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My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Kanye West
Released November 22, 2010
Recorded 2009–10
Avex Recording Studio
(Honolulu, Hawaii)
Glenwood Place Studios
(Burbank, California)
Electric Lady Studios, Platinum Sound Recording
(New York, New York)
Genre Hip hop
Length 68:36
Label Roc-A-Fella, Def Jam
Producer Kanye West (also exec.), Jeff Bhasker, Bink, DJ Frank E, Emile, Jay-Z (exec.), Kyambo Joshua (exec.), L.A. Reid (exec.), Lex Luger, Mike Caren, Mike Dean, No I.D., Gee Roberson (exec.), RZA, S1
Kanye West chronology

VH1 Storytellers
(2010)
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
(2010)
Watch the Throne
(2011)

Singles from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
  1. "Power"
    Released: July 1, 2010
  2. "Runaway"
    Released: October 4, 2010
  3. "Monster"
    Released: October 23, 2010 (2010-10-23)
  4. "All of the Lights"
    Released: January 18, 2011 (2011-01-18)

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is the fifth studio album by American hip hop recording artist Kanye West, released November 22, 2010, on Roc-A-Fella Records. Following a hiatus from his music career, West worked on it through a communal development that involved him and other musicians and producers contributing collectively to its music. Recording sessions took place primarily at Avex Recording Studio in Honolulu, Hawaii during 2009 to 2010. Production was handled by West and several other record producers, including Jeff Bhasker, RZA, No I.D., and Mike Dean, among others.

Noted by music writers for its varied elements, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy incorporates musical components from West's previous works, including soul, baroque, electro, and symphonic elements. The album deals with themes of excess and celebrity, with transparent lyrics expressing emotional extremes, ego, uncertainty, and references to drinking and drug use. Its subject matter also explores consumer culture, race, and the idealism of the American Dream.

The album debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200 chart, selling 496,000 copies in its first week. It spent 32 weeks on the chart and also charted within the top 10 in several other countries. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was promoted with free songs released through West's GOOD Fridays series and four singles, including Billboard hits "Power", "Monster", and "Runaway", and the international hit "All of the Lights". The album has been certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America and, as of July 2013, had sold 1,351,000 copies in the United States.

Upon its release, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy received rave reviews from music critics, some of whom viewed it as West's best work. Critics praised its ambitious musical range, opulent production style, and West's dichotomous themes. In their year-end lists, the album was critics' consensus pick for best album of 2010. Although its omission from the Grammy Awards' Album of the Year category was heavily criticized by the journalism community, West blamed himself for releasing Watch the Throne, his 2011 album with Jay-Z, too soon after My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

The album was also listed in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

Background

The album was conceived during West's self-imposed exile in Oahu, Hawaii, following a period of legal and public image controversy amid an overworked mental state.[1] West later said that his fatigue from overworking led to his controversial outburst at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, his disgust with its ensuing media response, and his hiatus from recording.[1] Amid negative response to the incident,[2] his scheduled tour with recording artist Lady Gaga in promotion of his previous album, 808s & Heartbreak, was cancelled on October 1, 2009, without reason.[3]

It was formerly known as Good Ass Job and tentatively Dark Twisted Fantasy.[4][5][6] GOOD Music artist Big Sean was the second to announce the title of the album as Good Ass Job.[7] On July 24, 2010, on Kanye West's blog, a banner appeared reading "My Dark Twisted Fantasy Trailer". On July 28, 2010, West announced via his new official Twitter account that "The album is no longer called 'Good Ass Job' I'm bouncing a couple of titles around now."[8] The official title, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, was announced on October 5, 2010.[9]

Recording

Avex sessions

Recording sessions took place primarily at Avex Recording Studio in Honolulu, Hawaii, with additional recording at Glenwood Place Studios in Burbank, California, and at Electric Lady Studios and Platinum Sound Recording in New York City.[10] It was reported that West spent over $3 million in expenses from his record label Def Jam on the recording.[11] He later explained the initial recording process to Noah Callahan-Bever, Complex editor-in-chief and West's confidant at the time, who said that "he'd holed up in Hawaii and was importing his favorite producers and artists to work on and inspire his recording. Rap Camp!"[1]

