Day 119 – #195. Kanye West – Graduation

Kanye West - Graduation Album Review

Not sure I really believe in fate or predestination, but it’s interesting that today’s record, Kanye West’s 2007 album Graduation, comes on the day that I took my last ever final exam as an undergraduate (for what it’s worth: the class was the wretched Communications Law – aka, yuck). I too will be graduating, this Friday. Yay?

And before I get too far into this “review” of sorts, I’m glad we got to today’s record, because I love any excuse to share this video again:

That, as you can tell, was West’s “Can’t Tell Me Nothin’” and featuring Zach Galafianakis on tractor. What did we really do as a species before we found out he could play the tractor so well?

For me, the problem with Graduation is a total lack of direction. My initial thought was that the record feels more like a mixtape than an album. While some of the songs are pretty good (and PTL, there are no comedy skits! Hallelujah, glory glory, etc.), I suppose I’m more familiar with the Kanye that has grandiose plans and themes for his albums.

I guess I expected that again, especially for a record called Graduation. This should have been an album that was the grand finale of the series, following up The College Dropout and Late Registration.

Instead, it sounds like a bunch of decent tunes hastily put together. And even more confusing, the album best known for “Stronger” doesn’t bare any resemblance at all to the single.

Graduation seems to be a case of a strong lead single to pacify label execs and the author’s discretion past that – consider as an example of this the song “Champion,” which comes second on the album. A ridiculous beat and a Lauryn Hill diss later, and in an instant, it’s a better song than “Stronger.”

But then West follows with duds like the near-insufferable “Drunk & Hot Girls,” which pains me to say because it features Mos Def. Same goes for “Homecoming” where Coldplay singer (and Gwyneth Paltrow’s husband) Chris “I named my kid Apple?” Martin collaborates.

I don’t get it. I trust Kanye, but this album and 808s and Heartbreak are so hit-or-miss. In retrospect, it got a lot better with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Watch the Throne, but I was worried for a minute.

From the haphazard Graduation, this is the infectious “Barry Bonds” –

Standout tracks: Obviously “Can’t Tell Me Nothin’” – but also, the lesser knowns: “Champion”; “Good Life”; “Barry Bonds”; and “Flashing Lights”
Weakest track: “Homecoming” or “Bittersweet Poetry” because of their guests (Chris Martin from Coldplay, and John Mayer, respectively – blech).

RIYL: Mainstream hip-hop, mainstream rap. Jay-Z, Frank Ocean.



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