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"Paranoid" is a song by American recording artist and record producer Kanye West, from his fourth studio album, 808s & Heartbreak (2008). It includes a feature from English musician Mr Hudson and background vocals from Kid Cudi. The song was written by West, Jeff Bhasker, Plain Pat, Consequence, and Kid Cudi, and produced by West, Bhasker, and Plain Pat. Musically, it is an upbeat new wave track that features electronic drum effects and pop synths. The song's lyrical content is centered around West being pushed away by the mistrustful thinking of a lady that he is in love with. It was serviced to top 40 radio stations in the United States on March 23, 2009, as the fourth and final single from the album. Later that year, the song was released for digital download in both the US and Belgium.

"Paranoid"
Paranoidcover.png
Single by Kanye West featuring Mr Hudson
from the album 808s & Heartbreak
ReleasedMarch 23, 2009
Format
Recorded2008
Glenwood Studios
(Burbank, California)
Avex Recording Studio
(Honolulu, Hawaii)
Genre
Length4:37 (album version)
4:45 (new mix)
3:25 (video version)
Label
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)
  • Kanye West
  • Jeff Bhasker
  • Plain Pat
Kanye West singles chronology
"Amazing"
(2009)
"Paranoid"
(2009)
"Knock You Down"
(2009)
Mr Hudson singles chronology
"There Will Be Tears"
(2008)
"Paranoid"
(2009)
"Supernova"
(2009)
Music video
"Paranoid" on YouTube

The song received generally positive reviews from music critics, with the majority of them being complementary towards the production, though some critics compared "Paranoid" to the works of other artists. It charted at number 14 and 90 on the Belgium Ultratip Flanders chart and Australian Singles Chart respectively in 2009. West and Mr Hudson have performed the song live together on numerous occasions, including at the 2009 iTunes Festival. An accompanying music video, directed by Nabil Elderkin and starring Rihanna, was released on June 3, 2009. Based around a fantasy from her paranoid mindstate, the video received positive reviews from critics. A remix, featuring Mr Hudson and rapper Big Sean, was released in December 2008. Since its release, the song has been covered by artists such as the Suzan and Kali Uchis.

BackgroundEdit

 
The song includes a feature from Mr Hudson, pictured in 2009.

Outside of his feature on the song, Mr Hudson helped write and produce 808s & Heartbreak track "Street Lights".[1] After featuring Hudson on "Paranoid", West signed him to his label GOOD Music.[2] Mr Hudson subsequently released his debut studio album Straight No Chaser under GOOD Music in October 2009, with West contributing vocals on the single "Supernova".[2] West and Kid Cudi first met each other at a Virgin Megastore in 2004, with the meeting including Cudi asking West to sign him; West respectfully declined his request, though Kid Cudi told him "I have the potential for greatness."[3] After producer Plain Pat sent West Kid Cudi's mixtape A Kid Named Cudi, West arrived at the mixtape's listening party and took Cudi under his wing.[3] He subsequently co-wrote several songs on the album in Hawaii with West, including "Paranoid" and "Heartless".[4] Kid Cudi has been believed to have directly influenced the album's creation, which West himself confirmed as being true.[4] 808s & Heartbreak track "Welcome to Heartbreak" stood as the first ever collaboration between the two, though they later collaborated on numerous other tracks, including Kid Cudi's "Erase Me" and West's "Gorgeous".[5]

Though the majority of the album sees West at his most vulnerable, "Paranoid" is one of the album's most joyful songs.[6] West had been looking for an electronic sound with the album, which is included throughout the song.[7]

CompositionEdit

"Paranoid" is an upbeat new wave song that runs for a duration of four minutes and thirty-seven seconds, and includes an electronic sound throughout.[1][7][8][9] Its instrumentation has a synth-pop feel nodding towards influences such as English musician Phil Collins and pop rock band Tears for Fears instrumentation, including electronic drum effects and pop synths.[6][10] West begins the song with him saying "Why are you so paranoid?" in an excited voice.[10] The song's lyrics are used in the first verse by West to show that even though the song may seem positive, its background circulates around conflict and death.[10] West recites lines that depict a negative image and reveal feelings of opposition towards the lady he is referencing.[10] Throughout the song, West uses Auto-Tune while he speaks of being in a serious relationship with a lady who "worries about the wrong things" and is pushing him away with her mistrustful thinking.[6][11] West, Mr Hudson and Kid Cudi perform the chorus, with the latter's vocals being included in the background.[1][12]

ReleaseEdit

"Paranoid" was released as the sixth track on West's fourth studio album 808s & Heartbreak on November 24, 2008.[13] It was sent to radio stations in the United States five months later on March 23, 2009 as the album's fourth single, shortly after the release of the third single, "Amazing".[14] While "Amazing" was serviced to rhythmic/urban radio stations, "Paranoid" was only sent to US top 40 radio.[14][15][16] A digital EP was released in the United States on June 16, which included a new mix of "Paranoid" and the song's accompanying music video.[17] That same day, the new mix was released on its own as a digital download in the US.[18] Six days later, the same version was released for download in Belgium.[19]

