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Heartless (Kanye West song)

"Heartless" is a song by American hip hop artist Kanye West, released on November 4, 2008 digitally as the second single for his fourth studio album, 808s & Heartbreak. The song, a noticeable departure from his previous rap songs, features West singing through an Auto-Tune processor to an ex-lover over the break-up of a relationship. The song has received critical acclaim, with many calling it a highlight of its parent album. It debuted at the number four spot on the Billboard Hot 100 where it eventually peaked at number two and reached number-one on the Billboard Hot Rap Tracks and U.S. Hot 100 Airplay chart.[1] The song's music video, which makes use of rotoscoped animation, received praise from critics, who complimented its art style and noted its innovation. The singles cover art is also notable as it is unique to the other tracks in the album due to it not having a heart: it is in fact heartless.

"Heartless"
Kanyewestheartless.png
Single by Kanye West
from the album 808s & Heartbreak
ReleasedNovember 4, 2008
Format
Recorded2008
Genre
Length3:31
Label
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)
Kanye West singles chronology
"Love Lockdown"
(2008)
"Heartless"
(2008)
"Go Hard"
(2008)
Audio sample
"Heartless"

The song came to be covered by numerous artists, most notably by Denver-based piano rock band the Fray and American Idol season 8 winner Kris Allen, with all three versions managing to enter charts in the absence of a physical single release. "Heartless" was the ninth best-selling single worldwide in 2009, with sales of 5.5 million.[2]

BackgroundEdit

On his fourth studio album 808's & Heartbreak and in the song "Heartless", Kanye West utilized the voice audio processor device known as Auto-Tune.[3] "Heartless" is an mid-tempo pop song that runs for a duration of three minutes and thirty seconds. It is set in the time signature of common time, with a moderate tempo of 90 beats per minute. The song is composed in the key of Bb minor, and West's vocal range spans nearly two octaves, from a low of G3 to a high of F5. West had previously experimented with the technology on his debut album, The College Dropout, for the background vocals of "Jesus Walks" and "Never Let Me Down." The voice altering device created a unique sound helping West express his then feelings of his break up with fiancée Alexis Phifer months after the untimely passing of his mother.[4]

ReleaseEdit

"Heartless" was released as the third track on West's fourth studio album 808s & Heartbreak on November 24, 2008.[5] Twenty days prior, the song was released as the second single to the album, after lead single "Love Lockdown".

Music videoEdit

Directed by Hype Williams,[6] the animated music video for "Heartless" pays tribute to Ralph Bakshi's 1981 film American Pop.[7][8] It features use of rotoscoped animation, in which actual people were filmed and had their every move drawn over, and references various scenes and backgrounds from the film.[9] The video portrays West wandering through a city alone at night, with scenes of various women shown throughout the video. The video also takes place in West's actual apartment den, where the Jetsons portraits are located.[9] West stands by the Astro portrait in five scenes of the video. It was the first animated video directed by Williams.

The music video has received critical acclaim, mainly for its creative art style.[9] Writer 'Scratch' of XXL called the video an "amazing work of art" and that should be "experienced on a big screen."[10]

Live performancesEdit

The song was performed for the first time in Denver, Colorado.[11] The song was also performed at a T.I. concert at Key Club in Los Angeles.[12] Kanye made a special guest appearance and confirmed the song's future release as a single at that show.[13][14] A snippet of the unmastered version of the song was leaked onto the Internet on October 12, 2008. This was followed by a full unmastered version of the song being posted on West's official blog on October 15.[15] The song was released on iTunes on November 4, 2008. On November 8, 2008, Kanye posted a new mastered version of the song on his official blog. A free link to download the song was posted there as well.[16] West provided a live performance of "Heartless" when he headlined the Pyramid Stage at the 2015 Glastonbury Festival on June 27.[17]

Commercial performanceEdit

In the U.S. on the week of November 13, "Heartless" made a "Hot Shot Debut" at number four on the Billboard Hot 100, selling 201,000 downloads in the United States alone and making it his second highest debut on the chart.[18] The single fluctuated in and out of the top ten for two months before reaching number three in mid-January, and rose to its peak at number two on the chart issue dated February 21 where it would be blocked from number one by Eminem, Dr. Dre and 50 Cent's "Crack a Bottle".[19] In early March it also reached number four on the Pop 100 chart. It is West's second consecutive top five hit on the Hot 100, and his second consecutive song to debut in the top five there. This makes 808s & Heartbreak the first West album to contain two Hot 100 top five hits. On Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, it peaked at four. It debuted at number eleven on the Hot Rap Tracks and has managed to reach number-one in late January. As of September 2012, the song has sold over 4 million paid digital downloads in the United States, becoming West's second song to reach that mark, the first being "Stronger".[20]

In Canada, it also made a "Hot Shot Debut" at number eight on the Canadian Hot 100, also based on the huge number of downloads in the country. On December 1, 2008, the song debuted at number 63 on the Australian ARIA Singles Chart. It reached number six on the New Zealand RIANZ chart. On the UK Singles Chart, the song debuted at number 45 and reached number ten due to album download sales. The official digital release date for the single was January 12, 2009. On the Irish Singles Chart the song has peaked at number ten.