Recording artists reported to have participated in the sessions for My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy included Raekwon, RZA, Pusha T, Rick Ross, Charlie Wilson, Big Sean, CyHi Da Prynce, Swizz Beatz,[12] Dwele, Nicki Minaj,[13] T.I.,[14][15] Drake, Teyana Taylor,[16] Common, Jay-Z,[17] Eminem, Lil Wayne,[18] John Legend, Fergie, Rihanna, The-Dream, Ryan Leslie, Elton John,[19] M.I.A.,[20] Justin Vernon, Seal, Beyoncé Knowles,[21] Kid Cudi, Mos Def, Santigold, Alicia Keys, Elly Jackson,[22] and Tony Williams.[23] Record producers who participated at the album's recording sessions with West included Q-Tip, RZA, DJ Premier,[24] Madlib,[25] and Pete Rock.[26][27] Madlib stated that he made five beats for the album.[25] DJ Premier later revealed that his beats were ultimately discarded.[27]

Recording process

West, who had previously recorded at Avex for 808s & Heartbreak, block-booked the studio's three session rooms indefinitely to work on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.[1] According to Noah Callahan-Bever, who visited West during the recording sessions, "when he hits a creative wall... he heads to another studio room to make progress on another song".[1] He often worked through the night and napped in the studio, and recording engineers were present behind the mixing board 24 hours a day.[1] Before recording in the afternoon, West and most of his crew played games of 21 against locals at the Honolulu YMCA for leisure.[1] Kid Cudi smoked marijuana in preparation and worked out on a treadmill, while RZA worked out in the weight room.[1][28] West held breakfast each morning at his Diamond Head residence for his crew.[1]

Throughout the album's development, West elicited other producers and musicians to weigh in on its music with conversations and contributions at the studio.[1] In observing discussions among them during his visit, Callahan-Bever noted: "Despite the heavyweights assembled, the egos rarely clash; talks are sprawling, enlightening, and productive [...] we are here to contribute, challenge, and inspire".[1] In an interview with Callahan-Bever, Q-Tip described the process as "music by committee" and elaborated on its significance to the sessions and West's work ethic, stating:

[H]e'll go, ‘Check this out, tell me what you think.’ Which speaks volumes about who he is and how he sees and views people. Every person has a voice and an idea, so he's sincerely looking to hear what you have to say—good, bad, or whatever. [...] when he has his beats or his rhymes, he offers them to the committee and we're all invited to dissect, strip, or add on to what he's already started. By the end of the sessions, you see how he integrates and transforms everyone's contributions, so the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. He's a real wizard at it. What he does is alchemy, really.[1]

Pete Rock said of his studio experience with West, "He's definitely hip-hop, his roots, I was testing him on joints...He takes it to another level which is dope. He had these musicians and this song, they played around my little raggedy beat and made it real. I love the way he works — he goes from one room, writing rhymes then goes to another beat and goes to another room and does something else — I love what he's done".[29] Rapper Pusha T characterized the album as "a collage of sounds" and found West's methods unorthodox when recording, saying that "We could easily be working on one song, thinking we're in a mode, and he'll hear a sound from someone like [producer] Jeff Bhasker and immediately turn his whole attention to that sound and go through his mental Rolodex to where that sound belongs on his album, and then it goes straight to that song, immediately".[1] DJ Premier said of the production in comparison to West's previous work, "Well, first of all, if you look at all of Kanye West's output, he actually did a lot to bring back sampling and make it cool again, even though he's more of a mainstream artist...but his new album is strictly hard beats and rhyme. He's totally done with electro. You're gonna be surprised what you hear".[30]

To prevent any of the material from leaking onto the Internet, West made the recording of the album as secretive as he could; he instituted a "No tweeting, no talking, no e-mailing" rule for others at the sessions to abide by.[1] Pusha T recalled West's attitude in an interview for Rolling Stone, saying that "then there happened to be a leak, and I remember Kanye ranting and raving, like, 'Fuck this! We're not going to ever work there again! We're going to work in hotel rooms!'"[31] West subsequently recorded in hotel rooms for Watch the Throne, his 2011 album with Jay-Z.[32]

