I was far from the only one who wasn’t totally feeling “Love Lockdown” when Kanye West debuted the single on his blog last week. Even some of his own KanyeUniverseCity.com commenters — who are typically the most ecstatically devoted Kanye boosters on the planet, short of Kanye himself — didn’t seem quite sure what to make of it. So I’ve gotta give ‘Ye credit for doing the unthinkable and heading back to the lab in order to give us a brand-new reworked take of the song this Tuesday. Turns out he was actually listening to the constructive feedback he got on that first version: He’s singing his heart out now on the hook instead of mumbling, his drums hit harder, there are some nice synth parts adding depth to the beat, and overall the levels just sound like they’re mixed better. I’m still not 100% sold on “Love Lockdown,” but I’m really impressed that he took his fans’ opinions seriously enough to go back and change his music.
More importantly, give the man a hand for the way he’s handling the online buzz cycle here. Everybody’s still trying to figure out how to harness the Web’s appetite for free new music — remember Radiohead’s In Rainbows giveaway? Kanye has done them one better by letting us listen in on the flawed steps he takes on the way to a final product. Artists almost always create intermediate works-in-progress when they’re recording — for an artist as detail-oriented as Kanye, there can be hundreds of alternate or unfinished takes for an individual song. But fans generally don’t get to hear those unless they show up on a reissue or a box set, years or decades later. Or sometimes those early studio takes will leak without an artist’s consent; this happened to Lil Wayne last summer, when a whole raft of fantastic demos for Tha Carter III hit the Web. Wayne ended up entirely scrapping most of those songs, because they felt tainted now that the public had heard them in unfinished form. And Tha Carter III suffered considerably in my mind when it lost some of those songs. Imagine if Wayne had just done like Kanye and revamped the leaked tunes, worked out the kinks, and released new-and-improved versions as he went along?
Anyway, like I said, I’m still withholding judgment on “Love Lockdown.” The final studio version is on sale at iTunes as of this morning, but I suspect it’s something that will either sound much better or much worse in the context of a full album exploring this new sound. Still, I’m already fascinated by Kanye’s willingness to let us sit in on his creative process this way. Who’s with me?
addCredit(“Kanye West: Kevin Mazur/WireImage”)