Hell of a Life (song)
|"Hell of a Life"|
|Song by Kanye West|
|from the album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy|
"Hell of a Life" is a song by American hip hop recording artist Kanye West from his fifth studio album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010). The song was produced by West, Mike Caren, Ernest Wilson and Mike Dean. The song features a number of samples and contains backing vocals by Teyana Taylor, signed to West's G.O.O.D. Music label. The song features a production style with influence from rock and heavy metal music, and is notably bombastic and aggressive in nature. The song expresses a narrative about West marrying a pornographic film actress and the traumatic events that follow. It employs highly sexual, nightmarish imagery, and was inspired by West's relationship with model Amber Rose among other real-life events.
The song received mostly positive reviews from music critics who noted the song for its sexual subject matter, praising the performance provided by West and the aesthetically pleasing imagery created by the song. The song was featured during West's Coachella Music Festival setlist and briefly appeared in his short film Runaway, during a dinner sequence. It charted on the South Korean Gaon Chart at position 57.
"Hell of a Life" was recorded in Oahu, Hawaii, along with the majority of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Kanye West had faced various media controversies and expressed a desire to record his next album in a reclusive manner, straying away from collaborating with artists he didn't consider himself personally familiar with. The track takes inspiration from "Iron Man", a song first recorded by British heavy metal band Black Sabbath from their second studio album Paranoid, which is also sampled on the song. Another source of music influence that the track drew from was Kraftwerk, an influential electronic music project from the 1970s. G.O.O.D. Music artist Teyana Taylor contributes backing vocals to the song, primarily within the last minute of the track.
Lyrically the song draws from West's relationship with model Amber Rose. West had first gotten into contact with Rose in 2008 and developed a romantic relationship with her. The couple had a dramatic break-up in 2010, due to allegations of adultery. The song is unique among songs featured on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy as it is the only song on the album featuring vocals solely provided by West, who chose to otherwise collaborate extensively on the project.
"Hell of a Life" tells the story of marriage between West and a porn star. The porn star in question has been interpreted as an allusion to Amber Rose, a former stripper. Along with "Iron Man", the song samples "She's My Baby," by Sylvester Stewart, and performed by The Mojo Men; and of "Stud-Spider" by Tony Joe White. It is inspired by psychedelic rock, and features baroque braggadocio inspired rapping delivered by West. Aesthetically the production of the song draws from both stoner rock and progressive rock. It has been described as "feverish", "nightmarish", "grimy" and "grotesque" in nature. The primarily bombastic production is littered with heavy synths and brooding, abrasive riffs. The song expresses West's thoughts on relations and features highly sexual themes and imagery, sneering at people who judge him negatively. During the song's climax, West muses "how could you say, 'They live their life wrong?" before launching into the repeated refrain of "when you never fuck with the lights on?" The melodic, riff-ridden chorus is sung by West, boasting about how "pussy and religion is all [he] need[s]." Pitchfork Media's Ryan Dombal summarized the song, writing:
"'Hell of a Life' attempts to bend its central credo-- 'no more drugs for me, pussy and religion is all I need'-- into a noble pursuit. As a woofer-mulching synth line lurks, Kanye justifies his dreams of not sleeping with but marrying a porn star, peaking with the combative taunt, 'How can you say they live they life wrong/ When you never fuck with the lights on.' Inspired by his two-year relationship with salacious model Amber Rose, the song blurs the line between fantasy and reality, sex and romance, love and religion, until no lines exist at all. It's a zonked nirvana with demons underneath; a fragile state that can't help but break apart on the very next song."
According to IGN's Chad Grischow, the track is fueled by "the fuzzed-out synth and melody borrowed from Black Sabbath's 'Iron Man'," stating that "Hell of a Life" plays like it was inspired by "the latest season of Entourage, as Kanye falls hard for a porn star and spins rapidly out of control as he plans their future."