Composition

Music and style

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy's music has been noted by writers for incorporating elements from West's previous four albums.[33][34][35] Entertainment Weekly's Simon Vozick-Levinson perceives that such elements "all recur at various points", namely "the luxurious soul of 2004's The College Dropout, the symphonic pomp of Late Registration, the gloss of 2007's Graduation, and the emotionally exhausted electro of 2008's 808s & Heartbreak".[34] Sean Fennessey of The Village Voice writes that West "absorb[ed] the gifts of his handpicked collaborators, and occasionally elevat[ed] them" on previous studio albums, noting collaborators and elements as Jon Brion for Late Registration ("arranging orchestral majesty"), DJ Toomp for Graduation ("adapted DJ Toomp’s oozing menace"), and Kid Cudi for 808s & Heartbreak ("Cudi’s moaning melodies became elemental").[36] Ryan Dombal of Pitchfork Media calls it a "culmination" of his past work, writing that "musically, [the album] largely continues where 2007's Graduation left off in its maximalist hip-hop bent, with flashes of The College Dropout's comfort-food sampling and Late Registration's baroque instrumentation weaved in seamlessly".[35] Allmusic's Andy Kellman views it as the "culmination" of those albums, while noting that "it does not merely draw characteristics from each one of them. The 13 tracks [...] sometimes fuse them together simultaneously. Consequently, the sonic and emotional layers are often difficult to pry apart and enumerate".[33] Kellman denotes "All of the Lights" as most representative of the album's "contrasting elements and maniacal extravagance".[33] By contrast, music essayist Robert Christgau comments that the music eschews the "grace" of The College Dropout and Late Registration for "grandiosity" and "the sonic luxuries of this world-beating return to form".[37]

Lyrical themes

[West is] the pop star for our morally implicated times; an instinctive consumer with a mouthful of diamonds and furtive bad conscience, a performer who lives the American dream to its fullest with a creeping sense of the spiritual void at its heart. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy captures that essence in full. It's an utterly dazzling portrait of a 21st-century schizoid man that is by turns sickeningly egocentric, contrite, wise, stupid and self-mocking.

— Alex Denney, NME[38]

The album's themes deal primarily with excess and celebrity,[35][39][40][41] and also touch on decadence, grandiosity, escapism, sex, wealth, romance, self-aggrandizement, and self-doubt.[35][37][42][43][44][45] Andrew Martin of Prefix Magazine notes the album's ethos as "more is more" and describes it as "a meditation on fame", in which West decries the burden that it entails.[40] My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy also features more open references to drinking and drug use than on West's previous albums.[36] Nathan Rabin of The A.V. Club describes it as "darkly funny, boldly introspective, and characteristically fame-obsessed", noting "manic highs and depressive lows emotionally" in West's lyrics.[46] Music journalist Sean Fennessey compared its thematic structure to that of a Greek tragedy, adding that "things do come crashing down, and [...] it’s felled by a woman".[36]

Music writer Ann Powers interprets West's predominant theme on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy to be "the crisis of the jet-lagged cosmopolitan [...] the exhausted cry of one who's always new in town, chasing whatever goal or girl is in the room, fueled by consumer culture's relentless buzz, but finally left unsatisfied".[42] Powers views the songs to work "as pornographic boasts, romantic disaster stories, devil-haunted dark nights of the soul" and perceives West's "uncertainty about his own place in the world" to be connected to the subject of race, stating "The rootlessness West celebrates and despairs of on 'Fantasy' belongs to someone who feels unwelcome everywhere. This isn't just a personal problem. It's the curse of what the theorist Michael Eric Dyson has called 'the exceptional black man', embraced for his talents but singled out for the color of his skin".[42] Robert Christgau finds the themes of insecurity and uncertainty on the album to be West's "heart, his message, the reason he's so major", noting the tracks "Hell of a Life" and "Runaway" as examples.[37]

Songs

"Dark Fantasy"
noicon
The opening track incorporates elements from West's previous albums and introduces themes of decadence and hedonism.[47]

"Devil in a New Dress"
noicon
The quiet storm-sampling track has lyrics about lust and heartache with dichotomous imagery both sexual and religious.[44]

Problems playing these files? See media help.

