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Lou Reed has never been particularly fond of music criticism, at least in interviews with music writers. “I didn’t like critics then, and I don’t like them now,” he told Spin in a 2010 interview that found him brushing off multiple queries about criticism and reviews of his albums. Turns out the former Velvet Underground frontman is a pretty good critic.
In a review for The Talkhouse, a new music site where musicians write about artists, Reed tackles what may be the most critically dissected summer album, Kanye West’s Yeezus. And Reed’s typically terse phrasing makes for a fascinating interpretation of West’s material.
West “seems to have insinuated in a recent New York Times interview that My Beautiful Dark, Twisted Fantasy was to make up for stupid shit he’d done,” writes Reed. “And now, with this album, it’s ‘Now that you like me, I’m going to make you unlike me.’ It’s a dare. It’s braggadocio. Axl Rose has done that too, lots of people have. ‘I Am a God’ — I mean, with a song title like that, he’s just begging people to attack him.”
Yeezus debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with 327,000 albums sold in the first week. Reed, 71, recently underwent a liver transplant surgery in May before declaring himself “a triumph of modern medicine” and pledging to work on new material.
Reed, who often populated his own solo material with controversial lines, gave a mixed appraisal on West’s lyrics. “Many lyrics seem like the same old b.s. Maybe because he made up so much of it at the last minute. But it’s the energy behind it, the aggression. Usually the Kanye lyrics I like are funny, and he’s very funny here,” he wrote.
Reed also delves into contradictions about West’s lavish lifestyle. “He’s trying to have it both ways — he’s the upstart but he’s got it all, so he frowns on it,” Reed writes. “Some people might say that makes him complicated, but it’s not really that complicated. He kind of wants to retain his street cred even though he got so popular.”
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