“Welcome To Heartbreak” is probably not the most club or radio-friendly track on 808s & Heartbreak — that’d probably be “Love Lockdown” or “Paranoid” — but it’s my favorite track on Kanye West’s latest. Here, West turns introspective and ruminates on the emptiness of fame and wealth.
My friend showed me pictures of his kids
And all I could show him was pictures of my cribs
He said his daughter got a brand new report card
And all I got was a brand new sports car, oh
Dad cracked a joke, all the kids laughed
But I couldn’t hear him all the way in first class
Chased the good life my whole life long
Look back on my life and my life gone
Where did I go wrong?
True, a platinum-selling, world famous artist lamenting the price of fame is one of the biggest clichés in pop music — and it seems especially clichéd in the case of the outspoken West, who is pretty much his own hype machine and has enough braggadocio for 10 MCs.
But West’s ego is precisely why “Welcome To Heartbreak” works (for me, anyhow). There’s no doubt that West feels very free to speak his mind, and therefore, such a sentiment coming from him does feel like a peek behind the curtain, an almost intimate moment where you hear a performer express their deepest fears and doubts. Even awash in the cold, synthetic tones of Auto-Tune — like everything else on 808s & Heartbreak — the humanity is still on display.
On a related note, I absolutely love the highly pixellated, heavily artifacted look of the video above. In this day and age of ultra-pristine 1080P HD, it somehow feels more tangible, like you’re watching a video relic from an earlier time. (I wrote about this sensation a few years ago, after watching a heavily degraded version of The Secret Rivals)
You can see another example of this style in this video for Chairlift’s “Evident Utensil”, which looks like a PC screensaver circa 1992 on an acid trip… but in a good way.