My first thought when I saw Kanye West debut his new single at the VMAs last weekend was, and I quote, “…” Pure static. My second thought was that maybe I should wait to hear a studio version of “Love Lockdown” before forming any opinion on it one way or another. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the performance, exactly — I just had no idea what to make of it. Kanye mumbling tunelessly about his broken heart instead of rapping? A whole song at the same droning tempo, with no obvious hooks? But Kanye is a complex artist — one of my favorites — with a proven track record. He deserves the benefit of the doubt, right?
Well, Yeezy posted a studio take of “Love Lockdown” on his blog yesterday, and while he’s still got the benefit of the doubt from me, I’ve got some questions. (You can also check out “Love Lockdown” below, at least until YouTube yanks the stream.) At the risk of re-inviting Kanye’s boundless ire, I just don’t get what he was going for here. The beat is dope, for sure. But how did he manage to be so egregiously off-key while singing through Auto-Tune?! And why does he sound so out of breath half the time? Finally, I’ll be damned if I can figure out why he’s decided to “sing” for an entire track instead of gracing us with a single line of rap — or giving this track to an actual singer. Look, far be it from me to criticize a musician for going outside of his or her lane. The Love Below is a really cool record; I’ve got no problem with rappers turning singers, if they can actually craft a listenable song that way. But Kanye’s no André 3000 in that department. It’s just not working for me, to the point where I still feel like there’s something I’m not “getting” about this song.
Right now I’m holding out hope that this is just a demo of some sort. Maybe Kanye will sound less sleepy on the real thing. And maybe I’ll see the light on “Love Lockdown” after a few more days of listening. But it’s certainly isn’t grabbing me anywhere near the way the first teaser singles from Kanye’s last three albums did. You tell me: Am I wrong here? Is there something I’m missing about “Love Lockdown”? (Also, on a semi-sorta-related note: Whoa, Kanye was apparently just arrested at an L.A. airport on vandalism charges after allegedly smashing a paparazzo’s camera? I got no comment on that right now, except for an emphatic “Wha’happen?!” and my well-wishes to Kanye.)