradually intensifying as string instruments amplify the melancholic melody. This is undoubtedly one of my favourite songs and belting the lyrics melodramatically is unbelievably cathartic- and that’s the thing i really love about Swift’s music; although her lyrics are often very simple and perhaps naive/ lame, they still resonate with me and validate my emotions which are often naive and lame too.
In essence, the spirit of Tay Tay’s music is heartwarming and always a breath of fresh air for me because her music is so different from what I usually listen to. Her songs always remind me that it is okay to be naive, foolish and simple – not all feelings and all music have to be complicated or ground-breaking. Sometimes, pleasant, easy pop music can be really enjoyable and Swift’s music will always be my go-to option for a healthy dose of that.
State of Grace, Red, Treacherous, The Last Time (Feat. Gary Lightbody Of Snow Patrol)
“In dreams I meet you in warm conversation” and “You’ve got your demons, and, darling, they all look like me”
– Sad Beautiful Tragic
“And for the first time / What’s past is past”
– Begin Again
Stay tuned for reviews of the last two RED albums, Run the Jewels 2 and Matangi, in Alt-V: RED (Part 3)