The words "beautiful" and "dark", placed next to each other in the album’s title, surmise this record’s themes perfectly; Kanye West’s fifth album is many things, but above all it is contradictory and paradoxical. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is an album which explores the glitzy and the gruesome, the handsome and the horrific, the majestic and the malevolent, and it achieves it all through an emotionally microscopic examination of an ugly but irresistible ego gone wild.
Right from the explicit image on the album’s original cover, everything about Fantasy is incendiary, provocative, dissentious. However, Kanye’s not just saying "f***" to say "f****", as the phrase goes. He’s manipulated and moulded his public image as the King of Bullshit to create a voracious and sour persona, one who brags and self-aggrandises throughout the album to great effect.
It’s the juxtaposition of these larger-than-life boasts with startlingly transparent and human emotional truths that make this West’s masterpiece. As a producer, a rapper and a songwriter, this is his finest hour, with songs like ‘Runaway’, ‘Devil In A New Dress’ and ‘Lost In The World’ allowing music, lyrics and production to each have their own second in the spotlight. Recurring musical motifs of strings and choral chants blend aggressively with Kanye’s lyrical musings on sin, religion, wealth, exploitation, fame, loss, and regret; watch how melancholy highlight ‘Runaway’ suddenly lurches into West claiming "pussy and religion is all I need" on ‘Hell Of A Life’. The quality of music here, and the sense of invention and design behind that music, is phenomenal.
Kanye’s triumphant return to form is a hip-hop landmark, and is undoubtedly as ambitious in scope, lyrical content, and musical diversity, as any album of the 21st Century.