Thursday, December 2, 2010

Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

This was going to be an album review post, but - as fun it was to write a record review, rife with insight into the music-making process and the progression of the artist - this isn't a music blog. So I'm going to concentrate on another aspect of Kanye's creativity: his visual endeavors.

Love him or hate him, you have to admit that Kanye is never boring. While he may be the only pop artist ever to be called a jackass by a sitting president, Yeezy is definitely more than the sum of his Twitter rants and Award Show hyjinx. The dude may be a little weak behind the mic at times (and a mostly tone-deaf singer, hence the heavy reliance on auto-tune), but he is untouchable in the way he communicates his image and his music visually.

Having finished his 'College' series with it's iconic teddy bear mascot, Kanye released 2009's '808s and Heartbreak', an album cover featuring a deflated heart-shaped balloon being pulled apart by graffiti-artist-turned-fine-art-phenom KAWS' signature white-gloved hands. The portrait of Kanye inside showed a more subdued side of the artist wearing shades and a broken heart pin on his suit's lapel, also surrounded by KAWS' artwork.

Add to that his incredibly detailed and expensive live tour stage set that looked like the surface of the moon, and you begin to get a picture of how seriously this guy takes his performance art.

It's been a (needlessly) controversial year since then, and Kanye has only become more focused on his passion for visual art. His new album, aside from musically being his strongest artistic statement to date, is also pertinent to his visual progression. Let's begin with the album art, which I thought was incredible: no title, not even an artist name; just a picture of a dark-skinned party monster being straddled by a fair-complected, winged and polka-dot-tailed female nude. 

For reasons that I cannot fully understand or condone, this album art was banned due to the unfortunate, but unavoidable influence of the most powerful music seller in the world. When I went to buy the album online, this is the album art that came with it:

What a shame. But I digress...

Ever the ambitious artist, Kanye also directed the 35 minute short film/music video "Runaway" to accompany the release of Fantasy, with mixed - but mostly positive results. As directorial debuts go, this shows confidence in spades. From the dependence on visual effects to the large set pieces to the attempt to create a narrative out of a medley of songs from the record - Runaway should have been a disaster. while it may not be a masterpiece, it definitely avoids disaster status.

But, like they said on Reading Rainbow - You don't have to take my word for it:

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