New Kanye album emotional run

Jeff Yerger

Kanye West. He is just about as unpredictable as they get.

The man is so into himself it’s not even funny, but luckily for him, he’s got the music to back up his talk.

But in the past year or so, Kanye has gone from the “Good Life” to heartbreak: His mother died last November, he broke up with his fiancée in April and he was arrested twice within a span of two months.

Certainly, it’s been an emotional time for him, and if there’s anything we’ve learned this past year, it’s that Kanye – Mr. West, Mr. Fresh – is indeed human, despite popular belief.

Now, all these emotions that he’s kept bottled up inside (and hasn’t yet unleashed on the paparazzi) have come pouring out on his latest release, “808s and Heartbreak.”

“808s” introduces a new side of Kanye that we’ve never seen before.

He has become vulnerable, depressed and angry, all due in part to the heartbreak this past year has brought him.

He’s turned into a Debbie Downer, and the sob-fest never ends.

Kanye wallows in self-pity and grief, which reeks on this album. He whines, “Life’s just not fair” in “Street Lights,” a song that seems to have been left off of a Linkin Park album.

“My friend showed me pictures of his kids /And all I could show him were pictures of my cribs,” he sings in “Welcome to Heartbreak,” a heart-wrenching and ominous ballad, driven by a creative piano riff, about the uncertainty of life in Kanye’s world.

This is pretty much the tone for the rest of this album.

If you’re looking for the smart-mouthing, witty and indestructible Kanye we have come to know and love over the years, you’re fresh out of luck.

You won’t find any rapping on here. The big story on “808s” is Auto-Tune, which you may remember from countless T-Pain songs, Lil’ Wayne’s “Lollipop,” or that Cher song from the ’90s.

It seems like Kanye decided to jump on the Auto-Tune bandwagon himself, as it is present in every song here, making the pitch of his voice sound choppy and computerized.

On the first single, “Love Lockdown,” Kanye croons about his lost love over a tribal drumbeat created by a Roland TR-808 drum machine, which also dominates the background of this album, giving “808s” a retro ’80s feel.

Kanye comes close to getting back his old flame with “Paranoid,” on which he does more rapping than T-Pain impressions.

It’s great, but unfortunately, it’s the only song on the album where Kanye seems to be in a good mood.

What’s interesting about this album is that there seems to be an emphasis on the instrumentals in the songs rather than the lyrics.

There is a lot more going on than in his past albums, and the instrumental fade-outs to most of these songs last longer than in your typical mainstream hip-hop song.

The musically driven opener “Say You Will” begins with simple “beeps,” but as it moves along, it builds up with brooding “oohs” and “ahhs” of a Mellotron Choir and some interesting chord changes.

Then Kanye gets off the mic early, giving the instrumental about three minutes to fade out so the listener can dwell on what is going on.

This is an interesting choice for Kanye, especially since he loves to hear himself talk.

You know something’s wrong when he would rather have the music do the talking.

Indeed, “808s and Heartbreaks” is a departure from the norm for Kanye.

He has made a valiant effort in attempting to create something different.

The problem is he overdoses on the Auto-Tune and the gloom, which makes much of this album difficult to swallow.

So here’s to 2009 being a better year and bringing a happy Kanye West into the studio next time.

Recommended Songs: “Paranoid,” “Heartless,” “Say You Will”