We're left with the music, finally. This morning, I went to Wax Trax to buy an actual, factual copy of the thing. When I was checking out, I asked if they'd had a lot of people in to buy MBDTF. The answer: Not really. "We've sold a couple," to be precise.
I realize that one morning at one CD store, a CD store that does not generally cater to Kanye West fans, is not a good gauge of the national opinion here. But it did make me wonder: How much of the critical response to this album is a result of the fact that Kanye West has given music writers more to talk about in 2010 than anyone in, well, forever?
I don't mean to suggest that critics gave dishonest reviews because they are secretly in cahoots with Kanye. Just that we music writers have all necessarily spent a lot of time thinking about this man and his music lately, both good things and bad things. So when we hear MBDTF, we cannot possibly treat it evenly. We, as an industry, have been working on this review for over a year.
So I won't bother to spend much time telling you why this album is great. What I will say is that it is the musical equivalent of standing at the very edge of a thousand-foot cliff. It's a thrilling thing to listen to. Everything about it is huge and grandiose, but it's also a surprisingly risky album: song lengths regularly over five minutes, long stretches of uncomfortable exposition, instruments and voices so mangled they're barely more than noise.
But I wouldn't take my word for it. I asked a non-music writer friend how her opinion of Kanye West had changed over the past year, and she said she's never had much of an opinion. And there's no way for me to know what this album sounds like to her.