Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Kanye West: 808s & Heartbreak [Roc-A-Fella, 2008]
Altogether as slow, sad-ass and self-involved as reported, this is a breakup album there's no reason to like except that it's brilliant. It has its own dark sound and its own engaging tunes, and although West couldn't hit the notes without Auto-Tune, his decision to robotize as well as pitch-correct his voice both undercuts his self-importance and adds physical reality to tales of alienated fame that might otherwise be pure pity parties. The second half the songs start to slip, but they come rushing back with the Lil Wayne ditty and the only track here about what's really bringing him down: not the loss of his girlfriend but the death of his mother, during cosmetic surgery that somewhere not too deep down he's sure traces all too directly to his alienated fame. A-