Even after voting for College Dropout in my top five records of 2004 -- and still diggin' on it months later -- I couldn't muster any excitement for Kanye West's hotly awaited sequel, which just swept Pazz & Jop and will likely rack up many more awards over the next few months. I didn't even hear Late Registration until late last year, when my mother gave me a copy for Christmas. Dropout's early singles were solid, addictive, great advertisements for copping the product when it dropped -- "All Falls Down," "Slow Jamz," "Through the Wire" -- but Registration's equivalents lacked that fresh, brash charm, or if they had it, it was starting to feel more like arrogance, whining, chipped shoulders no upper echelon of fame could ever fix. The non-stop, 24/7 barrage of press items about the dude didn't help any -- burn-out and overexposure were settling in. Speaking truth to power during a Red Cross telethon? Respect due, man, but would you take a year or two off from making your own records and shoving your conflicted/conscious personna down the world's collective throat? I mean, Registration sounds pretty damned incredible, production-wise, and yet I've had little desire to spend more than a few hours with it; I don't even think I've heard it all the way through yet. And I wonder this is because I can't escape Kanye West, what with him crucified on magazine covers and on the news and in the papers and discussed to death online and the singles cycled ad nauseum on MTV. Maybe it arrived a bit too soon -- if its impact might have been even bigger if it hadn't come out until, say, this month. Think I'm wrong? Really? Then consider that crits shafted Missy Elliott's latest this year in print and in the polls -- in part because they weren't given enough time to really miss her.
Comparing my P&J picks to the top 40 overall results, it's clear that I've drifted further than ever from the critical concensus. This is only depressing when I click on some of my more esoteric favorites and discover that out of nearly 750 voters I'm the only effing person who went ga-ga-ga for a Dead Machines CD or a Liz Phair song...while a majority creamed over Kanye for the second year in a row. If Kanye wins this thing three years in a row I don't know what I'll do.
Meanwhile, Robert Christgau takes on Eminem's career and puts a lot of things into perspective; no other epitaphs are needed.