The album's opening track, "Dark Fantasy", is introduced with a narrative by Nicki Minaj, speaking in an English accent, that serves as a retelling of writer Roald Dahl's poetic rework of "Cinderella".[42] It introduces My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy's themes of decadence and hedonism,[47] with West musing how "the plan was to drink until the pain was over / But what’s worse, the pain or the hangover?".[38] His lyrics on the track contain various musical and popular culture references, including those to the song "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)", the Lamborghini Murciélago sports car, rapper Nas, fashion designer Phoebe Philo, short story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow", the song "Sex on Fire", singer Leona Lewis, and television character Steve Urkel.[48] "All of the Lights" incorporates drum 'n' bass breaks and brass fanfare.[38][49] West's lyrics contain a reference to the death of Michael Jackson in the opening lines and present a narrative of a character who abuses his lover, does prison time, scuffles with her new boyfriend, and subsequently mourns his absence from his child's life.[49] For the song, West enlisted 11 guest vocalists, including Alicia Keys, John Legend, Elton John, Tony Williams, Elly Jackson, and Rihanna, who sings the song's hook.[50] In an interview for MTV, Jackson said of the song's vocal layering, "He got me to layer up all these vocals with other people, and he just basically wanted to use his favorite vocalists from around the world to create this really unique vocal texture on his record, but it's not the kind of thing where you can pick it out".[51]

"Devil in a New Dress" is built on a sample of Smokey Robinson's "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow".[44] Its lyrics are about lust and heartache,[44] with sexual and religious imagery described by one critic as "part bedroom allure, part angelic prayer".[52] It is the only track without production by West[10] but features his characteristic style of manipulating the pitch and tempo of classic soul samples.[44][53] "Runaway" features a piano-based motif comprising a series of sustained descending half and whole notes,[54] with a coda that incorporates light strings and vocoder-singing by West.[44] The narrator's self-critical lyrics reflect on his personality and character flaws.[55][56] Sean Fennessey cites the song as the point in the album in which "self-laceration overtakes chest-beating", noting West's sung-line "I'm so gifted at finding what I don't like the most".[36] Inspired by his two-year relationship with model Amber Rose, "Hell of a Life" contains a psychedelic rock sample and a narrative about marrying a porn star.[35][36] According to critic Ryan Dombal, the song "attempts to bend its central credo— 'no more drugs for me, pussy and religion is all I need'— into a noble pursuit. [...] [T]he song blurs the line between fantasy and reality, sex and romance, love and religion, until no lines exist at all. It's a zonked nirvana with demons underneath; a fragile state that can't help but break apart on the very next song".[35] "Blame Game" is a low-key track about a painful domestic dispute.[57] It features piano by producer Mike Dean, additional vocals by John Legend,[10] and a profane skit by comedian Chris Rock.[58]

"Lost in the World" features tribal drums and samples Bon Iver's "Woods",[59] a song originally written about alienation, applied by West "as the centerpiece of a catchy, communal reverie."[44] It features several musical changes, beginning with Bon Iver frontman Justin Vernon's faint vocals, followed by 4/4 drums, gospel-styled chorus,[60] and increased tempo, and a final measured tempo.[61] "Lost in the World" transitions into the closing track "Who Will Survive in America".[43] It serves as the album's coda and is built on a sample of Gil Scott-Heron's "Comment No. 1",[38] a blunt, surrealist piece delivered by Scott-Heron in spoken word about the African-American experience and the fated idealism of the American dream.[42][45][54] Scott-Heron's original speech, which criticized the 1960s Revolutionary Youth Movement for failing to recognize the more basic needs of the African-American community, is edited to a reduced version on the track that, according to music writer Greg Kot, "retains its essence, that of an African-American male who feels cut off from his country and culture".[47] By contrast, Sean Fennessey interprets it as "a too-serious denouement for an album that is more about the self’s little nightmares than some aching societal rejection".[36]

