The word "bravado" is often tossed about to describe rapper Kanye West, and at the root of it is the word is "brave," which is the best way to describe West's latest release, 808s and Heartbreak. Here West sings, wears his heart on his sleeve and wades through some moody (but smooth) electro beats, ensuring the alienation of many rap fans (something West has no problem with doing).
It was the recent death of his mother and a painful breakup with his fiance that prompted this detour from his usual larger-than-life hip-hop productions, and in the great tradition of rock-by-way-of-pain classics like Big Star's Third, Neil Young's Tonight's the Night and The Flaming Lips' Soft Bulletin, West has channeled his anguish into something more than just an album of feel-good hits. When West performs the first single, "Love Lockdown," on Letterman Monday and Conan on Tuesday, he's sure to be employing the Auto-Tune pitch correction software that's all over the album, a device that has also alienated his fans to some degree.
Meanwhile, The Killers are also performing both Monday (Jimmy Kimmel) and Tuesday (Leno) in support of their new album, Day & Age. This album finds the Las Vegas quartet retreating a bit from the arena rock (via Springteen) aspirations of their last album, and instead releasing what sounds more like the logical follow up to their surprising debut. It's more entrenched in the '80s-fixated sound of their debut, thanks in part to Euro-dance producer Stuart Price (Madonna), which, while making the album smaller in scope, fits the band better than the larger-than-life ambitions of the overmatched Sam's Town.
Finally, Tom Jones's first album in over 15 years (24 Hours -- out tomorrow) finds the Welsh icon still in the mood to swivel the hips, delivering his knee-buckling croon over the retro-soul beats currently in vogue with the likes of Amy Winehouse, Lilly Allen and Kate Nash. Jones teams up here with Brit duo Future Cut, who worked with Allen and Nash, and even gets input from Bono and The Edge, who contribute the infectious "Sugar Daddy." At 68, Jones knows he can no longer work the sex angle, so much of 24 Hours is more reflective and intimate, which is probably why his performances this week are limited to daytime television, hitting both Regis (Tuesday) and The Today Show (Wednesday), along with a previously taped performance on BBC America's Graham Norton Show.
Ok, one last note. A recent performance by Ben Folds and Regina Spektor -- singing "You Don't Know Me" -- will be repeating on Kimmel Friday, and while it doesn't feature a mustachio'd Jason Sudeikis (SNL) on trombone (as performed on Conan last month) it is worth staying up for. (Sudeikis-laden performance below:)
Playlist: Picks for the week
Monday, November 24
Tuesday, November 25
Wednesday, November 26
Thursday, November 27
SUNDANCE: Live From Abbey Road:
Friday, November 28
Saturday, November 29