Label: Roc-A-Fella Link: www.myspace.com/kanyewest By now you will have heard a lot about this album. You’ll more than likely be very familiar with the controversy surrounding Kanye West’s abandonment of rap, his heavy use of auto-tune, and the emotional turbulence which inspired the subject matter. However the change in direction shouldn’t come as a surprise. West has never been one to rest on his laurels: his penchant for both critical and commercial success meant that it was only a matter of time until he strayed from his template of bravado and samples. ‘808s & Heartbreak’ is Kanye’s attempt to break the shackles of genre, and it works. A pop record through and through; every song on ‘808s’is more similar to the works of Michael Jackson than Jay-Z. Both ‘Love Lockdown’ and ‘Coldest Winter’ make optimal use of the very limited 808 technology, combining especially tribal-beats with the synths and angst heard in every track here. Elsewhere, ‘Paranoid’ makes use of a boy-band-esque chorus vocal to work as an upbeat ‘Heard ‘em Say’, and Robocop combines the 808s with an amazing string section sample, managing to overcome some less-than-amazing lyrics. Almost every song on ‘Heartbreak’ is exceptionally well-orchestrated. But this only makes it more puzzling to listen to. As a collection of pop songs, ‘Heartbreak’ works. But as something of a concept album, it doesn’t. West claims he wants it to be seen as ‘pop art’, but rather than a vision, this seems more like an attempt to force the album to be seen as a whole. Sure, each song on here shares a certain sense of depression, but each song seems to cite a different cause for it. Rather than appearing as a conceptual piece, ‘Heartbreak’ serves as something of a journal for West, allowing him to get all that misery and confusion off of his chest. At the end of the say there isn’t a lot wrong with this. ‘808s & Heartbreak’ is a record filled with emotionally earnest lyrics, sound tracked by fantastic pop and R&B. It just seems like West should have taken a little more time to refine the album thematically before the marketing started.