Release and promotion

On October 4, 2010, the release date was announced as November 22, 2010.[9][62] Prior to its release, West initiated the free music program G.O.O.D. Fridays through his website on August 20, 2010, offering a free download of previously unreleased songs each Friday of the week, a portion of which were included on the album.[63][64] Titled after his imprint label G.O.O.D. Music, the program generated considerable publicity in the months leading up to the album's release.[63] Online marketing coordinator Karen Civil said of the program in retrospect, "It's a genius idea. He did something no one had ever done before, and at a point when he was the most hated person in music, he brought excitement back with his Friday releases".[63] G.O.O.D. Fridays was originally intended to continue through December, but was extended by West through January 2011.[65] My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was released as a digital download on Amazon.com at a list price of $3.99,[66] which coincided with the site's $3 discount promotional offer on MP3 purchases made valid through the release week.[67][68]

Singles

On May 28, 2010, an unfinished version of a speculative first single titled "Power" was leaked onto the Internet. It features additional vocals by Dwele and was co-produced by Kanye West and S1.[10][69] The official remix, featuring Jay-Z and Swizz Beatz, was premiered on August 20, 2010 on Hot 97 by DJ Kayslay.[70] The single spent eight weeks and peaked at number 22 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart.[71] The song was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance, presented at the 53rd Grammy Awards in 2011.[72]

On September 12, West performed the second single "Runaway" at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards.[73] Three weeks later on October 2, West performed the song on Saturday Night Live, along with "Power". "Runaway" was officially released to the iTunes Store on October 4, 2010.[9][74] It spent 12 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number 12 on the chart.[71] Rolling Stone named it the best single of 2010 in its year-end list.[75] A 35-minute short film of the same name, directed by West and containing the song's official music video, was released on October 23, 2010.[76] Filmed in Prague over a period of four days during Summer 2010,[77] the film stars West and model Selita Ebanks and features the script written by Hype Williams with the story written by West.[78] West described the video as an "overall representation of what [he dreams]" and a parallel to his music career.[77][79]

The third single "Monster" was sent out to radio on September 21,[80] and it was released to the iTunes Store on October 23, 2010.[81] The song was originally released on August 27, 2010 as part of West's music program G.O.O.D. Friday.[82] It spent five weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number 18 on the chart.[71] Rolling Stone ranked it number 10 on its list of the Best Singles of 2010.[75] The song was performed at Jay-Z's and Eminem's "Home and Home" concert on September 14, 2010, along with Nicki Minaj.[83]

In October, West announced "All of the Lights" as the fourth official single.[84] Prior to its release as a single, it had debuted at number 92 on the Billboard Hot 100 upon the album's release,[85] and the track "Dark Fantasy" entered the chart at number 60 the same week.[86] The single was released on January 18, 2011, in the US and on February 21, 2011, in the UK.[87][88] It reached number 18 and spent eight weeks on the Billboard Hot 100.[89] By December 2011, it had sold over 1,561,000 digital units in the US.[90] "All of the Lights" also charted well worldwide,[91] including number eight in Brazil,[92] number 15 in the United Kingdom,[93] number 13 in Ireland,[94] number 14 in Scotland,[95] and number 22 in South Korea,[96] It was certified platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association, for shipments of 70,000 copies in Australia,[97] gold by the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand, for shipments of 7,500 in New Zealand,[98] and platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, for shipments of one million in the US.[99]

Cover art

On October 17, 2010, Kanye West revealed through Twitter that My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy had been rejected by certain stores because of the cover art.[100][101] The artwork (a portrait by George Condo) shows West being straddled by an armless winged female (a phoenix).[102] Both characters are depicted nude, and one nipple of the phoenix's breasts and her buttocks are visible. The artist later said that Kanye wanted a cover image that would be banned.[103] The painting is centered with a thin yellow border on a red background. The artwork follows along the apparent theme of the album, as well as West's music film Runaway.[104] This is one of five covers; all of them were included with its purchase.[102] A second cover, with a painting of a ballerina by Condo, was posted on the Amazon.com pre-order page.[105] It was intended to be the original artwork for Runaway, but West used a photograph of a ballerina instead.[105]

