It’s a given that Kanye West’s new album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy will be a commercial hit, but considering West’s erratic personality and his ever-evolving relationship with the media, it was never a sure thing that the album would be reviewed well. Most of West’s past albums have been written about well, though they do tend to be polarizing (this was especially true of West’s previous album 808s & Heartbreak, which fiercely divided everybody). But the first batch of high-profile reviews for My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, it turns out that critics are absolutely in love with West’s latest opus, and it’s on track to be one of the best-reviewed releases of the year and a sure-fire “Album of the Year” candidate for many publications and sites.
The review in Rolling Stone turned heads immediately. The venerable rock magazine gave the album five stars, which is not something that happens very often (and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is one of only a handful of hip-hop albums to achieve that level of greatness). “With Fantasy, he makes everybody else on the radio sound laughably meek, but he’s also throwing down a challenge to the audience,” wrote critic Rob Sheffield. “Kanye West thinks you’re a moron if you settle for artists who don’t push as hard as he does. And that means pretty much everybody.”
Simon Voznick-Levinson’s review in Entertainment Weekly was just as glowing, both of the music on the album and of the man himself. “[West] is ravenous for fresh inspiration, and the last four decades of music are on the menu,” Voznick-Levinson wrote. “He samples atmospheric noodling from Aphex Twin and bombastic nuggets from Black Sabbath and King Crimson, and he gets help from some of the biggest names in pop, rap, and indie rock. West crafts these influences into a fever dream with a crescendo around every corner — the Beautiful Fantasy of the album’s title.”
The Boston Phoenix also thought that West had achieved a certain kind of transcendence. “Fantasy is the sound of an artist who is so far from shunning the spotlight that the firepower of the wattage pointed at him is a full-on supernova,” wrote critic Daniel Brockman. And Spin magazine summed up Kanye’s new album thusly: “West isn’t claiming to be flawless anymore. He’s trying to make a masterpiece. Trying to be honest with us. Trying to be honest with himself. Trying to figure out if he’s closer to God or to something else entirely. Far more important than his aim, however, is the fact that he tries at all,” wrote critic Chris Martins. “The Grammys, the platinum packs, the tickets stub from all the arenas he’s rocked — they aren’t laurels to be rested on. 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.”
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