Instead of sticking with what works, West is exploring strange new territory here, mostly dumping his trademark style and sampling Daft Punk, Steely Dan, and even Can, and for the most part wasting them.
The beats are still sweet, but West’s apparently run out of things to say over them and has more or less resorted to a concept album about being a rich asshole. A few tracks (“The Good Life,” “Flashing Lights,” “Big Brother”) are worth downloading, but even those are weaker than nearly any non-Bernie Mac track on Ye’s last two albums.
50 Cent’s turned the shared release date with West into a fight, and he’s won, by nearly as ridiculous a margin as he would have in an actual fight.
Stand out tracks from Curtis (“My Gun Go Off,” “Straight to the Bank,” “Ayo Technology”) are literally better than all of Graduation and, more importantly, 50’s fans are going to be a hell of a lot less disappointed with his third album. Sure, you could argue that Curtis basically won by default, and by a dirty trick — 50 takes absolutely no chances either artistically or lyrically on Curtis, alternating between club tracks and gangster shit and showing virtually no growth and certainly no sign of weakness.
Any tracks on which the hardcore shell cracks a little (“Follow My Lead,” “Fire,” All of Me”) are, in fact, the album’s lowest points, not counting Eminem’s verse about Cleveland steamers, of course.
On first listen, “Peacebone”’s opening nightmarish blipping will probably make you take the CD out to clean it. Further listening, though, reveals some pretty amazing music, and for maybe the first time in AC’s history, intelligible lyrics. I’m still not crazy about the vertigo-inducing “Peacebone,” but “Reverend Green,” “Fireworks,” “Winter Wonderland,” and the heartbreaking “Cuckoo Cuckoo” are incredible after several listens, revealing layered and innovative music and thoughtful considerations of the passage of time, loss and faith. Definitely one of the year’s best. •