George Condo and Kanye West met up for several hours where they listened to tapes of his music, and over the next few days Condo made eight or nine paintings for the album. Two of them were portraits of West, one in extreme closeup, with mismatched eyes and four sets of teeth. Another showed his head, crowned and decapitated, placed sideways on a white slab, impaled by a sword. There was also a painting of a dyspeptic ballerina in a black tutu, a painting of the crown and the sword by themselves in a grassy landscape, and a scene of a naked black man on a bed, straddled by a naked white female creature with fearsome features, wings, no arms, and a long, spotted tail, the last one being the original album cover.[103] According to New York, a new painting for the album, "The Priest", was completed by Condo, who described it as an attempt to bring depictions of religious figures into the modern world.[106]

Commercial performance

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200 chart, with first-week sales of 496,000 copies in the United States.[107] It is West's fourth consecutive US number-one album, and its debut week serves as the fourth-best sales week of 2010,[107] while its first-week digital sales of 224,000 copies serve as the fourth-highest sales week for a digitally-downloaded album.[108] It also entered at number one on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums,[109] Rap Albums,[110] and Digital Albums charts.[111] On January 11, 2011, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), for shipments of one million copies in the US.[99] It spent 32 weeks on the Billboard 200,[112] and as of July, 2013, it has sold 1,351,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.[113][114]

In Canada, it entered at number one on the Top 100 Albums chart, with first-week sales of 29,000 copies.[115] In the United Kingdom, the album debuted at number 16 on the Top 100 Albums chart,[116] on which it spent six weeks.[117] On December 10, 2010, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was certified silver by the British Phonographic Industry, for shipments of 60,000 copies in the UK.[118] In Australia, it entered at number six on the ARIA Top 50 Albums and at number two on the Top 40 Urban Albums chart.[119][120] On March 21, 2011, the album was certified platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association, for shipments of 70,000 copies in Australia.[121] In New Zealand, the album debuted at number 10 on the RIANZ's Top 40 Albums chart.[122] It also charted at number four in Denmark,[123] at number 18 in Ireland,[124] at number 11 in Norway,[125] at number 10 in Switzerland,[126] at number 21 in Belgium,[127] at number 19 in Germany,[128] at number 39 in Greece,[129] at number 19 in Sweden,[130] at number 28 in France,[131] at number 87 in Mexico,[132] at number 42 in Finland,[133] at number 97 in Spain,[134] and at number 17 in the Netherlands.[135]

Critical reception

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[33]
Robert Christgau A[37]
Entertainment Weekly A[34]
The Guardian 4/5 stars[136]
The Independent 5/5 stars[137]
NME 9/10[38]
Pitchfork Media 10/10[35]
Rolling Stone 5/5 stars[138]
Slant Magazine 5/5 stars[44]
Spin 9/10[45]

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy received rave reviews from music critics.[139] At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 94, which indicates "universal acclaim", based on 45 reviews.[140] Andy Gill of The Independent called it "one of pop's gaudiest, most grandiose efforts of recent years, a no-holds-barred musical extravaganza in which any notion of good taste is abandoned at the door".[141] Entertainment Weekly's Simon Vozick-Levinson commended West's "outrageously hedonistic lyrics" and stated "West has tricked out these tracks with sharper verses and grander instrumental interludes, then lined them up in a sequence that demands to be heard from start to finish [...] essential components of a soundly built structure—easily his most consistently compelling full-length since 2005′s Late Registration".[34] Los Angeles Times writer Ann Powers called its music "Picasso-like, fulfilling the Cubist mandate of rearranging form, texture, color and space to suggest new ways of viewing things".[42] David Browne of Time dubbed it West's "most extravagant work [...] congested, constantly bustling", writing that it "reasserts the fact that few combine disparate elements as smoothly as West".[142] Dan Vidal of URB stated "Kanye (much like Miles Davis) has the ability to bring out the strengths of his collaborators — squeezing out the essence of their artistic persona as highlights for the music that he creates".[137]

