Review: Kanye West’s ‘808’s and Heartbreak’

Enchanting Listeners With Deeply Personal Album

Anytime successful artists diverge from their formula of mainstream music in favor of experimental interests, they run the risk of being criticized for straying from their reliable, primary sound. Fortunately for us, Kanye West is here to once again break the mold, challenge us to come out of our comfort zones and try to understand his feelings in an album that is an emotional rollercoaster.

To many fans, “808’s and Heartbreak” will be a 180-degree turn from the music for which they have come to love and respect Kanye West. Simply put, it is an anti-pop album, depressing and painfully personal at times, but still very enjoyable. The death of Kanye’s mother, Donda West, earlier in the year due to complications from cosmetic surgery and the end of his engagement with designer AlexisPhifer have had an obvious effect on his psyche.

Much of the album is devoid of Kanye West actually rapping. In fact, with the exceptions of “Heartless” and “Pinocchio Story,” West is singing, utilizing the voice pitch-correction technology of Auto-Tune and Roland TR-808 drum machine.

Other artists who have used Auto-Tune include singer T-Pain and more recently, iconic rappers Lil’ Wayne and Young Jeezy, who have guest rap vocals on the album. With the sometimes eerie, robotic echo of his voice over songs, West bares his emotions for all to see and hear.

West uses the Roland TR-808 to blend elements of tribal, African drumming and spacey guitar and piano synth sounds that are similar to the electronic band Daft Punk. Other influences in the album are techno and the thundering drum ‘n’ bass, which become assimilated into West’s robot-voiced melodies. This is especially evident in the single “Love Lockdown”, where West takes listeners on a journey through his life as a superstar and all of positive and negative aspects of fame.

Kanye can offer his fans a sense of redemption, even amid all his pain and grief lain into each track. “Coldest Winter” is especially somber as he laments the unexpected passing of his mother and reminiscing about the memories that they shared.

With his last hit albums celebrating life with songs like “Good Life,” “Touch the Sky” and “Stronger,” “808’s and Heartbreak” is clearly the departure from West’s happier side. This may be the most emotion-driven album West has made yet.

To some people, this album may seem like an attempt by Kanye West to bank off of T-Pain’s fame using voice enhancement and sing over 12 songs about his pain. Others will hail his work as a successful amalgamation of West’s genius and ability to produce timeless music. And “808’s and Heartbreak” is just that; a masterpiece of Kanye West’s pain.

His depression speaks through each song in a way that leaves an impression that this album could have come from him only when emotional stress had become a major part of his life. This is a breakup album; West breaks away from his previous mainstream sound in exchange for something undeniably more moody and dark.