Archive for Kanye West

Best & Worst of 2010, Part 4

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on February 12, 2011 by G.K. Reid

Best Singles of 2010 

from 5 – 1


5. Broken Bells – The Ghost Inside

Slinky, understated funk is the last place I expected James Mercer to flourish, but he’s never sounded better (or, dammit, cooler) than with the not inestimable assistance of Dangermouse here.  His pained falsetto neatly doubling up for both observer and subject, compromise and deep disappointment are evoked in spades. But, most importantly – those handclaps!

 

4. Alicia Keys – Empire State of Mind, Part II


Keys gives her much-mythologised hometown another anthem, albeit one that cops to the prospect of failure as much as the promise of success, and simultaneously gifts the world with one of the most lush, resplendent vocals in recent memory.

 

3. Cee-Lo Green – Fuck You!


There were many joyful, hilarious things about Cee-lo’s (second) breakthrough, aside from the song and video themselves: the initial confusion amongst many that Mr. Gnarls Barkley had apparently changed his name for some reason (‘This guy sounds like that guy who sang that crazy song!’, ad infinitum); the inventive/lazy censoring; the use of ‘fuck you’ as a noun; the X-Factor finalists doing this. Hell, this song even single-handedly restored humour and public fondness to Hollywood’s least-favourite aging starlet! Cee-lo Green is nothing short of a miracle worker. We should all bow before him.

 

2. Kylie Minogue – All the Lovers

A blissful, exultant dancefloor anthem tinged with emotional ambiguity. We’ve been here before with Kylie, sure, but if we’re to assume (with good reason; it’s certainly what she represents to her fans) that she’s motivated by a pursuit for something like purity – or, perhaps more accurately, transcendence -then All the Lovers is arguably the closest she’s come. I mean – shucks – in the gorgeous video, she’s the figurehead of a skyscraper constructed entirely out of interracial omnisexuality. Let’s all just take our clothes off and be friends!

 

1. Kanye West feat. Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj & Bon Iver – Monster

The single greatest thing to happen to music in 2010 was Nicki Minaj’s rip-roaring, bracingly dexterous contribution to this track. I don’t think a star has ever been so violently born, nor a show so emphatically stolen. To this day, having listened to it countless times, I am stunned into rewinding the last three minutes of the song every time. It’s almost enough to make you forget just how phenomenally engineered and replete with choice moments and turns of phrase the rest of the track is. And it’s still only my third favourite song on the album! (Unfortunately it’s difficult to find the seemingly excellent video in decent quality anywhere on the damn internet)

 

 

Some also-rans: Kelis – Acapella; Tinie Tempah – Pass Out; Marina and the Diamonds – Oh No!; Dark Dark Dark – Bright Bright Bright; Example – Kickstarts; Rihanna – Rude Boy; Scissor Sisters – Invisible Light; Patrick Wolf – Time of My Life; Nicole Sherzinger – Poison; Professor Green feat. Ed Drewett – I Need You Tonight; Hot Chip – One Life Stand; Arcade Fire – The Suburbs; Lady Gaga feat. Beyonce – Telephone

 

And with that, I’ll resume whatever it was I was supposed to be doing in the first place.

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41. ”03 Bonnie and Clyde’ by Jay-Z feat. Beyonce (2003)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on November 20, 2010 by G.K. Reid

 So, after splooging about Will Young so very much, I hit a bit of a stumbling block trying to write about this one.  Largely because the enjoyment I derive from this – a slick, assured, well-oiled machine – is light years away from the blubbering emotional introspection purveyed by the Will Youngs of this world.  Jay-Z has no time for that shit.  He’s boinking Beyonce.  They’re in a car.  They like to talk to each other.  In fact, they only stop talking so she can watch Sex and the City.  That’s the ONLY time.  Upon release, the song was taken as their first communique to the world that they were about to become The SuperCouple.  Hip hop royalty.  The ‘new Bobby and Whitney’, as Jay-Z puts it here (an assertion that seems simultaneously comical and dubious – I mean, who wants that?)

Anyway, in retrospect, 03 Bonnie and Clyde was more than an enviably cool coming-out party for its two vocalists.  It was also one of the first indicators that Kanye West was a major musical thang about to happen.  He’s producer here, and this is an impeccably arranged record.  Beyonce has never sounded more sensual, and Jay-Z has never sounded more relaxed, with that just-plain-bloody-gorgeous Spanish guitar (right? It sounds pretty Spaniard to me) winding and weaving itself around them, and the whole thing ebbing and flowing with such a lulling consistency.

That’s not to say that the glories of 03 Bonnie and Clyde are purely aesthetic.  The reason it ranks so highly is that it plays as such a sincere re-enactment of the Bonnie and Clyde ideology.  It hones in on that almost-mythological, us-vs-the-world romanticism which Bonnie and Clyde are emblematic of, but makes it simultaneously grand and ordinary.  At no point in the song do Jay-Z and Beyonce identify specific adversaries in this ‘this life of sin’, they just know they can’t get through it without each other.  And if that means having to put up with hearing about Carrie Bradshaw’s shoe-fetish on a regular basis, then so be it.

Bonus points: Best celebrity couple ever. I would never invite Bobby and Whitney round for tea. These two? I’d inflate the airbed.

52. ‘All Falls Down’ by Kanye West (2004)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on August 8, 2010 by G.K. Reid

Kanye is – whether people like it or not – a bona fide superstar, as passionately engaged with the world as he is seemingly unable to control his more egocentric impulses.  He may very well continue to give the media and the President ample opportunity to dismiss him as a mouthy jackass drunk on hubris, determined to spoil the party for demure Southern white girls and no-mark-Europeans-who-didn’t-have-Pamela-Anderson-in-their-video alike, but I’m confident his actual artistic output will endure past any flash-in-the-pan controversies his big mouth gets him into.

Relistening to ‘The College Dropout’, it doesn’t take long to remember not only why his star ascended so rapidly, but also why he gained props as a valuable social commentator as much as a talented innovator/sample-fiend.  The carefully constructed ‘All Falls Down’ alone displays the wit (‘I can’t even pronounce nothin’; pass that Ver-say-see!’), righteous indignation (‘We trying to buy back our 40 acres, and for that paper look how low we stoop; even if you in a Benz, you still a nigga in a coop’) and – perhaps most surprisingly to his detractors – the self-effacement with which Kanye explores his experience of being a young black American. 

The overlapping cultural, historical and personal tensions evinced on ‘All Falls Down’ suggest that – as willing as he is to mock and eviscerate the hypocritical and unjust – nobody is more deeply aware of Kanye’s flaws than Kanye himself.  His attempts to reconcile himself with a society he resents and loves in perpetually shifting measure will no doubt continue to yield both embarrassing and undeniably compelling results.

Bonus points: Kanye’s technical skill as a rapper is often derided, but the ‘insecurrre’/’securrre’/’yurrrs’ sequence herrrre is pure genius.