Rolling Stone writer Rob Sheffield cited it as West's best album and "his most maniacally inspired music yet, coasting on heroic levels of dementia, pimping on top of Mount Olympus [...] Nobody else is making music this daring and weird".[138] Sputnikmusic's Channing Freeman noted "a zest for life in these songs that is really quite beautiful" and viewed it as "the first album in which he's truly lived up to his potential in every way - as a rapper, as a lyricist, as a songwriter".[143] Jon Caramanica of The New York Times described it as "a startlingly maximalist take on East Coast rap traditionalism" and called West "a better rapper than he’s ever been".[144] The Village Voice's Sean Fennessey commented that "Kanye is rapping and singing better and with more tenacity than he ever has on Fantasy", and called the album "a staggering, often breathtaking work [...] masterfully engineered and sequenced, each song bleeding over like some long night out into the hazy morning after".[36] Anslem Samuel of XXL praised the "intricately constructed tracks" for "framing [West's] heartfelt outbursts and honest inner reflections".[145] Chris Martins of Spin noted its production as "loud and proud, but also poignant and gripping" and called the album "a sinister, orchestral, hugely grandiose affair that owes as much to the artist's self-aggrandizing ego as to the voracious id that would destroy it publicly".[45]

Kitty Empire of The Guardian criticized its lyrics regarding "women as ruthless money-grabbers" but called the album "herculean [...] a flawed near-masterpiece".[136] Although he found West's rapping inconsistent, Allmusic editor Andy Kellman called it "a deeply fascinating accomplishment" in West's catalogue and stated, "As fatiguing as it is invigorating, as cold-blooded as it is heart-rending, as haphazardly splattered as it is meticulously sculpted, [the album] is an extraordinarily complex 70-minute set of songs. [...] As the ego and ambition swells, so does the appeal, the repulsiveness, and – most importantly – the ingenuity".[33] Chicago Tribune writer Greg Kot complimented its "collision of opulence and emptiness" and West's transparency, noting "his almost pathological allegiance to expressing his emotions, unfiltered [...] a curious mix of bravado and vulnerability".[47] Nitsuh Abebe of New York called the album "adventurous, fierce, and full of vitality" and stated, "Its guiding principle seems to be to go in harder on every front: Be more opulent and arty, be more vicious and aggrieved, be more 'complicated' and self-lacerated".[146] Slant Magazine's Matthew Cole viewed it as a milestone in hip hop music and lauded its themes of "self-aggrandizement and self-effacement", writing that it "allows Kanye a thematic palette broad enough to confront his pride and anguish".[44] Pitchfork Media's Ryan Dombal called it "a hedonistic exploration into a rich and famous American id".[35] David Amidon of PopMatters complimented West's dichotomous themes and noted "there are few more human albums in hip-hop".[43]

Accolades

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy appeared on numerous music critics' and publications' end-of-year albums lists.[148] Chicago Tribune writer Greg Kot included it at number seven on his list of the year's top albums, writing that it "turns contradictions into strengths, a mix of classical opulence, grimy beats, boldness and vulnerability".[149] PopMatters named it the year's fourth best album in its year-end list, calling it "Kanye West’s self-portrait, in Cubism: complex, petulant, somewhat paranoid, but bursting with ideas and never boring".[150] The Guardian included it at number two on its list of 2010's top 40 albums and commented that West "remains, on record, one of the most compelling artists of our time".[151]

Many critics and publications named it the best album of the year,[148] including Billboard,[152] Time,[153] Slant Magazine,[154] Pitchfork Media,[155] Rolling Stone,[156] and Spin. The magazine's Charles Aaron wrote that it "is 2010's album of the year because Kanye dramatizes ... with a budget-averse musical imagination that's ominous, symphonic, heartsick, riff-ravaged, and driven by the most technically legit rapping he's ever managed".[157] The A.V. Club ranked the album at the top of its year-end list and commented on its significance, stating "Fantasy is an idiot-savant smash, an example of a musician overreaching, yet triumphing through dumb bravado and an imagination gloriously unfettered by logic. Kanye actually set out to make the album of the year when nobody listens to albums anymore".[158] My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was voted best album in The Village Voice's Pazz & Jop critics' poll for 2010,[159] winning by the largest margin in the poll's history.[160] The singles "Power", "Runaway", and "Monster" were voted in the top-10 of the Pazz & Jop's singles list.[160] Metacritic, which collates reviews of music albums, named it the best-reviewed album of 2010.[147]