Usage in mediaEdit

AccoladesEdit

Track listingsEdit

Digital download
  1. "Heartless" – 3:31
CD single
  1. "Heartless" (Album version) – 3:31
  2. "Heartless" (Instrumental) – 3:30

PersonnelEdit

Information taken from 808s & Heartbreak liner notes.[29]

  • Songwriters: Kanye West, Ernest Wilson, Scott Mescudi, Malik Jones
  • Producers: Kanye West & No I.D.
  • Recorders: Andrew Dawson & Anthony Kilhoffer
  • Keyboards: Jeff Bhasker
  • Piano: Ken Lewis
  • Mix engineer: Manny Marroquin
  • Assistant engineers: Christian Plata and Erik Madrid

ChartsEdit

CertificationsEdit

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[60] Platinum 70,000^
Denmark (IFPI Denmark)[61] Gold 45,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[62] Gold 7,500
United Kingdom (BPI)[63] Gold 400,000 
United States (RIAA)[64] 6× Platinum 6,000,000*

^shipments figures based on certification alone
 sales+streaming figures based on certification alone

Release historyEdit

Country Date
United States November 4, 2008
United Kingdom[65] December 6, 2008

The Fray versionEdit

"Heartless"
 
Single by the Fray
from the album The Fray and Live from SoHo
ReleasedSeptember 14, 2009
FormatDigital download, CD single
RecordedAugust 2009
GenreRock
Length4:14
LabelEpic
Songwriter(s)
The Fray singles chronology
"Never Say Never"
(2009)
"Heartless"
(2009)
"Syndicate"
(2010)

American rock band, the Fray performed a cover of "Heartless" for their Live Lounge performance on February 16, 2009. Following the premiere of their rendition on BBC Radio 1, it began to receive an unprecedented amount of radio airplay. The track was later included on their Live from SoHo album released onto iTunes on April 7, 2009.[66] In absence of a single release, the band's version of "Heartless" managed to enter the Billboard Hot 100 at number seventy-nine on May 21 based solely on downloads.[67] The song has since became a staple at the Fray's live shows and sold over 125,000 downloads in the United States alone. Due to overwhelming public demand, it was released as a digital single in the UK on September 14, 2009. The song was also included in the deluxe edition of their sophomore self-titled album, which was released on November 10, 2009.[68][69] It was featured in the pilot episode of Pretty Little Liars.[70]

Music videoEdit

A music video of the Fray's version of "Heartless" was released on September. The video showed a classroom full of elementary-level students with the video centering on one boy. He keeps glancing at a girl, as drawings appear on a piece of notebook paper in front of him. The band members as well as Kanye West are seen as simple drawn figures performing on the paper. Eventually, the artwork expands out to the classroom, forming a design around the girl. The video implies that the girl was the 'heartless' one who hurt the boy.

Chart positionsEdit

Chart (2009) Peak
position
US Billboard Hot 100[67] 79
US Billboard Modern Rock Tracks 25
US Billboard Rock Songs 26

Kris Allen versionEdit

"Heartless"
Single by Kris Allen
from the album Kris Allen
ReleasedMay 2009
FormatDigital download
RecordedMay 2009
GenreAcoustic rock
Songwriter(s)

An acoustic interpretation of the song was performed by American Idol season 8 winner Kris Allen as his personal pick for the Top 3 night of the show's eighth season. His performance was praised all across the judge's panel and by other critics, who called it "inventive".[71] Randy Jackson stated that he preferred it to West's original and the Fray's cover version while Simon Cowell said, "I had written you out of the competition but that has changed after that performance." A studio version of the cover was temporarily made available on iTunes the following week. The performance helped him move on to the finals and win.[72] His version of the song debuted at #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in May 2009. Allen has also performed the song during the American Idols LIVE! Tour 2009 with a more alternative rock-oriented sound.[73] Allen re-recorded the song for his self-titled debut album. Allen also released the album version of the song as his second single in New Zealand. During tour, Allen also did a mash up of this song and Gangsta's Paradise by Coolio.

Chart positionsEdit

Chart (2008/2009) Peak
position
Canadian Hot 100 39
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 16
U.S. Billboard Pop 100 29

Other cover versionsEdit

ReferencesEdit

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External linksEdit