A Not Entirely Original Observation About Popular Music

I picked up a few albums off “Best of 2010” list a few weeks ago, and have been listening to them on shuffle play a lot. These included Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Which is kind of a rough one for shuffle play with SteelyKid in the house– I keep having to skip tracks when she comes into the room. And I eventually deleted whatever the track is with the interminable Chris Rock bit at the end, because, really, I don’t need that.

Anyway, the observation promised in the title is this: Kanye West is a really good producer. As music, most of these tracks are really impressive– clever use of samples (or possibly people hired to sing small bits of something), good beats, very distinctive overall sound.

As a rapper/lyricist, though? Enh. The songs work best as background noise, because whenever I pay any attention to what he’s saying and how he’s saying it, my reaction is “Wow, what a douchebag.”

He does at least appear to be aware of his douchebaggery (it’d be hard not to, given how many people have remarked upon it, but other celebrities have reality distortion fields of the necessary power, so who knows…), and I enjoy bits and pieces of the words (the chorus to “Runaway” is great, and the rhyme “Praise be to the most high, Allah/ Praise be to the most fly, Prada” is clever if juvenile), but I keep thinking, “Boy, if only you could put that production ability behind somebody who had something interesting to say…”

The other purchases, for those who care:

  • The Roots, How I Got Over: hip-hop with something more interesting to say
  • The Black Keys, Brothers: warped blues-rock. An excellent record.
  • Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, The Brutalist Bricks: Angry folk-rock.
  • Best Coast, Crazy for You: Distortion-laden power pop.
  • Neon Trees, Habits: Retro-pop, could almost be an unjustly overlooked brilliant 80’s band.

I also picked up a John Lennon best-of, because I didn’t have most of those songs in electronic format. And let me tell you, going from “Imagine” into “Monster” will give you some serious shuffle-play whiplash.

4 thoughts on “A Not Entirely Original Observation About Popular Music

  1. I had a similar observation about Cee-Lo Green’s “Forget You” version. That song is forgetting awesome when the key word is less violent and more personal. His problem is that he CAN’T forget her!

    And, yes, John Lennon was an artist.

  2. I completely agree, and have said that about other artists. Loved the Black Keys album (as well as every other one of theirs). I need to check out Best Coast. I keep hearing good things about them.

    If you like rap with really well written lyrics as well as good production, may I suggest K’naan, especially his album “Troubadour”. He’s got a really good story, and I love the African influence.

  3. Ditto to the K’naan recommendation. And if you’re interested in hearing good rapping paired with West’s production, I’d suggest Common’s Be, with Kanye relegated to producing and an occasional chorus. Common isn’t the most technically skilled rapper, but he definitely has something to say about the struggles of his community. As for Kanye, the album was produced in 2005, before his infatuation with himself had become overbearing — not to mention his infatuation with autotune. ugh.

  4. Now she claiming I bruise her esophagus/
    Head of the class and she just want a swallowship/
    I’m living the future so the presence is my past/
    My presence is a present kiss my ass.

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