[Review] Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Fantasy

Muhammad Farhan

Despite a year of solitude and alienating himself from the world, Kanye succeeded to prove he still has it. A year after the infamous encounter he had with Taylor Swift at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards where he interrupted Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech for the Best Female Video award, Kanye West went back to the music scene. This time, Kanye went back with the avant-garde, partly orchestral My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, the successor of 808s & Heartbreak and Graduation. Known as a very creative person, what does Kanye tries to bring into the table, now that he has grown as an artist and as a creative person?

With “Dark Fantasy” serving as its opening track, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy tries to bring fans into Kanye’s safe corner, a corner filled with familiar faces and personal feelings. With an opening narrative provided by rapper Nicki Minaj and the hook sung by singer Teyana Taylor–which is sampled from Mike Oldfield’s “In High Places,”–brings fans into a place they have never been before. The line “can we get much higher?” seems to make a statement about the album that it tries to transcend the world of simplicity, electronic gleam, and synthesizer use which was common at the time.

The attempt to transcend the world of simplicity and electropop does not stop at the beginning. As I was listening to the album for the first time, I realized how Kanye made this album into classic and orchestral, similar to his debut album, Late Registration. In tracks like, “Blame Game,” “Runaway,” and also “Dark Fantasy,” Kanye seems to prefer cello, violin, and classic piano over electronic instruments. This seems like Kanye tried to go back into his roots, which is orchestral hip-hop music he used to produce at the beginning of his career.

The so-called attempt also continues in the track “Monster.” Although it does not feel orchestral, the track also seems to lift the album into another level. With breathtaking verses with flawless flow provided by Rick Ross, Jay-Z, especially Nicki Minaj, and Kanye West himself, this track goes beyond what is perceived as modest.

Another track that successfully turned the album into an avant-garde, maximalist album is “All of the Lights.” “All of the Lights” is also considered as star-studded, similar and even more than “Monster.” Containing 14 vocalists by various genres (including Alicia Keys, Fergie, Rihanna, Elton John, Justin Vernon of Bon Iver and more), this is one of the most crowded songs that is on the album, or maybe ever. However, maximalism is not only shown by how many people provided their vocals on the track. Selecting signature piano play by Elton John, bass, brass, drums, and horns that are arranged beautifully to accompany Kanye’s lines, this track successfully turned into one of the album’s masterpieces.

Although Kanye prefers classic piano over synthesizer, string section over electronic guitars to accompany his lines, that does not mean that the album lost the electronic aspects completely. The track “Lost in the World” which features Bon Iver, uses auto tune in Justin Vernon’s vocal. The track “Runaway,” which serves as the second single of the album, also contained auto tune in Kanye’s distorted vocal and synthesizer to escort his rap. Although he did not use it in a big portion as he did with the 808s & Heartbreak, most of the tracks does not feel like it is outdated.

As everything fell apart after the incident he had at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, Kanye tries to rise like a phoenix. Accompanied by string section and classic piano in almost every track, Kanye manages to turn My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy into an avant-garde, orchestral masterpiece. Although with the big portion of piano, cello, and violin use, Twisted Fantasy is not necessarily classic, nor outdated. Bringing back the use of auto tune and synthesizer as he did with 808s & Heartbreak, although in a small portion, Kanye succeeded to erase the word “classic” into the list of adjectives to describe the album. With this album, Kanye succeeded to harmonizing what is perceived as modern with those that is perceived as classic. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is perfect for those whose desire is to listen to a grand, orchestral type of hip-hop, but still want to stay in the present and does not want to get stuck in the past.


  • My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West
  • Kanye West’s infamous incident at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards

Word count: 732

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