“Heartless” by Kanye West
On this song, Kanye West is talking directly to a romantic interest. The prevailing theory, as far as his real life is concerned, is that said individual would be one Alexis Phifer, the lady whom his two-year engagement to was terminated shortly before the track came out. Alexis is also said to be the same woman Kanye’s “Love Lockdown” addresses.
But whether true-to-life or not, the storyline of “Heartless” centers on said woman being “heartless”. That’s another way of saying that she treats the vocalist really bad, thus making it impossible for them to actually have a fruitful romance. And he acknowledges that he’s made his own mistakes in this relationship in the past yet has no intent on replicating them. However, she remains shady – for instance having “a new friend”, i.e. another romantic interest, even on top of her own past misdeeds. In other words, she is not penitent.
And of course someone of Kanye’s caliber could counter by dating other ladies too, if he so chooses. However, he has come to realize that tit-for-tat does not contribute to a happy love life. But unfortunately for him, his partner does not share a similar disposition. Rather she appears to be more intent on treating him as coldly as possible. And for listeners who have actually been in such situations, they would understand exactly what he is going through. That is to say that he finds himself in the unenviable position of being attached to a toxic partner.
Release and Success of “Heartless”
This is the second single from Kanye West’s “808s & Heartbreak” album, being released as such on 4 November 2008. Said project alienated many of Yeezy’s diehard hip-hop fans and also received plenty of negative criticism due to his reliance on Auto-Tune, with songs such as Heartless being experimental as far as he was concerned (belonging to a genre West referred to as “Pop Art”). This was around the same time Kanye came to the conclusion that he no longer wanted to be a rapper per se but rather a rock legend in general.
However, the song was still a smash hit. It sold in excess of 5,000,000 copies and earned the distinction as one of the best-selling singles in US history. And accordingly it earned Kanye a couple of BMI Awards and three ASCAP Music Awards in 2010.
Additionally “Heartless” topped two Billboard charts (Hot Rap Songs and Rhythmic). It also peaked at number 4 on the Hot 100. Furthermore, it made it onto the top 10 of the UK Singles Chart. And overall it made it onto the music charts of about 20 nations, including scoring a number 1 in Israel.
The labels that put “Heartless” out are Def Jam Records alongside Jay-Z’s Roc-A-Fella Records.
“Heartless” has also been covered by a few other artists to notable success. For instance, a rock band called The Fray made it onto the Hot 100 with their rendition in 2009. That same year an American Idol contestant named Kris Allen made it all the way to number 16 of the Hot 100 with his version, in addition to it appearing on the Canadian Hot 100. And another reality talent show contestant, Dia Frampton from The Voice, managed to make it onto the Hot 100 with this song in 2011.
And just to note, Post Malone also covered this track in 2015.
Creation of “Heartless”
The instrumental to this track, which was produced by Kanye West, is based on a sample from a song entitled “Ammonia Avenue” (1984) by The Alan Parson Project.
Kanye also co-wrote “Heartless”, in that regard working alongside the following:
- Jeff Bhasker
- Kid Cudi
- Malik Yusef
- No I.D.
- Mr. Hudson
As with “Love Lockdown”, the lead single from “808s & Heartbreak”, Kanye employed Hype Williams to direct the music video to “Heartless”. And this time around the inspiration was a 1981 animated featured entitled “American Pop”. The video also features references to the classic Jetsons cartoon and depicts Yeezy himself as a cartoon character.
Part of the music video was filmed in Kanye’s home in Hollywood Hills, California. And the said house was sold in 2017 for approximately $3,000,000.
Are there any official remixes of “Heartless”?
Reportedly “Heartless” was only officially remixed once, with that particular outing featuring fellow rap superstar Rick Ross.