Reviews Kanye West Late Registration

Kanye West

Late Registration

'So good!'

I've had those two words typed at me too many times in the past few weeks. Any time the subject of Late Registration comes up, there it is. 'So good!' When I actually bought the damn CD, I was surprised there wasn't a little sticker on it saying 'So good!' Apparently, the cashier at the store noticed this too. 'Have you heard any of this yet?' she said, ringing it through. 'Some,' I said. And it was on the tip of her tongue. 'So good,' she said, with about as much enthusiasm as your average Best Buy employee can muster. I didn't say anything, and it was awkward, but this isn't about my terrible social skills. It's about the new Kanye West album, and how it's so good.

I was a bit nervous, too. I've had bad experiences in the past with artists releasing two albums in two years. The first two singles humbly (or not) found my worries, fed them a nice dinner, and showed them the door. On 'Diamonds from Sierra Leone,' West drops his trademark sped-up soul song thing, choosing to leave the second best James Bond theme ever intact. On 'Gold Digger,' he gets Jamie Foxx to do his Ray Charles impersonation. West flows more comfortably than on his debut, sounding more the part than any of his producer-come-emcee peers. It takes singles like these to prove that West doesn't need to be at double RPM to be recognizable.

There's only three songs on the album worth skipping, assuming you A) don't feel like being interrupted by five minute exercises in mediocrity ('Celebration,' 'Crack Music') and B) don't feel like listening to Brandy ('Bring Me Down.') And the skits, as before, are completely pointless. But the rest is great. 'Heard 'Em Say' features the guy from Maroon 5 and doesn't even piss me off, while 'Touch the Sky' is a touching ode to looking extra fly. Later on, tracks like 'My Way Home' and 'Addiction' touch on a serious tone left alone since West's debut. 'Gone' samples Otis Redding in an appropriately bittersweet-sounding finale. Co-producer Jon Brion takes this song and builds in his own orchestration to carry it. It might be the best song on the album.

In fact, Brion's work on the album may even be as important as West's. As a co-producer, Brion infuses new life into West's songs, and actually saves him from repeating himself. It's hard to say how affecting songs like 'Roses' and 'Hey Mama' would be without Brion's finishing touch.

Still, West's not running out of ideas, as he constantly proves here. The College Dropout really was an album, consistent in production, lyrical style, and general tone. Late Registration is the opposite, constantly changing direction. But it ends up being cohesive in its discontinuity. And there are people who are going to be turned away by West's big mouth/ego. Their loss, because they won't be able to take this album for what it is: a near-flawless collection of songs from an icon who's on his way to becoming a legend. There, I said it. Mike Meyers be damned.

9.0 / 10Giles
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