As weird as it may sound, the American album that I enjoyed the most this year would be Kanye West‘s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. It was big. It was an album. It is what an album should be. It is the only worthy contender to Lady Gaga‘s Born This Way and Adele‘s 21 (both in the running for Album of The Year). Critics the world over are angry, irritated or concerned by the fact that it got snubbed from the Grammy’s Album Of The Year category. Mainly because Twisted Fantasy was in every critics Top 10, Best-of, Year-End List. Rolling Stone gave it 5 stars (the most they could give).
It was triumphant. Then a day after I heard the nominations (and the same day I read all the Grammy nomination reaction articles online), I downloaded my copy of IU‘s Last Fantasy. And it blew me away. I concluded that I would not hesitate to equate Last Fantasy to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. And I came to this conclusion upon one hearing.
One noticeable similarity between Twisted Fantasy and Last Fantasy would be the hands-on approach of Kanye and IU, respectively. They were the ones who wanted to birth this album. It was theirs. Another similarity would be the horde of collaborators. IU brought in many people to provide color for her album, like Kanye who on one track had, if I’m not mistaken, 13 background singers, including Fergie, Bon Iver, Elton John, and Alicia Keys. Kanye went into recluse in Hawaii and rented three studios at Avex Hawaii all for himself, jumping from one booth to another with each song on hold. IU has a bald patch the size of a coin because of this album. But enough about comparisons. Every time a song would come to an end (here I am playing IU’s Last Fantasy for the first time on iTunes), I would give it a ranking, out of a maximum five stars. Sleeping Prince of The Woods, the second track received one star whereas Everything (is) Alright received two stars. All the rest received five stars.
Listen to it. It is epic, huge, theatrical, orchestral and bloated. Especially for someone as young as IU, AND for a SOLO artist whose stage name consists of only TWO VOWELS. Last Fantasy is a celebration important enough (and righteously rightful) to soundtrack anyone’s Christmas Eve all through New Years Eve. And boy does IU have a lot of fans, in practically all demographics, who would probably go to such lengths. Once again, to compare, IU’s Last Fantasy is an age-appropriate Sixth Sense, but IU has extended it to last a whole album. Do learn from this Miss Jea, Narsha, Miryo and Gain because, although it pains me to say this, your time may be running out…so give us something worth calling an album.
And see this: IU’s efforts in Last Fantasy is actually worthy of giving lessons to veterans rather than me (and perhaps other critics) having to school her on annoying musical choices or song arrangement or stingy album longevity, or simply put, facts that make writers and avid K-Pop fans want to rip their hair off. So considering the last-minute timing, IU’s Last Fantasy should jump right out of any gift box or Christmas stocking this holiday season, like a bedazzling firework… or to speak in musical terms, a masterpiece.
What she did right: Make an album. In every sense of the word.
What she did wrong: Insert weak tracks like Sleeping Prince… and Everything (is) Alright.
What she should have done: There are 13 songs. If IU would like a marketing frenzy that would live up to the 19 going on 20 age transition she’s announced as the phase that is reflected by this album, she should have released songs 1-6 on Day 1. Perform a live telecast and online stream of track 7, at the stroke of midnight, making that live version the only recording available for the album. Then release tracks 8-13 on Day 2.
Writer bias: I absolutely love fantasy, soundtrack-y, full-bodied, orchestral albums.