"Hell of a Life" garnered critical acclaim from critics. David Amidon of PopMatters commented that much like every song on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, the song "contains an underscore as ambitious as the beats upfront", concluding that tracks "Hell of a Life" and "So Appalled" alone "carry enough auditory sugar to make listening to this album on any regular sort of listening device almost a fool's errand." Chicago Sun-Times writer Thomas Conner cited the song as one of the album's "temporary highs" describing it as a "mixture of metal strut, Gothic keyboards and a bender gone off the rails." Andy Gill of The Independent cited the song as a highlight of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, describing the song as a "brutal rumination on West's sexual appetite" and stating that the track contained a "buzzy synth motif" and "racing minimalist keyboard flourishes".
AbsolutePunk's Drew Beringer stated that the track featured a "sleazy beat", noting that the song "takes us further into West's dark psyche." J. Tinsley of the Smoking Section described the track as an admirable effort by West, but commented that it was one of the less tracks on the album ultimately. Andrew Barber of Complex complimented the song for successfully providing an escapism fantasy, musing that "Kanye takes us on a spaced-out journey to a world where excess is the norm—a world most of us will never encounter." Sean Highkin of the website Beats Per Minute cited the sampling of "Iron Man" as one of the album's most ambitious moments, writing that "any time Kanye has to make a choice between under and overdoing something, he always opts for the latter". Baron Zach of The Village Voice praised the story and production of the song, stating that the song contained a "great" sample. The song charted on South Korean Gaon Chart at position 57.
The song was also featured as in Runaway, a 35-minute music video directed by West set to music from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. The beginning of the song is featured at the end of the dinner sequence. The song was featured during West's setlist during his 2011 performance at Coachella. At a concert in New York City, West performed the song with Justin Vernon of folk band Bon Iver, a musician who West had extensively collaborated with on the album. Vernon sang the chorus while West provided the rapping verses.
- Produced by Kanye West
- Co-produced by Mike Caren, No I.D. and Mike Dean
- Recorded by Andrew Dawson, Anthony Kilhoffer and Mike Dean at the Avex Recording Studio, Honolulu and Noah Goldstein at Electric Lady Studios, NYC
- Mixed by Mike Dean, Anthony Kilhoffer and Andrew Dawson at Electric Lady Studios, NYC & Platinum Sound Recording, NYC – Assisted by Gaylord Holomalia, Christian Mochizuki and Pete Bischoff
- Additional drum programming: Anthony Kilhoffer
- Keyboards: Mike Dean
- Additional vocals: Teyana Taylor & The-Dream
- Callahan-Bever, Noah (December 12, 2010). Kanye West: Project Runaway Archived December 28, 2010, at the Wayback Machine. Complex. Retrieved on 2010-11-30.
- Rodriguez, Jayson (May 25, 2010). Kanye West's 'Power' Producer Explains How Song Happened. MTV. Viacom Retrieved on 2010-11-30.
- Anderson, Kyle (November 19, 2010). Inside Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy: 'Hell Of A Life'. MTV News. Viacom Retrieved on 2010-11-30.
- Staff (November 21, 2010). Kanye West My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Clash. Retrieved on 2010-11-30.
- Wete, Brad. "Interview: Teyana Taylor Talks Joining G.O.O.D. Music, Influencing Fashion & Being Doubted". complex.com/music/. Retrieved August 3, 2012.
- Vozick-Levinson, Simon (November 12, 2010). Review: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved on 2010-11-12.
- Baron, Zach (November 18, 2010). Why You Can't Hate Kanye West and Love My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy At the Same Time. The Village Voice. Retrieved on 2010-11-17.
- Carney, Annie (March 20, 2011). "Amber Rose – a star is 'shorn'". New York Post. News Corporation. Retrieved October 7, 2010.
- Staff (January 12, 2012). Amber Rose Cries While Discussing Kanye West In An Interview The Huffington Post. Retrieved on 2011-01-29.
- Staff (November 11, 2010). "Kanye West's 'My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy' By The Numbers". XXL.
