Riddle Me List: 8 Things To Know About 808's

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Okay. Let me brave this wilderness known as rapper Kanye West's new album, 808's and Heartbreak in 'Riddle Me List' fashion. 808's is without a doubt, one of the most talked about albums this year due to the producer/rapper taking a step out of his norm and doing some sort of experimental project revolving around the auto-tune craze. Bold? Brave? Stupid? Career Suicide? Let your ears do the talking...Before I twisted my face up in auto-tune hateration stance, I looked at the good and the awful to come up with a list that will hit on eight things to keep in mind about this album whether you purchase it or not, come November 24th. I tried to keep it real...Here we go.

1. Kanye Isn't Roger Troutman

Call it laziness, a passing fad, a big joke, or amazing...call it whatever but everyone has an opinion on auto-tune. Know that this album is marinating in auto-tune. So no rapping here folks...(rough) "singing" and spoken word is what you'll be experiencing. You also need to know that this vocodor style is nothing fresh. A man named Roger Troutman from an early 80's group called, Zapp started this trend of "digitalization vocals". So please don't voice in public that Kanye is groundbreaking with this effort, you'll look uninformed.

2. Kanye grows bangs and becomes Emo

Looking for something happy-go "Good Life" lucky with 808's? Well, with the somber wail of opening cut, "Say You Will" into the spooky, "Welcome To Heartbreak", you'll hear that 'Ye has got some issues and he wants to bare his soul...sans black lipstick and skinny hipster jeans. You will feel Kanye's dreary raincloud over your own head with this album.

3. 80's New-Wave called...skinny ties and all

Kanye must've gotten a whif of old Human League, Missing Persons and Gary Numan vinyls and got a high off of them because their stark and icy notes are present on here. If you're a fan, this might appeal especially since you can hear influences of Phil Collins (the early solo stuff) and The Police thrown in for good measure.

*Rest of the list after the jump*

4. Symphonic tribute albums could be in the works

Take away the bad auto-tune vocals and some of the throbbing percussion, and you've got some real ambiance on your hands. It's not Enya, but it sounds almost like the chill and relax music they play over the loudspeakers in the women's department in Dillards. Who knows...the Royal Philharmonic might do an 808's instrumental tribute album...they did the same with Madonna and U2...

5. Raw vocals grate and scuff the ears

'Ye hasn't mastered the "art" of auto-tune because on a bulk of the tracks he almost sounds like he's cutting a demo in a garage studio for kicks. In short, this is rough. Kanye screeches on some tracks, others the pitches are all over the place. Unless this was intentional. Still Kanye has always polished his silver, and well, this silver is tarnished and is in need of some serious Mr. Metal polish if this was to be a a top notch installment.

6. "The Coldest Winter" is poignant

Hip-hop can be a ballad and here Kanye does his heart on sleeve with the closing track. It's actually got a lot of heart and Kanye sounds the most sincere here. It's short yet cuts to the chase and is a worthwhile piece to check out.

7. "Paranoid" shows what could've been

This song is the one inkling to know that Kanye hasn't gone completely American Psycho with this. Not only is this the most upbeat song on the whole album, this song sounds and feels like Kanye as well as teases us into showing how Kanye could've done his new album. He raps a bit here, auto-tune is kind of watered down and there's backing vocals by Mr. Hudson and The Library whom add a little soul to the mix. It's not bad, and I have a gut feeling this will get a single release.

8. Be prepared for the "Great Divide" with critics and fans

Right off first listen, Kanye fans/admirers/first timers/hater's listening personality will be tested. Some will loathe this, others will be diggin' this like an old school record, while the other portion try to figure out if this is sheer brilliance or a complete mis-step for Kanye. Nonetheless, people will be conflicted (as I) with this album so get ready for the knives to fly.

Final Verdict: To be fair, Kanye serves up a very brave effort that features some wonderful arrangements and music...it's edgy, sharp and I can just smell some fire remixes coming from this...but the auto-tune is the Achilles Heel with this album. I'm just not feeling this sound revolution and for that, 808's and Heartbreak would've been 10X's better if it didn't include it at all. Kanye can't sing, plain and simple and even technological "advancements" didn't improve it. But the boy can produce a song and it shows that he has expanded his style on album number four to something quite grandiose (yes, I said the "g" word). In short, Bad vocalizing. Good music production.

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