On December 16, 2008, a remix was released featuring Big Sean and Mr Hudson.[20] Another remix featuring Barbadian singer Rihanna had been recorded in the fall of 2008 and was supposed to be released to US mainstream radio stations on January 27, 2009 as the third single from 808s & Heartbreak.[21][22]

Critical receptionEdit

The song received mostly positive reviews from music critics, with general acclaim going towards the production. Nathan Rabin of The A.V. Club looked at "Paranoid" as something that "veers into the Neptunes' twitchy, glitchy space-disco."[23] New York Times writer Jon Caramanica described the song as a slick and breezy track and compared it to the work of the Kelis and Omarion saying, "this music is redolent of the chilly, slightly irregular R&B the producers the Neptunes were making four or five years ago."[24] It was cited by Scott Plagenhoef of Pitchfork as being one of the album's best tracks, viewing the song, along with his other best track selections, as being among "its most dismal, with cavernous production giving the Auto-Tune vocals more of an echoing desolation than a pop sheen."[25] Jaimie Hodgson of NME claimed that the song fails to distract from its "flaky" hook and "backpack-rap-style" beat "with Frenchie-coffee-table-lektro blips."[26] Simon Price of The Independent picked the song as the best track from 808s & Heartbreak and labelled it as "anomalously upbeat."[27] Isaac Shur of WRBB 104.9 FM commented that there's "remnants of Graduation's more upbeat, dancey vibe on 'Paranoid,' demonstrating that 808s isn't a one trick pony of emotional ballads."[28] Alex Macpherson of The Guardian viewed the song's "disco bounce" as being one of "the isolated moments of levity" on the album that "are a relief."[29] Michael Saponara of Billboard ranked the song as the eight best on the album and described it as: "A record that was ahead of its time, and the influence can still be heard in hip-hop today – just go listen to Travis Scott's '90210'."[7] Saponara made the claim that "Mr. Hudson proved to be an integral addition to 808s & Heartbreak, adding a different flair when it came to the electronic sound that Kanye was looking for."[7] Ally Brown of The Skinny described the song as what "has an irresistible playful synth-line and reassuring chorus hook courtesy of Mr Hudson."[30]

Some critics viewed "Paranoid" in a more negative light. Charles Aaron of Spin described it as where "you're left anxiously conflicted, with the weird sensation that you've somehow stumbled onto a boys-only Kanye karaoke party, where he's trashed on Baileys and inexplicably crooning the Ne-Yo songbook."[31] Edward Bowser of Soul In Stereo branded the song as what sounds like "background music from an old Nintendo game."[32]

Music videoEdit

 
A still of Rihanna in the "Paranoid" music video.

The music video for "Paranoid" was directed by Nabil Elderkin and along with "Amazing", filmed in Hawaii.[33] The country was one of the places that West recorded the song itself in.[1] Elderkin had directed West in the past on the videos for "Champion" and "Welcome to Heartbreak".[33] The song was the last track from 808s & Heartbreak to have an accompanying video released.[21] During a brief interview at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival, West revealed he had cast Rihanna as a lead in the video.[21] In reference to working with Rihanna, West said in the interview: "Yep, she's my Paranoid girl in the video. She's an amazing talent though. Collaborating with her is always a pleasure!"[21] Prior to being cast, Rihanna had taken a break from making her own music videos.[34]

Island Def Jam chairman L.A. Reid presented a version of the video during an Island Def Jam Event in New York City on May 20, 2009.[35] The music video leaked online on May 27.[36] The next day, West clarified on his blog that the video was an unfinished version that he was hurt to see leaked, posting screenshots of the final version.[36] In an interview that took place the following day, Elderkin stated that the leak was merely an early rough cut. In terms of visuals, Elderkin had originally wanted to design the video in an artistic style reminiscent to that of A Clockwork Orange, but West subsequently opted for an abstracted noir concept instead.[33]

The video's premise is rooted in fantasy, centering around Rihanna's paranoid state of mind causing her to experience a surrealistic dream sequence. Meanwhile, West appears in some scenes in his human form and also his wolf form during the dream sequence.[33] On June 3, 2009, West released the finalized version of the music video on his blog, just hours after premiering an unreleased video for his 2004 song "Spaceship."[37] It was revealed by West that the video was supposed to have been released on June 4, though he explained the early release with: "I'd rather you guys have a clear version...."[38] After West released the music video for fellow 808s & Heartbreak track "Coldest Winter" in February 2010, Elderkin revealed that West originally had more screen time in the video for "Paranoid" than he had in the final version.[39]

