Remember when listening to a Kanye West album didn't feel like mowing the yard or cleaning out the gutters or changing a diaper? You know, work you don't get paid for?
In the week since the release of Kanye's 808s and Heartbreak, I've had a similar conversation with people who actually like the album. They shift uncomfortably and contend that after listening to it a lot, they're starting to appreciate what he was trying to do (though they never explain what that is) and think the songs will seem more catchy over time (yeah, and so does so-and-so's roommate's band) and hey, you gotta respect that he tried something new (why, exactly, if what he's trying sounds clumsy and half-baked?) and it's cool how he doesn't care what people think of him (huh?), and later on, once we have some distance, we'll probably view it as one of his best records (maybe, but the Lovin' Spoonful and Dave Clark Five are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame -- distance is overrated).
Basically, these people, for whatever reason, are doing triple salchows of rationalization to locate some enjoyment in a pop album made in three weeks by a flagrantly successful egomaniac.
Why exactly are we having to work so hard (especially when our real jobs, if we've still got 'em, are hanging in the balance)? Well according to a recent Kanye blog post, it's quid pro quo: "YO BOTTOM LINE IS I WORK. I WORK TO DEATH AND PEOPLE TRY TO FIND NEGATIVITY IN THE POSITIVE ENERGY I PUT OUT. THE ALMOST SUPERHUMAN AMOUNT OF WORK I PUT OUT."
Yo, thanks for the sacrifice, but here's a thought: How 'bout if you don't tell us how hard you're working, and we can listen to your music in peace without the codependent guilt-trip?
Regardless, maybe it's time for us so-called haters to move on, and revisit what we all loved about the man's music in the first place. Can you remember? That bright, immediate rush of pleasure, whether the music was giddy or mournful or in between, when you didn't even think about who's name was attached to the song, the moment was too purely elevating, like you're floating above your cubicle or car or bedroom. Sure, we scroll back through all the different levels of meaning later on, but nobody else, not even Timbaland, hits you with such a such a joyfully instant splash. And why is that? Well, it's mostly because he samples the shit out of obscure and obvious songs with the exuberant glee of a pathological music geek, and exuberantly/ poignantly/ ridiculously holds forth on topics both profound and mundane, with punch lines galore.
And if you still can't remember why he's our favorite flagrantly successful egomaniac, check this out; it makes 808's and Heartbreak feel like a muddy slog in heavy boots. Props to Labi Siffre.
Watch: "EVERY Kanye Sample EVER [808s & Heartbreak Edition]"