Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pitchfork and the Perfect 10.0

I'm going to skip a lot of bullshit and just say it: Nowhere in this rambling 12 paragraph essay does Ryan Dombal really talk music.

Yes, he mentions Aphex Twin or Gil-Scott Heron sampling, but that pretty much sums up his exploration of the music portion of the record.

I get it. Hip hop is a difficult beast to critique in any era. In the 90's you had dusty drumbeats that were five or six combined samples of a snare from one record, a ride cymbal from another, all played expertly and rarely quantized. In the 80's it was either the tinny bap of the Linn drum machine or the pure sine wave of an 808.

Hip hop has a tendency to sound homogeneous in a popular context. Today it's the skittering 16th note hi-hat beats, the INCESSANT auto-tuning, and a Southern style of rapping that champions simplicity of hook over actual narrative skill. So tell me why and how Kanye's record has achieved perfection.

Martial drums? Lurking synths? Is that it? Is the music exuberant, sad or angry? Is it in minor or major keys? Is it minimalist or maximalist? How are his recordings different than, say, the work of his contemporaries? Has he gone beyond his contemporaries? If so, how? How is the mix? How is the track order?

Although I understand the need to provide cultural context, I don't want to read an article about his Twitter hijinks. If you give a record a perfect 10, tell me why. You write music reviews for a website that rates them from 0-10. Outside of comparing Kanye to Michael Jackson ad infinitum, I see no actual reason this album receives a 10. It has samples, yes, and drum beats, and clever rhymes, but somehow it is, "...a blast of surreal pop excess that few artists are capable of creating, or even willing to attempt."

Is the rating based on Kanye's sheer braggadocio? Are these reviews even based on music anymore? Does it even matter? Does anyone actually need music reviews when you can preview or steal the music and judge for yourself? Based on this article that crudely places image over content, I would say good riddance.

I like Kanye's music a lot and I enjoy reading about it. I am a nerd. I just can't understand how one writes a biography of an artist's career between records, sticks in some lyrical excerpts that are completely out of context without the music or surrounding lyrics, casts him as a misunderstood genius, and calls it a music review.

Also, I think the true question is thus:

How does Kanye's "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" stand up against Pitchfork's last completely insane perfect 10.0, And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Death's "Source Tags and Codes?"