Kanye West appears to have put Taylor Swift and 808s and Heartbreak (2008) behind him. 2010 looks to be the year of The Yeezy. Since Mr. West joined the ranks of Twitter, he’s been unleashing a new single every week to promote his new, as yet untitled, album and his new label (GOOD Music) as part of series called G.O.O.D Fridays. Thusfar, GOOD Fridays has been, at it’s absolute worst, interesting and at it’s best, totally amazing. The other day I bashed out a simple ranking of the singles on my Twitter account, I’ve decided to explain my rationale and review each of the tracks Kanye has put out over the past several weeks.

1. “Good Friday (featuring: Common, Pusha T, Kid Cudi, Big Sean & Charlie Wilson)
“Good Friday” is already one of best cuts from Kanye’s eight year (!) recording career. The bottomless beat gets you primed for dancing and debauchery, the silky piano trills and pulses all but slip you into a martini and a tuxedo; “Good Friday” is a love song to a city that knows you’re coming (“I know the city gettin’ ready for me”). Wherever you roll, the jukebox will have your favorite tunes, the tapper will boast the best beers, and, well ain’t that a bitch, your favorite whiskey is the drink special tonight! (Shit makes me miss Iowa City hardcore…)
To the alienated: this is the sound of acceptance. If Charlie Wilson (of The Gap Band) rattling the rafters doesn’t make you feel warm and welcome, you’ll never know what it is to be wanted. If Pusha T (half of rap duo Clipse) just burning down this track–like Frank Sinatra sipping a drink–doesn’t get your blood pumping, you may need a mortician. And the nearly gospel closing, making zealots out of party girls and alcoholics, more than saves the song from Kid Cudi’s juvenile verse. Who needs a drink?

2. “See Me Now(featuring: Beyonce & Charlie Wilson)
“See Me Now” has only one problem: it’s too long. Charlie Wilson spreads his velvety voice all over this track, Beyonce delivers two slamin’ verses, and Kanye has concocted this bouncy, bubbly, string-laden beat; then Ye takes the good will he built up over the first four minutes and rides it for another two. The closing minutes are full of unnecessary vocal acrobatics from Wilson and trifling ad libs and banter from West. There’s still hope: since none of these cuts have been put out in a physical form, edits are still possible. Maybe Kanye will realize the infectious energy of the track could sustain his brand of effusiveness live, but it won’t hold up on record. Keep your fingers crossed for a 4:30 cut of “See Me Now” on his album.

3. “Power”
You wanna find yourself in the good graces of the critical community?Effectively sample one of the greatest prog-rock songs ever (King Crimson’s “21st Century Schizoid Man“). Better still, if you’re Kanye, just release a sonic sequel to your breakout hit “Jesus Walks.” Once again, Yeezy has an angelic, military choir backing his beats for a cut that may just lead us marching out of the recession into a new golden age.  “Power” is huge and there’s a reason, beyond the insane video, that this cut has attracted the attention of almost everyone: “Power” feels like old-school Kanye West.
Full of hubris and insecurity, Kanye’s the conflicted MC he once was. He’s aware of the miscues of the last couple years, specifically his out of control ego, and he’s not apologizing for anything, but embracing his fallibility with fucking gusto (“No one man should have all that power”). There’s something winking and ironic about an admission this grandiose, standing on a towering, Grecco-Roman pillar declaring your weaknesses, but that sort of blustering humanity had been his signature for his first two stellar releases. “Power” is the evolutionary step a lot of people wanted after 2005’s Late Registration. Skip Graduation (2007) and 808s and Heartbreak, just move on to “Power” and whatever Yeezy gonna name the new bomb he’s dropping.

4. “Power (Remix)” (featuring: Jay-Z & Swizz Beatz)
Two words: “power clap.” I don’t know what the “power clap” is exactly (it sounds like clapping on the down beat to me), but the breakdown on this remix is worth the price of admission alone. Like any good remix or sequel, “Power (Remix)” brings it’s A-game, trying to out do it’s source material.
Kanye’s certainly pulls out all the stops to embolden his already hyped and loved new single. He got the “greatest living” rapper (Jay-Z) on the cut, brings in a slightly less hyped producer in Swizz Beatz to tweak the mix, and what little bit of totally awesome he left off of the original chorus, Ye injected.
On paper the remix is truly better than the source material, in rarefied company with R.Kelly’s “Ignition (Remix)”, however, with Jay-Z napping through his opening verse–like he’s done through his last couple albums, the remix comes limping out the gate. But Kanye has charm to burn. Maybe West knows he’s digging out of Jay’s hole, maybe he just got in the booth and felt good, who knows? But Ye is off the charts with great ideas and fires on all cylinders, he even varies his cadence a bit–something he’s had trouble with his whole career.
Ultimately, like “Monster” (further down the list), there are a few too many ideas coming a bit too fast. The last minute and a half is West burning over a Swizz Beatz-produced, Jock Jams-sampling, freak-out, rapping as quickly as he has ever managed in his life. It’s impressive and shows remarkable growth for West, but it feels tacked on, when it wants to sound like a bulldog who broke free of his collar.

5. Devil in a New Dress
This is one of those tracks that could make almost any MC sound on point. This Bink!-produced, old-school soul loop is almost too easy for Ye. This is a sinker left hanging up in the strike zone and Yeezy makes this look easy.

6. Monster(featuring: Jay-Z, Bon Iver, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj)
“Monster” is a victim to West’s imagination. There are three or four good songs buried in this mess somewhere. Cool idea: tapping indie-art-folk singer Bon Iver (a/k/a Justin Vernon) for the haunting opening. Cool idea: chopped and screwed, proto-Neptunes-style beat. Cool idea: giving Nicki Minaj several bars for her wild, unpredictable delivery. Cool idea: humbling outro. Add all the aforementioned ideas up, stir in Jay-Z and Rick Ross and you have the most bizarre gumbo you’ve ever tasted. The song comes off sort of like my write-up: there’s a bulletin board somewhere at Kanye West headquarters full of note cards with all these great ideas and he just figured out how to stir it into one big pot.

7. “Runaway(featuring: Pusha T)
Like a lot of the languid numbers on Kanye’s auto-tuned opus 808s and Heartbreak, “Runaway” goes no where really slowly. “Runaway” is a serious improvement over the almost lifeless, stilted numbers which over-populated his previous album. West appears to have stepped his composition game up; the Eyes-Wide-Shut-vamp is obviously haunting, but it also provides a stable frame for the movement of the song. The drums, like on 808s, are once again rudimentary, but their a bit more integrated into the song, Kanye seemed a bit more at the mercy of his own production back in 2008, here he appears to have reigned it in a bit better. Pusha T’s second collab with Ye illustrated the primary issue with both “Runaway” and 808s and Heartbreak: Kanye works better with higher bpms. West can’t do mid-tempo ballads, he can do rave ups, he can do club jams, he can even pull off sexy as hell slow jamz, but he just seems lost, lyrically, trying to stretch syllables to fit beats here.

8. “Runaway Love (Remix)” (featuring: Justin Bieber & Raekwon)
I’m not going to complain about using a Bieber song, but Ye’s new beat is, to put it nicely (my one diplomatic nod to this song), ill-fitting. Everyone involved with this deserves better. Seriously, this is so bad that lil’ Biebs deserves better! This list deserves better! Kanye would have been better served interrupting Taylor Swift again, it would be equally embarrassing but at least that’d be more entertaining.

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