Review: Kanye’s great ‘Fantasy’ only lacks fun

Kanye West, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” (Roc-A-Fella Records)

We knew well before “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” that Kanye West is a tortured genius. He had made enough headlines and leaked enough music to make that clear. The main question left for his fifth album was, what’s in it for us?

A lot — if you like reality TV, celebrity tabloids and car crashes. As a producer, Kanye’s immense gifts have reached a new peak, and his lyrics remain double-edged blades of young black pathos. The only thing missing from this “Fantasy” is a good time.

Kanye’s previous album, “808s & Heartbreak,” also was a bleak experience, but “Fantasy” delves into an uglier place. There’s no happiness, vicarious thrills or funny stories, no touching odes to his mentor or his mother, just a man torn apart by the world and himself. You get women, ego, fame, evil, power, pain, even sex and religion as unholy bedfellows — all delivered in defiant rhymes laden with multiple meanings and punch lines.

This dysfunction still sounds incredible, though, because West lays down his torment on beds of sound that reveal new beauties with each listen.

It makes you wish Kanye could finally find the woman or the award he yearns for, so he could escape from his own head and give us another hilarious “Gold Digger” or redemptive “Jesus Walks.” Until then, he’s like a Picasso who only paints self-portraits.

Check this out: The minute-long “All of the Lights” interlude is haunting, beautiful — and wordless.

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