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June 17, 2013

Kanye West: Yeezus

Artists often describe their albums as labors of love, but Kanye West’s records have been labors of labor, the fruits of endless studio sessions spent tweaking each sample and fine-tuning every drum hit for maximum effect. At the height of his… As it turns out, Rubin hadn’t been called in so much to help West complete the album as to tear it down, to reduce West’s unfinished tirades into even rougher, rawer distillations. Deadline pressure can be a powerful muse, but in this case it was an absolutely integral one: Yeezus could only have been produced under the gun. Delivered entirely from the gut, it’s West’s loudest and most impulsive album, especially in its system-shocking opening stretch of gnarled electro and pounding industrial rap. Even by the standards of an artist who reinvents himself with each release, it’s a drastic departure, so committed to its heavy new sound that it’s easy to picture West hearing Pretty Hate Machine for the first time and immediately racing to the studio to tear down his John Mayer posters. Yeezus will be remembered as a lot of things—as the Kanye West album with all the screaming; as the apex of rap’s unlikely fascination with Marilyn Manson; as the biggest record of 2013 with no singles—but perhaps most significantly, it’s West’s first willfully imperfect album, the one where he let the stitches show. With his first albums, West distinguished himself as a master technician, gifted at fusing elaborate networks of samples, bridges, and refrains into seamless compositions. On Yeezus he unlearns all of that, speeding instead from one sound to the next in a series of smash cuts. It’s an album of interruptions. Dancehall samples don’t decorate these songs as much as they butt into them. Every sound is fighting for itself in a survival of the brashest. Even when the menacing “New Slaves” somersaults into a triumphantly soulful coda, complete with some freestyle falsetto from Frank Ocean, the underlying beat is staticky and blown out, its prettiness cruelly distorted.

Lady Gaga's Descent Into The Scary Realm Of "Normal Clothes" Continues

Her latest understated ensemble — a simple LBD with heels — is another far cry from Gaga's fabled looks of yore. Though, really, the only way to keep shocking folks with your appearance after copious latex, meat dresses and facial prostheses is by shopping at Intermix in East Hampton.

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