- Staff (October 23, 2010). Track Listing: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Rap-Up. Devin Lazerine Retrieved on 2010-11-28.
- Maloney, Sean L. (November 21, 2010). Kanye West: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. American Songwriter. Retrieved on 2010-11-12.
- Weiner, Jonah (November 22, 2010). Review: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Slate. Retrieved on 2011-01-29.
- My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (Media notes). Kanye West. Roc-A-Fella Records. 2010.CS1 maint: others (link)
- Embling (2010–11). Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy | Music Review | Tiny Mix Tapes. Tiny Mix Tapes. Retrieved on 2011-04-30.
- Fennessey, Sean (November 17, 2010). Review: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. The Village Voice. Retrieved on 2010-11-17.
- Brockman, Daniel (November 16, 2010). Kanye West My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. The Boston Phoenix. Retrieved on 2019-2-27.
- Reed, James (November 21, 2010). True West. Boston.com. Retrieved on 2010-11-30.
- Cole, Matthew (November 22, 2010). Review: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Slant Magazine. Retrieved on 2010-11-20.
- Rodriguez, Jayson (November 22, 2010). Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy: A Track-By-Track Guide. MTV News. Viacom Retrieved on 2011-05-02.
- Paine, Jake (October 4, 2010). Kanye West My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy Archived November 2, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. HipHopDX. Retrieved on 2010-11-27.
- Staff (July 27, 2012). "Hell of a Life" (2010). Complex. Retrieved on 2010-11-30.
- Dombal, Ryan (November 21, 2010). Review: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Pitchfork Media. Retrieved on 2010-11-21.
- Grischow, Chad (November 23, 2010). Kanye West: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy Review – Music Review at IGN Archived April 1, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. IGN. Retrieved on 2011-04-30.
- Amidon, David (November 20, 2010). Review: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. PopMatters Retrieved on 2010-11-12
- Conner, Thomas (November 21, 2010). Review: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy Archived October 19, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved on 2010-11-21.
- Gill, Andy (November 19, 2010). Review: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. The Independent. Retrieved on 2010-11-19.
- Beringer, Drew (November 22, 2010). "Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy". AbsolutePunk. Buzz Media. Retrieved March 17, 2012.
- Tinsley, J. (2010-22-11). "Hell of a Life" – Review of Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy Archived December 12, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. Smoking Section. Retrieved on 2010-11-30.
- Barber, Andrew (December 7, 2012). 31. Kanye West "Hell of A Life" (2010). Complex. Retrieved on 2010-11-30.
- Highkin, Sean (November 15, 2010). Kanye West My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Beats Per Minute. Retrieved on 2010-11-30.
- "Digital Comprehensive charts" (in Korean). Gaon Chart. Retrieved June 10, 2011.[permanent dead link]
- Kaufman, Gil (October 7, 2010). "Kanye West Screens 'Runaway' In London". MTV. Viacom. Retrieved October 7, 2010.
- Wete, Brad (October 27, 2010). Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy: Have we heard it all already?. Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved on 2010-11-30.
- Morris, Andy (October 12, 2010). "100 things Kanye taught GQ: Everything that happens in Runaway". GQ. Condé Nast Publications. Archived from the original on May 15, 2012. Retrieved October 23, 2010.
- Idolator Staff(2011-05-19). Listen To Kanye West's Full Set From Coachella. Idolator Buzz Media. Retrieved on 2011-11-30.
- DiMeglio, Mary (May 10, 2011). "Kanye West Slays Coachella Festival's Last Night". MTV. Viacom. Retrieved February 26, 2011.
- Dombal, Ryan (November 24, 2010). Report: Kanye Raps, Sings, Rants at NYC Gig. Pitchfork Media. Retrieved on 2010-11-21.
- Hill, Logan (October 14, 2010). "Bon Iver's Justin Vernon on Recording Kanye's Dark Fantasy". Vulture. New York Magazine. Retrieved July 27, 2011.
- on YouTube (34:33)