Will Kanye West’s Gamble Pay Off?

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Kanye West / Photo by Tony Barson, wireimage.com
WRITTEN BY
Larry Fitzmaurice

These days, it seems nobody releases records the way they used to: Radiohead's pay-what-you-want experiment redefined immediacy and innovation, and Metallica's global release certainly helped the group set a three-day release record.

Now, rapper/producer extraordinaire Kanye West is embracing his own version of unorthodox industry practices. After a busy month that's included impromptu market testing of new tracks on regular folks in airports (including an unassuming Jenny Lewis), a live television premiere of the single "Love Lockdown," and its subsequent leap to the top of the charts (No. 3 on Billboard's Hot 100 and No. 1 on iTunes), West is moving up the release date of his upcoming full-length, 808s and Heartbreak, and allowing fans to remix "Love Lockdown."

Originally rumored to drop December 16, the heavily-anticipated album is now set to street "November something," according to a post on Kanye's blog. "I want y'all to hear it as soon as possible," he wrote in the post, which features a picture of him in the studio with possible 808s guest star Young Jeezy.

What's more, on his blog today, West made a particularly Radiohead-esque move by making available the separate instrumental tracks that compose "Love Lockdown," presumably to let fans create their own versions of the single.

But will West's innovations help or hurt album sales?

"As a Kanye fan, I wonder why the guy seems so desperately anxious to get new product out there, when his tour for the last record just ended, and he's been in the public eye constantly for the past two years," says SPIN's music editor Charles Aaron. "Hustling around to rush out a new album in November just comes off a little like an awkward grab for more attention, especially when the preview is something only vaguely interesting like 'Love Lockdown,' and the new artistic direction he's discussed is a desire to use auto-tune more, which might possibly be the worst idea in the history of music."

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