Review Roundup: Kanye West – ‘808s & Heartbreak’

Kanye West’s fourth studio album 808s & Heartbreak hits stores and digital retailers today. What are the critics saying about Kanye’s latest effort? Find out below.

Entertainment Weekly: No doubt the self-dubbed Louis Vuitton Don will return at some point to the black-AmEx club tracks that made his name. In the meantime, he offers this glimpse of the soul beneath the swagger, and we like him better for it. A-

The Washington Post: 808s & Heartbreak [is] an album so exquisite, so assured, it threatens to invent an entirely new strand of urban pop music. The result is the best album released this year, an information-age masterpiece about falling into the depths of loneliness while a nation of millions checks your blog for updates.

Chicago Tribune: This is not the album Kanye West fans likely expected, nor is it one they likely will embrace as eagerly as his previous multimillion-sellers. It also assumes that West’s fans care about his inner life, even though endless controversies have given them good reason to write him off. West plows ahead anyway. This one is for him.

USA Today: His career has been built on pushing boundaries and expanding possibilities. This time, the Louis Vuitton Don does it by stripping away the celebrity trappings and exposing his naked emotions. 4 out of 4

Los Angeles Times: Though several tracks—the oddly peppy “Paranoid” and “Robocop,” about a monstrous ex—are danceable, 808s & Heartbreak heavily endorses the rave scene’s concept of “chill.” Its mood comes closest to the vaporous electronica of obscure artists like the Junior Boys and M83.

Chicago Sun-Times: The formula is touching and very effective at times, notably on “Say You Will,” “Welcome to Heartbreak,” “Coldest Winter” (which builds on the 1983 Tears for Fears song “Memories Fade”), “RoboCop,” and “Love Lockdown.” But a formula it is, and it wears thin and becomes slightly predictable and repetitive over the course of 12 tracks.

Boston Globe: It is by far the strangest record he’s ever made: a willfully sullen and uncompromising electro-pop album from one of hip-hop’s biggest stars. Aside from the first two singles (“Love Lockdown,” “Heartless”), much of 808s sounds like a sonic wasteland, with West’s digitized voice floating in like a tumbleweed.

The Guardian (U.K.): Predictably, the hardcore are baffled (sample Internet response: “Has Kanye gone crazy?”) but West stopped appealing to them after he toured with U2. He’s a pop star now, and, thankfully, an iconoclastic one.
4 out of 5

Rap-Up’s Favorite Tracks: “Heartless,” “Amazing,” “Love Lockdown,” “Coldest Winter”