“Lost in the World” is a song by American hip hop recording artist Kanye West from his fifth studio album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010). The song features vocals by Justin Vernon of indie folk band Bon Iver, as well as sampling his 2009 song “Woods”. It also contains portions of “Soul Makossa” written by Manu Dibango, and samples of “Comment No. 1″, performed by Gil Scott-Heron. It was produced by West and Jeff Bhasker, who wrote the track with Vernon and Malik Jones. “Lost in the World” was initially leaked on September 29, 2010 and was 6 minutes and 4 seconds long. The version on the album was split up into two parts, with the outro becoming a new track entitled “Who Will Survive in America”.
The song received acclaim from music critics, who praised the atmospheric production, the appearance of Vernon, and West’s verse. The verse by West was described as one of the most poetic of his career, with the song being cited as one of the strongest on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. “Lost in the World” was featured during the closing credits of Runaway, a 35 minute short film directed by West set with music from the album. The song peaked at number 104 on the South Korean Gaon Chart. A music video was directed by Ruth Hogben, featuring black and white cinematography, frantic dancing by models and a brief cameo by West. The music video received positive reviews from critics.
“Lost in the World” was sampled in a freestyle by West’s GOOD Music labelmate Pusha T, and a remix produced by DJ Tiësto. West first performed the song live at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and subsequently performed it at several music festivals, including the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and the The Big Chill. “Lost in the World” was proposed by West as the album’s fifth single, but plans to release it never surfaced.
Following some media controversies, West chose to record My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy in a reclusive manner in Oahu, Hawaii. Like the majority of the album, “Lost in the World” was composed there West attempted to shy away from working with artists he didn’t consider himself familiar with, however made the exception for Justin Vernon, singer of the band Bon Iver. Vernon’s involvement in the project stemmed from a phone call by West. West had gotten into contact with Vernon and described his intention of sampling the song “Woods” from Bon Iver’s Blood Bank EP. After the phone message, West invited Vernon down to his record studio in Hawaii to appear on the album.
West also cited the Bon Iver album For Emma, Forever Ago as something he was a fan of, and admitted an admiration of the unique aesthetic of Vernon’s music. The two quickly became friends through discussions of music and games of basketball. While at Hawaii, Vernon collaborated extensively, reportedly producing a total of 10 tracks together, including the album cuts “Dark Fantasy” and “Monster”. Vernon told Pitchfork Media about the composition of the song, stating:
“So I head out there and he plays me the track and it sounds exactly like how you want it to sound: forward moving, interesting, light-hearted, heavy-hearted, fucking incredible sounding jam. It was kind of bare so I added some choir-sounding stuff and then thicked out the samples with my voice. That whole first week I was there we worked on the ‘Woods’ song, which is called ‘Lost in the World’. We were just eating breakfast and listening to the song on the speakers and he’s like, ‘Fuck, this is going to be the festival closer.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, cool.’ It kind of freaked me out.”
Vernon recorded his lines in a separate recording studio than most of the album. Vernon described the studio as a “tiny black room”. He would record a line in the room, and then shortly later West would come in and play back what was recorded, and then discuss what needed to be changed. They repeated that process a few times until the song was finished. Vernon expressed a positive opinion of working with West, and though he called West demanding in some ways, he appreciated West’s enthusiasm for music and the creativity produced by the recording sessions. The song was recorded around the death of Michael Jackson and the event had an effect of the recording crew of the song, and certain aspects of the song are influences by personal events that affected West throughout the years. In an interview with MTV, West said that the song was going to be last featured on the album, and commented that “emotionally it just fit the crescendo of everything that I was saying and what I wanted to say to this girl. And it’s also my favorite eight bars that I’ve ever written in my life. I think it’s one of the greatest pieces of writing.”
“Lost in the World” is 4 minutes and 16 seconds long and has been described as a “moody meditation”. It features tribal drums and samples Bon Iver’s “Woods”, a song originally written about alienation, applied by West “as the centerpiece of a catchy, communal reverie” on the album. The song manipulates the original Bon Iver sample and incorporates influences from both house music and dance music, adding tribal chants and percussion. During the duration of the song, there are several distinct production changes. The song begins with faint vocals delivered by Vernon, which are reinforced by drums, gospel-styled chorus, an increased tempo, and a final measured tempo. The song continues to build at a slow pace, until a choir explodes into a bombastic roar, boasting the line “run from the lights.”
West delivers a short, 40 second verse, which appears over two and a half minutes into the song. West’s verse contains an interpolation of the “Mama-say mama-sah ma-ma-coo-sah” hook from Michael Jackson’s song “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'”. He alters the refrain to, say “Mama-say mama-sah Mama Donda’s son,” referring to his late mother Donda West who died in 2007. The song features West’s comment on his fans and his fame, with additional references to Jackson. Embling of Tiny Mix Tapes viewed that the track points out a paralleled with West and Jackson, commenting:
“Life in the spotlight is perilous, and West knows that what happened to the King of Pop could just as easily happen to him. […] A disembodied chorus urges West to ‘run from the lights/ run for your life’ on ‘Lost in the World,’ the record’s frenzied penultimate track; but even as we listen, we know there’s little chance that he’ll leave the spotlight behind. West is telling us, over the course of 11 songs, that he’s willing to die for our amusement, our respect.”
The song ends with a very long sample of Gil Scott-Heron’s “Comment No. 1″, a speech which served as a comment on the 1960s Revolutionary Youth Movement for failing to recognize the more basic needs of the African-American community. “Lost in the World” transitions into the closing track “Who Will Survive in America”. It is edited to a smaller version on the track that, according to Chicago Tribune writer Greg Kot, “retains its essence, that of an African-American male who feels cut off from his country and culture”. Ann Powers of Los Angeles Times described “Woods” as a “Wisconsin death trip that becomes a testimonial to rebirth through isolation” and noted a significant difference from “Lost in the World”, commenting that the song was more about West’s “exhausted cry of one who’s always new in town, chasing whatever goal or girl is in the room, fueled by consumer culture’s relentless buzz, but finally left unsatisfied.
Dit nummer van Kanye West en Bon Iver is typisch zo’n maandagochtend nummer. Voor mij dan uiteraard. Ik hoor de song ook graag op andere dagen, maar dat terzijde.
Zo’n nummer draai ik een paar keer en ik voel me langzaam wakker worden en ook voel ik wat energie mijn lichaam en vooral mijn brein in stromen, zelfs op een maandag.
Heerlijk toch zulke songs! Maandagen zijn iets minder overigens ;-)