15 Songs, 54 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

If College Dropout was our introduction to an underdog and Late Registration a victory lap for a newly anointed champion, then Graduation crystallizes Kanye West’s stratospheric success in 24-carat surround sound. Like the teddy bear mascot being hurtled into outer space on the album’s cover, Kanye’s third album pushes his reflexive rhymes and musical imagination to places only hinted at on his previous two albums. Anyone can rap about cash, but Graduation sounds likes a million bucks: “Good Life” is a layer cake of silver-gilded synths that lets the listener bask in Kanye’s luxurious dream life for three vivid minutes, while the Daft Punk-sampling “Stronger” beams us into a futuristic dance party, awash in neon color and surround sound audio. Though Kanye’s increasing wealth hasn’t helped to curb his obsession with fashion brands and jewelry, he never stops investigating himself and his motives. “To what much is given, much is tested,” he raps on the hit “Can’t Tell Me Nothing,” which resembles nothing else on contemporary radio. “I feel the pressure, under more scrutiny / And what I do? Act more stupidly.” Kanye’s egomania will always be a fully-fledged part of his persona, but even as the superstar in him looms large, the self-critical upstart of College Dropout is there checking his every move.

EDITORS’ NOTES

If College Dropout was our introduction to an underdog and Late Registration a victory lap for a newly anointed champion, then Graduation crystallizes Kanye West’s stratospheric success in 24-carat surround sound. Like the teddy bear mascot being hurtled into outer space on the album’s cover, Kanye’s third album pushes his reflexive rhymes and musical imagination to places only hinted at on his previous two albums. Anyone can rap about cash, but Graduation sounds likes a million bucks: “Good Life” is a layer cake of silver-gilded synths that lets the listener bask in Kanye’s luxurious dream life for three vivid minutes, while the Daft Punk-sampling “Stronger” beams us into a futuristic dance party, awash in neon color and surround sound audio. Though Kanye’s increasing wealth hasn’t helped to curb his obsession with fashion brands and jewelry, he never stops investigating himself and his motives. “To what much is given, much is tested,” he raps on the hit “Can’t Tell Me Nothing,” which resembles nothing else on contemporary radio. “I feel the pressure, under more scrutiny / And what I do? Act more stupidly.” Kanye’s egomania will always be a fully-fledged part of his persona, but even as the superstar in him looms large, the self-critical upstart of College Dropout is there checking his every move.

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