My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is the best album of 2010 and the best album of West’s career because, with it, he’s managed to channel his sense of injustice into his music more fully and thrillingly than ever before. It’s a seething and sad album, full of tales of transgression, betrayal, repudiation, and bitter vindication. It’s also wild fun to listen to, unlike West’s 2008 breakup album 808s and Heartbreak, which ushered in a down-in-the-dumps period that the new LP carries forward. That’s no easy balancing act, but West pulls it off.
He does so thanks to his marvelous, hungry ear, as adept at wringing a hook from a two-note synth drone as from a sampled ’80s New-Age-Celtic-Fusion-Prog vocal (both of which gel, improbably, on the album-opening, RZA-co-produced “Dark Fantasy“). And whereas the affectingly desolate electro of 808s was ultimately bogged down by West’s broad, flatly sung declarations of spite, here he showcases his nimblest and most confident rhyming to date, putting a renewed emphasis on wordplay and storytelling. On “Gorgeous” he moves in four bars from a tossed-off declaration of drunken desire to a grim snapshot of sexual exploitation: “I need more drinks and less lights/ And that American Apparel girl in just tights/ She told the director she’s trying to get into school/ He said, ‘Take them glasses off and get in the pool.’ ” On “All of the Lights,” West has a violence-prone father meet his estranged infant daughter at a Borders bookstore after her mother takes out a restraining order against him. West’s decision to stage the “public visitation” at a chain store is, in an un-showy way, inspired—a detail that’s crushing to the exact degree that it’s so drably pedestrian.
And in this review we finally get a sense of why this album is so great.