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  • Writer's pictureJamie Varley

Let's Have a Toast for the Assholes



The Album

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy


Fantasy is a look through stained glass into the darkest period in a jaded superstar’s career, weaving raw allegories as an act of catharsis to both escape and accept one’s imperfection and its contribution to a lonely heart.


Art’s finest moments are often created out of pain. Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here and Joni Mitchell’s Blue are some fine examples. The manifestation of sorrow or loss in the language of music allow their creator to cope with it, embrace it, and create a world where pain only exists in music and not in reality.


The leadup to Fantasy saw Kanye fall out of favour with the public eye through his embarrassing sabotage of Taylor Swift’s 2009 MTV Award acceptance, which led to fallout both in his professional and his personal life. Kanye, already grieving over the loss of his mother two years earlier, saw everything he worked decades to build crumble around him.

After months of reclusion and soul searching, Kanye knew that the only way to fix this was through a language that he was most articulate in – music. He flew himself and dozens of high-profile musicians and thinkers to a recording studio in Hawaii where he worked to create his final shot at redemption in the most pivotal time in his career, and in late 2010 he released his magnum opus My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.


Fantasy explodes with grandeur and vibrancy, taking the feelings of regret, ostracization, and pain that Kanye is grappling with and painting vivid tales with them. Themes reside across each song but each with a different approach, personifying pain through various incarnations and caricatures set over ranges of both roaring and delicate orchestral backdrops.


The zenith of the album comes in the cathartic explosion of “Runaway”. Instantly recognizable after a single note, “Runaway” is an ode to imperfection, a voice of solidarity for those who have ever mistreated a loved one or damaged a relationship through their inability to improve. The song provides a look at the pain caused by these damaged people, both on their loved ones and ultimately themselves, beginning with a literal interpretation and ending with an explosion of tearful release by a heavily distorted Kanye over a wall of sound rippling through the speakers. It is this moment that Kanye truly opens his heart and lets his agony out, that he finds a way to heal the hardships that have overcome him during the lowest point in a proud man’s life.


 

The Food

Steak Dinner



Across the world, steak dinners are occasions that represent something significant and special. A fresh beef steak is often the accompaniment to a celebration. There is something about the balance and perfection of a steak that sets it apart from other foods – really a class of its own when it comes to food.


Just like a fine wine, the sky is the limit when it comes to the quality of steak that you put on the table. You can spend $10 or $500 on the meat you’re purchasing, and can noticeably taste the difference in quality.


The quality is dependent on a variety of factors, often the origin of the steak, the cut of beef, or how the cow has been raised. If the cow is grass-fed, it will typically be leaner and a deeper red, whilst grain fed is often fattier and contains more marbling (fat weaved into the cut of meat, leading to a tremendously rich taste). Different cuts of beef are great in different meals, but for a steak dinner, aim for ribeye, tenderloin, porterhouse or sirloin.


When it comes to grilling the steak, my thinking is that nothing beats the grill (charred, smoky and delicious). However, the most even cook can be done on the stovetop. The steak pictured was pat dry, tossed in salt, grilled in butter, garlic and rosemary for around 3 minutes a side, cooled for 10 minutes, and served.


The sides are as important as the meal itself. While there are countless sides that complement a steak to perfection (baked potato, creamed spinach), I went with two distinctly classic and American sides – fries and green beans topped in butter.


The final part of the meal, that many would say is the most important, is the wine chose to pair with the steak. Red wine, specifically a dryer red (with the classic pairing being cabernet sauvignon), uses its tannins to compliment the rich and fatty meat and allowing the steak to release more flavour. For the wine, the fruity and smooth flavours are heightened by the steak’s fat. Science has even proven that the combination brings out the health benefits of one another – the wine’s antioxidants block some of the cholesterol from hitting the bloodstream. The perfect combination.


 

The Experience



This album, in my eyes the best album of all time, needed a special dish to accompany it. I thought back to the Runaway Film that accompanied the album, with the emotional centerpiece being the formal dinner Kanye West hosted for his newfound love, the phoenix. “Devil In A New Dress” echoes through the hall, a song about Kanye trying his hardest to display his love for a woman, while battling his self-love and arrogance, coming to the conclusion that the biggest obstacle Kanye has in finding love is himself. Then comes “Runaway” – a toast to egotism and putting on a proud face while feeling so much pain.

This self-indulgence inspired the steak dinner. On one hand, a steak dinner is the finest meal you can receive. But the image of having it alone makes one question the point of the celebration if you have nobody to celebrate with. You can have all the glory, the accolades and achievements, and the finest and unquestionable wonders of the world, but that only amplifies the emptiness that you feel inside.


In 2010, Kanye was perhaps the most celebrated and influential musician of the young millennium. Pusha-T’s verse explores these riches and successes, acting as the ego. But then it was all taken away. The things we were taught to strive for, the things we were taught would make us happy were still there – the money and the fame. But for the first time in his life, Kanye felt alone.


The pain that Kanye is sparring with below the surface – the emptiness, the feeling that he can’t be truly loved. His mother gone, the public turned their back on him. This conflict and tension between success and happiness is one that all beings who find the former have to grapple with, but never has it been expressed as openly as Kanye on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. If you understand this album you understand Kanye as a person, even all these years later, and better understand yourself as you reexamine what it means to be happy.


 
 

Never was much of a romantic

I could never take the intimacy

And I know it did damage

'Cause the look in your eyes is killin' me

I guessin' you're at an advantage

'Cause you could blame me for everything

And I don't know where I'ma manage

If one day you just up and leave

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