Kanye West is lonely. In the past year, he’s lost his mother and his fiancé of three years, and not even his 10 Grammys or signature Nike Air Yeezys can keep him contented in these trying times. On his new album, 808s and Heartbreak, he chronicles the coping process that is sparked by lost love. Welcome to the heartbreak of one of our generation’s most passionate and creative mega-superstars.
Aptly titled, 808s and Heartbreak delves deep into Kanye’s devastation and inner battle between masculinity and misfortune. Meanwhile, every song is marked by a hard-hitting 808 drum pattern and more voice distortion and Auto-Tune than T-Pain’s latest album.
The album opens with “Welcome to Heartbreak,” on which ‘Ye sets the tone with an admission: “My friend showed me pictures of his kids/And all I could show him is pictures of my cribs.” The track makes it obvious that the man who comfortably called himself the Louis Vuitton Don and popularized a fresher-than-thou lifestyle is clearly having an identity crisis.
Weezy comes in for the assist on “Everyone You Know,” a song that serves as an uplifting anthem to men who simply can’t figure out how to move on. Mr. Carter meditatively sings, “I might see you in my nightmare/How did you get there?/We were once a fairy tale/But this is farewell.” He sets the tone well for a thoughtful track, but it’s lines like “OK I’m back up on my grind/You do you and I’m just gon’ do mine” from Kanye that make you wonder where the hell his heart really is.
The album’s high point (and Ye’s emotional low point) comes on “Coldest Winter” – an ode to his late mother, Donda West. The slow and solemn production carries Kanye’s distorted singing, as he emotionally yells, “Goodbye my friend/Will I ever love again?”
On 808s, Kanye deals with his lost love by skipping the psychiatrist’s office and recording therapeutic music instead. Thus, the album fittingly follows the stages of grief from denial to acceptance. Along the way, he suffers from near depression on “Streetlights” as he sings “I’m just not there/Life’s just not fair;” expresses anger and scorn for his ex on “Heartless;” and, finally, bargains and pleads on the Kid Cudi-assisted “Paranoid.”
Kanye’s account of emotional survival after a relationship’s end throughout the album is unique to his personality. After all, he’s a rapper, and he’s not meant to convey his feelings the way other people do. Simply put, it’s hard for anyone with the male complex of having a fear of expressing emotions to… express emotion.
And even though I love that Yeezy bypassed moping and recorded music to ease the pain, he’s a year late with the idea. Black Eyed Peas frontman will.i.am did exactly that (and much more effectively) with his album Songs About Girls.