Kanye knew this was coming. If anyone had faith that the infamously confident super-producer would rise from the ashes and reconquer the pop music world with a dark, eclectic, ambitious album, it was the man himself. What even he couldn't be sure about was the rapturous reception that My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy has received. Music zines Rolling Stone, NME, and Spin have penned gushing reviews over the new material and even the notoriously stingy Pitchfork magazine gave it a perfect score—reportedly the first time they've done so since 2002. The mainstream press has been similarly ecstatic, with The New York Times, USA Today and The Washington Post even tossing around the word "masterpiece."
Sure, early reviews always tend to be on the congratulatory end and there will no doubt be skeptics once the album drops and listeners tire of hearing the radio singles. But for now, Kanye can bask in the good press. For what feels like the first time in years, he's getting attention solely for his considerable artistic merits. That alone should be counted as a win.
- This Is Kanye Trying To Make a Masterpiece In a laudatory Spin review (9 out of 10), Chris Martins explains that the album only works because West incessantly basks "in the inner folds of his psyche." Meaning: He's a "princely narcissist among narcissists." The album, described as a "sinister, orchestral, hugely grandiose affair," is a loud, self-aggrandizing, messily produced drama. And all his pre-Taylor Swift accolades? "They're a jagged, unbalanced bed that West could spend a lifetime squirming over, perhaps finding only 60 or so minutes of thorny comfort at a time. That's eternally daunting news for him. But for us, it's a blessing," Martins concludes.
- A Blast of Surreal Pop Excess That Can Only Be Taken as a Tribute to Michael Jackson To be clear, Pitchfork's Ryan Dombal isn't equating Kanye with the King of Pop, but he inadvertently makes a convincing case that West may be the heir to the throne: "Unlike Michael, he's not interested in scrubbing away bits of himself--his blackness, his candidness--to appease the masses. And while Jackson's own twisted fantasies of paranoia and betrayal eventually consumed him whole, West is still aware of his illusions, though that mindfulness becomes increasingly unmoored with each newspaper-splashing controversy." Still, this is an artist who makes "a hedonistic exploration into a rich and famous American id" seem like he's "stage-managing his own award show with enough starpower, shock, and dynamism to flatten the Grammys, the VMAs, and the rest all at once."
- An Utterly Dazzling Portrait of a 21st-century Schizoid "that is by turns sickeningly egocentric, contrite, wise, stupid and self-mocking," enthuses NME's Alex Denney, who gave the album a 9 out of 10. With a production price tag of $3 million the album equally offers moments of "catharsis" and "trip-hoppy toast[s] to the douchebags." But Denney is won over by the sheer spectacle: "If ‘808s & Heatbreak’ was the wilderness period, then by extension ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ is Kanye’s entry into Jerusalem, on a jet-propelled donkey with chrome-plated hooves. It’s the best thing he’s done since his game-changing debut, and heartening evidence to suggest the self-professed Louis Vuitton don is in a good place right now."
- 'Petulant Genius' Coats Every Inch of the Album The Washington Post's Chris Richards makes frequent references to the Fab Four in his gushing assessment of West's new album: "West's music is strong enough to resuscitate a 40-year-old riddle: Will anyone ever eclipse the Beatles? It's also brave enough to suggest a new one: Why compete with the past when you can own the future?" Tellingly Richards notes that, "West treats his guests like musical instruments." Most of the five minute plus songs are stuffed "with maniac choirs, alien drum machinery and instrumental interludes that toggle between decorative and devastating." But, "the grandeur never feels excessive. It feels necessary."
- Nobody Else Is Making Music This Daring and Weird finds Rolling Stone's Rob Sheffield who bestowed five stars on the album. "Nobody halfway sane could have made this album," he writes. But that makes for a compelling patchwork of songs that include "hip-hop epics, R&B ballads, alien electronics, prog-rock samples, [and] surprise guests from Bon Iver to Fergie to Chris Rock." Sheffield relates West's insatiable urge to top himself in his songs to in-their-prime Queen:
There’s a famous story about Queen making "Bohemian Rhapsody": Whenever the band thought the song was finished, Freddie Mercury would say, "I’ve added a few more ‘Galileos’ here, dear." But nobody can out-Galileo Kanye. With Fantasy, he makes everybody else on the radio sound laughably meek, but he’s also throwing down a challenge to the audience.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.