Kanye West had a decent sized hit album last year with The College Dropout, but now he has a real major career-making type hit single. "Gold Digger" has been the #1 single in the nation for several weeks. After hearing that damned wistful wisp of a Mariah Carey song for months on end, this sax honkin' blast of real r&b is blessed relief.
For a minute, I was a little crappy that he's ripping off Ray Charles. The whole thing is built on Jamie Foxx doing his (excellent) impression of Ray Charles, singing a couple of lines of "I Got a Woman." Hey, if I wanted to listen to Ray Charles, I've got this record already.
But this really isn't a ripoff at all, and it doesn't really end up sounding that much like Ray. A joyous homage would be a better description, but it's not just that. He's really done what composers have always done; he's taken a piece of some older song and done something else with it entirely. Heck, even Bach and Beethoven took old folk songs and broke them down for parts.
Now, "Gold Digger" ain't Beethoven, but it is quite an ode to joy. He's taken those couple of lines of Ray, and built a whole sweet new concoction out of it.
For one thing, it's pretty cool how well that old fashioned honkin' r&b gospel lends itself to the hip-hop that Kanye makes out of it. By his prior career and on the basis of the previous album, I'd consider him more of a producer than a vocalist or composer. He certainly produces the hell out of this, with all the joyous goodies in the mix from those simple opening drumbeats that announce his entry to that honkin' sax that produces a lot of the joy, and a satisfying proper ending.
I'm not saying the core melody of this will make you forget Ray, but it's got enough pattern to actually qualify as something like a tune. In today's pop market, that's above average. At that, it's a pretty catchy tune.
More than that, though, this has the best and most unique emotional flavor, the most uniquely personal statement of style I've heard from Kanye. The little descending stairsteps of the tune communicate a charming sense of longsuffering exasperation while somewhat sheepishly justifying a foolish love.
"I ain't saying she's a gold digger, but she ain't messin' with no broke nigga." Actually, I can pretty clearly hear some of them forbidden "r"s. Anyway...
Anyway, he conjures up a lot of good details to illustrate his lyrical conceit in the first and third person, particularly the trip to Showbiz and the football player what spent 18 years paying for some tramp's child before being told it wasn't his.
Yet he loves the girl anyway, and understands her needs. Plus, he comes up with one good twist in the girl's defense in the last line, "And when you get on he'll leave your ass for a white girl."
Hey, if the silly trick makes him feel as good as this song does, you can see why he's keeping her around despite it all.
Music Sustains the Soul
To Al's More Things Log
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