Many of us can link a certain album to pivotal moments in our lives. Whether it’s the first record you bought with your own money, the chord you first learnt to play on guitar, the song that soundtracked your first kiss, the album that got you those awkward and painful pubescent years or the one that set off light bulbs in your brain and inspired you to take a big leap of faith into the unknown – music is often the catalyst for change in our lives and can even help shape who we become.
In this series, Music Feeds asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share with us stories about the effect music has had on their lives.
Here are their love letters to records that forever changed their lives.
Sumner: Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
When we discussed what album we’d focus on for our love letter, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy coincidentally popped into both our minds first. How do you even begin to describe an album that was so central in the development of something that’s now so central in our lives – making music? It’s a personal experience, falling in love with an album. And just as you wouldn’t read a love letter written by two people addressed to one person, writing about MBDTF is something that has to be done separately x
I grew up loving Kanye West largely thanks to my mum. I remember her taking me and my brothers to school one day and putting ‘All Of The Lights’ on for the drive. I was hooked, obsessively researching MBDTF on music blogs during class – I wanted to know all about it. Sonically, I hadn’t heard anything so lavish before, being so boastful in feature artists. The production was impeccable, head-turning crispness. The percussion made me want to air drum like the Animal from The Muppet Show. I read up on the hype on Nicki’s verse on ‘Monster’, the dramatic 35-minute short film released alongside the album. I swear I felt butterflies in anticipation. I knew I had found something special (thanks Mum).
I got my research done during English in the morning, and illegally downloaded the album so I was ready to devour it during my next double lesson: Art. I put my bass-booster earbuds in, set myself up to start having a doodle; pressed play and Dark Fantasy consumed me. I was absolutely enthralled with every song, I listened to it from start to finish numerous times that first week it was loaded onto my iPhone 3 (and since then it hasn’t left my phone’s music library). The extended outro/reprise in ‘Runaway’ pushed the musical boundaries I had previously found familiar. I found the introspective, self-aware lyrics inspiring and somewhat relateable after drawing my own meanings from them. The complex artistry involved with the multiple album covers, the short film, the well-rounded musicality and arrangements; I was overwhelmed thinking about how much thought went into creating this beautiful life-changing piece of work, and felt driven to better my own compositions.
It was 2010. I was graciously being spoon-fed from the iTunes top 100 charts, smashing through hits from Rihanna, Beyonce, Lady Gaga, the Black Eyed Peas, but at some point ‘All of the Lights’ came sweeping through the charts and I was infatuated. The erratic — verging on chaotic — drums, combined with the monumental melodies coming from a total of 14 high-profile guest vocalists blew my tiny little 13 year-old mind.
Since that pivotal moment hearing ‘All of the Lights’, I haven’t stopped listening to MBDTF. As I’ve grown, so has my interpretation of the album. I’ve applied different meanings to songs, influenced by my own life and my slowly increasing understanding of the context of its release. Much less innocent 8 years later, I see ‘All of the Lights’ peeling back the curtain from our perception of fame, and the dark reality experienced by those within it. Kanye resorts to escapism through sex, drugs, and materialism, whilst undergoing a metaphoric custody battle for his “inner child”.
I’ve been inspired by the stories of Kanye’s self imposed exile to Hawaii, flying out the best artists and musicians to join him, not sleeping until the album was finished (If I could one day achieve half of that work ethic I would be stoked), in an aggressive attempt to win back the hearts of the mainstream audience after the infamous Taylor Swift incident. It must have been successful, because it won many hearts, including my own. MBDTF has been my favourite album ever since xx
Sumner’s debut EP ‘All That I Am’ is out now. Stream it below.