In 2012, Rolling Stone ranked the album number 353 on its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time,[161] and Complex included it in their list of "25 Rap Albums From the Past Decade That Deserve Classic Status".[162] Entertainment Weekly named it it 8th best album of all time on their 2013 list.[163] In October 2013, Complex named it the best hip hop album of the last five years.[164] NME ranked the album at 21 on their 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time list. [165]

Grammy Awards

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy won a Grammy Award for Best Rap Album, presented at the 54th Grammy Awards in 2012.[166] The song "All of the Lights" was nominated for Grammy Awards for Song of the Year, Best Rap Song, and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration, winning in the latter two categories.[166] However, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was not nominated for Album of the Year, which was viewed as a "snub" by several outlets, along with the rejection of Watch the Throne, West's collaborative album with Jay-Z, for that category.[167][168][169][170] In an article for Time, music journalist Touré elaborated on the album's acclaim, called West's nominations in minor categories "booby prizes", and stated, "MBDTF is by far the best reviewed album in many years: the critical community flipped out over it like nothing since Radiohead’s zenith. And it sold well, over 1.2 million so far. So what happened? How is it Grammy overlooked Kanye’s magnum opus and gave noms to four sonic widgets and Adele's 21?"[171] He explored possible reasons for The Recording Academy to snub him, including split votes between My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Watch the Throne, concerns over West's past controversies, and more commercially-appealing nominees, but ultimately stated:

What I think may be going on is a lack of respect for hip hop and its complexity from people who care about music but don't know much about hip hop. [...] Predictably, Grammy tends toward pop-friendly hip hop that's easily understood by those who don't understand hip hop. Pop in this regard is not meant as an insult, it's merely music palatable to non-aficionados of the genre. [...] But now that he's released his most mature work, [West]'s being ignored.[171]

In the Los Angeles Times, music journalist Randall Roberts was critical of the nominations for the 54th Grammy Awards, particularly for the Album of the Year category, noting the exclusion of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, "the most critically acclaimed album of the year, a career-defining record", as a snub in favor of nominating less substantial albums.[172] West, who was vocal in his displeasure with past award snubs,[169] responded onstage during a concert on the Watch the Throne Tour, saying "That's my fault for dropping Watch the Throne and Dark Fantasy the same year. I should've just spaced it out, just a little bit more."[170]

Track listing

No. TitleWriter(s)Producer(s) Length
1. "Dark Fantasy"   4:40
2. "Gorgeous" (featuring Kid Cudi and Raekwon) 5:57
3. "Power"   4:52
4. "All of the Lights (Interlude)"     1:02
5. "All of the Lights"   4:59
6. "Monster" (featuring Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj and Bon Iver) 6:18
7. "So Appalled" (featuring Swizz Beatz, Jay-Z, Pusha T, Prynce Cy Hi and The RZA) 6:38
8. "Devil in a New Dress" (featuring Rick Ross) 5:52
9. "Runaway" (featuring Pusha T) 9:08
10. "Hell of a Life"   5:27
11. "Blame Game" (featuring John Legend) 7:49
12. "Lost in the World" (featuring Bon Iver) 4:16
13. "Who Will Survive in America"   1:38
Notes and sample credits[10]

Personnel

Credits for My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy adapted from Allmusic.[173]

Musicians

Production

Charts

Chart precession and succession

Preceded by
Loud by Rihanna
Canadian Albums Chart number-one album[115][183]
December 11–18, 2010
Succeeded by
The Gift by Susan Boyle
Preceded by
The Gift by Susan Boyle
US Billboard 200 number-one album[107][184]
December 11–18, 2010
Succeeded by
The Gift by Susan Boyle
Preceded by
Loud by Rihanna
US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums number-one album[185][186]
December 11–25, 2010
Succeeded by
No Mercy by T.I.
Preceded by
5.0 by Nelly
US Rap Albums number-one album[187][188]
December 11–25, 2010
Succeeded by
No Mercy by T.I.

Certifications

See also

References

External links

  • Discogs
  • Metacritic
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Recovery
Grammy Award for Best Rap Album
2012
Succeeded by
Take Care

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