ReceptionEdit

The music video received positive reviews from critics. Shamz of Okayplayer claimed that "the visuals only enhance the track further."[40] Kathleen Newman-Bremang of MTV described the video as what "finds Kanye in his true form, delivering a high-concept music video that feels more like a piece of art than anything else."[41] At the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, it was nominated for Best Special Effects in a Video, but lost to "Paparazzi" by Lady Gaga.[42][43]

Commercial performanceEdit

"Paranoid" debuted on the US Billboard Pop 100 chart at number 96 on March 21, 2009.[44] It has since peaked at number 61 on the now defunct chart.[44] On April 25, 2009, the song made its debut at number 37 on the US Mainstream Top 40 chart.[45] It fell down to number 38 the following week, though ultimately peaked at number 34 on May 9.[46][47] On the US Billboard Bubbling Under Hot 100, the song peaked at number 18 on May 18 and spent a total of two weeks on the chart.[48] It stands as the only single from 808s & Heartbreak to not chart on the Hot 100.[49] For the issue date of July 20, 2009, "Paranoid" debuted on the Australian Singles Chart at number 90.[50] The following week, it dropped out of the chart.[51] The song performed best in Belgium, reaching number 15 on the Belgium Ultratip Flanders chart on August 29.[52] It remained on the chart for a total of four weeks.[52]

Live performancesEdit

 
West, Mr Hudson and Kid Cudi performing the song at the 2015 Hollywood Bowl.

While showcasing artists signed onto his GOOD Music imprint, West performed the song live alongside Kid Cudi and Mr Hudson at the SXSW festival on March 21, 2009.[53] During the showcase, West said that Hudson will be playing 50,000-seat stadiums.[53] Kid Cudi told Mr Hudson to perform the high notes while he performs the low ones, joining West on stage once the song reached its chorus.[12] West gave a solo performance of the song in Denmark on July 2 while headlining the Orange Stage at the Roskilde Festival.[54] "Paranoid" was performed by West in London's Hyde Park on July 5, with him serving as a headliner for the second and final day of the 2009 Wireless Festival.[55] West and Hudson performed the song together during a concert held at the iTunes Festival in the London Roundhouse on July 7.[56] For his 2009 live album VH1 Storytellers, West delivered a performance of it that was not originally broadcast on VH1.[57] West, Mr Hudson and Kid Cudi performed the track live at the 2015 Hollywood Bowl, with the three of them climbing a staircase during the performance.[58] As Kids See Ghosts, West and Cudi performed "Paranoid" as part of their set at the 2018 Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival.[59]

Cover versions and usage in mediaEdit

"Paranoid" was covered by Japanese pop rock band the Suzan on October 19, 2010.[60] Piano Tribute Players released a tribute version of the track on their 2014 album Piano Tribute to Kanye West.[61] Colombian-American R&B singer Kali Uchis performed a cover version of the track on July 10, 2018, during a BBC Radio 1 Session.[62] Before performing it, Uchis told host Annie Mac how much she loved the song, explaining that 808s & Heartbreak was very inspirational to her and she enjoyed the approach West attempted with his voice.[62] Bryson Tiller sampled "Paranoid" on his track of the same title, which credits West for production.[7][63]

Track listingsEdit

Digital download[18]

  1. "Paranoid" (NEW Mix) [feat. Mr Hudson] – 4:45

Digital EP[17]

  1. "Paranoid" (NEW Mix) [feat. Mr Hudson] – 4:45
  2. "Paranoid" (Music Video) [feat. Mr Hudson] – 3:24

PersonnelEdit

Information taken from 808s & Heartbreak liner notes.[1]

  • Songwriters: Kanye West, Patrick Reynolds, Scott Mescudi, Dexter Mills, Jeff Bhasker
  • Producers: Kanye West, Jeff Bhasker, Plain Pat
  • Recorders: Andrew Dawson, Anthony Kilhoffer
  • Mix engineer: Manny Marroquin
  • Assistant engineers: Christian Plata, Erik Madrid
  • Keyboards: Jeff Bhasker
  • Background vocals: Kid Cudi

ChartsEdit

Chart (2009) Peak
position
Australia (ARIA)[64] 90
Belgium (Ultratip Flanders)[65] 15
Belgium (Ultratip Wallonia)[66] 14
US Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles (Billboard)[67] 18
US Mainstream Top 40 (Billboard)[68] 34
US Pop 100 (Billboard)[69] 61
US Rhythmic (Billboard)[70] 37

Release historyEdit

Region Date Format Label Ref.
United States March 23, 2009 Top 40 radio [14]
June 16, 2009 Digital EP [17]
Digital download [18]
Belgium June 22, 2009 [19]

ReferencesEdit

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External linksEdit