Coldest Winter (song)

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"Coldest Winter"
Song by Kanye West
from the album 808s & Heartbreak
ReleasedNovember 24, 2008
  • Roc-A-Fella
  • Def Jam
  • Kanye West
  • No I.D.
  • Jeff Bhasker
Music video
"Coldest Winter" on YouTube

Listen to the song Coldest Winter (song) or Buy it on amazon

"Coldest Winter" is a song by American hip hop artist Kanye West, from his fourth studio album 808s & Heartbreak. It was produced by West, with co-production from No I.D. and additional production from Jeff Bhasker.[1] The track was covered by a cappella group Pentatonix on their 2016 album A Pentatonix Christmas.[2] It is about the passing of Kanye's mother Donda West. West performed the song live thrice on The Yeezus Tour. The music video was officially released in February 2010, which includes a revamped version for the audio.

Composition and recording[edit]

The vocal chorus from 1983 track "Memories Fade" by English pop rock band Tears for Fears is repurposed within the song.[3] Co-producer No I.D. revealed that he was the one who came across "Memories Fade" when sitting around listening to records from the 1980s and played it for West - as soon as No I.D. heard West make usage of the track, he knew it was special.[4] "Coldest Winter" is centered around the passing of Kanye's mother Donda that occurred in November 2007 - she was very important to Kanye, since he was quoted after her death as saying to MTV: "My mother was my everything" and showed that they had a connection through music when Donda was alive by saying: "My mother always kept me around music. She was also my first manager."[5] When performing at Madison Square Garden on November 24, 2013 during The Yeezus Tour, West went into the story of how he wrote it after her death.[6]


On October 16, 2008, an excerpt of the track was released by West on the radio station Power 106 in Los Angeles, around one month before the featuring album was released.[7] A slightly revamped version of it was used when West released the music video on February 24, 2010.[8]

Critical reception[edit]

Michael Roffman of Consequence of Sound branded the song's position as the closing track as showing in conjunction to West's previous three studio albums that "808s slams the door on it all, explaining why there's so much hate, self-aggrandizing, and animosity on everything of his that's come out since'.[9] Scott Plagenhoef of Pitchfork pointed out 'the 909 and descending synth' of "Coldest Winter" as being "among the sonic highlights" of the album.[10]

Live performances[edit]

After West had finished performing the track on October 26, 2013 in Los Angeles during The Yeezus Tour, a beast with red eyes appeared.[11] When West performed the first concert in New York City on the same tour, the song was part of his set list.[12] As well as this, he performed it when taking The Yeezus Tour to Madison Square Garden on November 24, 2013 and went into the story of writing about his mother passing away after it happened, which was a glimpse of vulnerability for West.[6] At the 2015 Hollywood Bowl, West performed the song live with fake snow, which gathered notable attention from his fanbase.[13] The snow was unleashed above the audience during the performance.[14]

Music video[edit]

The music video was officially released on the internet on February 24, 2010 and was directed by Nabil Elderkin.[15] Elderkin gave a heads up for viewers on how haunting it's going to be two days before the release.[16] A revamped version of "Coldest Winter" was used for the audio of the video.[8] Stereogum wrote in response to this version being used by describing the new track as feeling so cold that it is "Total beat wraith."[17] In the music video, a bride is depicted running through a forest in slow motion and West doesn't appear at all.[15] Elderkin said of West's approach to his videos at the time:

He didn't want to be in 'Paranoid,' to be honest. There was more Kanye in 'Paranoid' [originally], and I took him out. He's just cool right now with putting out visuals that fit the song without having to be in it. I think he's in that place in his life where right now he just wants to make art.[18]


  1. 808s & Heartbreak. Roc-A-Fella Records (Media notes). Kanye West. 2008. 0-06025-1791919-8.
  2. Brelsford, Eric (December 14, 2016). "Pentatonix's Chilling Cover of Kanye West's "Coldest Winter" May Make You Cry". One Country. Retrieved October 2, 2018.
  3. Unterberger, Andrew (December 4, 2016). "Tears for Fears: 10 Best Samples". Billboard. Retrieved October 2, 2018.
  4. Barber, Andrew (December 23, 2011). "No I.D. Tells All: The Stories Behind His Classic Records". Complex. Retrieved October 2, 2018.
  5. Andrews, Travis M. (April 28, 2018). "Kanye West's mom died in 2007. Judging by his tweets, it seems to still haunt him". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 2, 2018.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Murphy, Keith (November 25, 2013). "15 Thoughts On Kanye West's Defiant (And Nuts) Madison Square Garden Yeezus Show - Kanye West Yeezus - 3". Vibe. Retrieved October 29, 2018.
  7. Lakin, Max; Sorrenti, Mario (June 1, 2018). "Kanye West's Messy Album Releases: A Brief History From College Dropout to YE". W Magazine. New York City. Retrieved October 2, 2018.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Dombal, Ryan (February 23, 2010). "Video: Kanye West: "Coldest Winter"". Pitchfork. Retrieved October 2, 2018.
  9. Bosman, Chris; Caffrey, Dan (June 15, 2013). "Dusting 'Em Off: Kanye West – 808s & Heartbreak". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved October 2, 2018.
  10. Plagenhoef, Scott (December 2, 2004). "Kanye West: 808s and Heartbreak Album Review". Pitchfork. Retrieved October 2, 2018.
  11. Schwarz, Hunter (October 29, 2013). "Things I Overheard At The Yeezus Tour". BuzzFeed. BuzzFeed Music. Retrieved October 30, 2018.
  12. Farber, Jim (November 20, 2013). "Concert review: Kanye West startles, appalls during 'Yeezus' show at Barclays". New York Daily News. Retrieved October 2, 2018.
  13. Hendicott, James (September 26, 2015). "Kanye West performs 808s & Heartbreak in full for the first time - watch". NME. Retrieved October 2, 2018.
  14. Ali, Lorraine (September 26, 2015). "Can we talk about Kanye West's uncharacteristically endearing '808s' show at the Hollywood Bowl?". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 2, 2018.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Nabavian, Evan (February 24, 2010). "Kanye West Returns With 'Coldest Winter' Video". Billboard. Retrieved October 2, 2018.
  16. Rodriguez, Jayson (February 22, 2010). "Kanye West's New 'Coldest Winter' Video Is 'Haunting,' Director Says". MTV. MTV Networks. Retrieved October 29, 2018.
  17. Delahaye, Gabe (February 23, 2010). "Kanye West's "Coldest Winter" Is Maybe Even Too Cold!". Stereogum. Retrieved October 29, 2018.
  18. Rodriguez, Jayson (February 24, 2010). "Kanye West Didn't Want To Be In 'Coldest Winter' Video". MTV. MTV Networks. Retrieved October 2, 2018.

External links[edit]

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