"All of the Lights" is a song by American rapper Kanye West, as the fourth single from his fifth studio album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010). It was produced by West and features additional vocals from several other recording artists, including John Legend; The-Dream; Elly Jackson; Alicia Keys; Fergie; Kid Cudi; Elton John; Drake; and Rihanna, who is solely credited as a featured artist on the single.
"All of the Lights" was well received by music critics, who complimented its detailed production and dramatically-themed style. The single was a moderate international success, reaching number 18 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number two on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart in the United States, while it also attained respectable chartings in several other countries. It won Grammy Awards for Best Rap Song and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration at the 54th Grammy Awards. As of December 2011, the song has sold over 1,561,000 digital units in the US. By August 2013, it had been certified triple platinum by the RIAA.
The song's accompanying music video, directed by Hype Williams, featured strobe-lit images of Rihanna and West, as well as Kid Cudi. It was given a discretionary warning by Epilepsy Action, stating that the video "potentially trigger[s] seizures for people with photosensitive epilepsy".
"All of the Lights" was written by Kanye West, Jeff Bhasker, Malik Jones and Warren Trotter. Its production was helmed by West himself and co-produced by Bhasker. Fourteen artists lent their voices as background vocals to the song: Alicia Keys, John Legend, The-Dream, Drake, Fergie, Kid Cudi, Elton John, Ryan Leslie, Charlie Wilson, Tony Williams, Elly Jackson, Alvin Fields, Ken Lewis, and Rihanna, who also sang the song's hook and is labeled as a featured artist on the single version. West and Rihanna previously collaborated with Jay-Z on "Run This Town" (The Blueprint 3, 2009).
Even though not fully leaked, "All of the Lights" was featured for the first time on "Runaway"—a 35-minute film about West's "true labor of love" which was released on October 19, 2010. The song was featured in the film together with other songs from West's then-upcoming fifth studio album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010), including "Monster", "Power" and "Lost in the World" among others. The song fully leaked on November 4, 2010, online.
During the 2010 MTV Europe Music Awards, on November 10, 2010, Rihanna was interviewed by MTV News' staff. In the interview she explained that, West already played his album to her three months ago and that "All of the Lights" was one of her favorite songs. About it, she further commented, "So when he asked me to come up to the studio at 2 o'clock in the morning, I had to, because I loved it, I knew it was that song." In an interview for the same publication, Elly Jackson said of the song's vocal layering, "He got me to layer up all these vocals with other people, and he just basically wanted to use his favorite vocalists from around the world to create this really unique vocal texture on his record, but it's not the kind of thing where you can pick it out". Andrew Dawson, Anthony Kilhoffer, Mike Dean, HI and Noah Goldstein recorded West's vocals at Avex Recording Studios in Honolulu, Hawaii and Electric Lady Studios in New York City. Rihanna's vocals were recorded by Marcos Tovar at the Westlake Recording Studios in West Hollywood, California. The song was released as fourth and final single from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. It was sent to British urban radio stations on November 25, 2010, and to Australian contemporary hit and alternative radio stations on December 13. On January 18, 2011, the song was sent to contemporary hit and rhythmic radio in the United States. On February 19, 2011, "All of the Lights" was solicited to mainstream radio stations in the United Kingdom.
"All of the Lights" is a hip hop song that runs for 4 minutes and 59 seconds. According to the sheet music published by Universal Music Publishing Group at Musicnotes.com, it was composed in the key of B flat minor using common time and a steady groove. Rihanna's vocal range spans from the low note of Ab3 to the falsetto note of F5.
Instrumentation is provided by a brass, drum and bass, piano and horns. The piano is played by Elton John, who also together with thirteen other vocalists provides the background vocals. American singers Fergie and Alicia Keys, sing the break-downs and Ad-libs, respectively. Alex Deney from NME called the song a "sleb-studded centrepiece".
West announced through his Twitter account that "All of the Lights" would be the album's fourth single. Following the album's release, the song debuted at number 92 on the Billboard Hot 100. "All of the Lights" was released as a single on January 18, 2011 in the US and is set for a February 21, 2011 release in the UK. Rihanna was credited as a featured artist for the single when impacting radio. In the United Kingdom, it was included in BBC Radio 1's B-Playlist.
"All of the Lights" received critical acclaim. Allmusic's Andy Kellman stated "At once, the song features one of the year’s most rugged beats while supplying enough opulent detail to make Late Registration collaborator Jon Brion's head spin". Alex Denney of NME called it "the sleb-studded centrepiece", commenting that "In anyone else’s hands it’d be an A-list circle-jerk of horrid proportions, but through Kanye’s bar-raising vision it becomes a truly wondrous thing". Zach Baron of The Village Voice found the song's lyrics relevant to the "year of economic suffering", writing that "West interrupted his own wealthy anomie to pen 'All of the Lights,' an incongruously star-stuffed song about a disoriented parolee trying to beat a restraining order and see his daughter, working out a brief reunion with her estranged mother: 'Public visitation, we met at Borders'". Chicago Sun-Times writer Thomas Conner viewed that "as crowded as 'All of the Lights' is [,] it maintains an almost operatic drama, telling a tale of adultery and its aftermath that winds up being quite moving". The Guardian's Kitty Empire cited the song as "the album's most magnificent high", writing that it "backs up operatic levels of sound with great drama".
For the 54th Grammy Awards in 2012, "All of the Lights" was nominated for Grammy Awards for Song of the Year, Best Rap Song, and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration. It won the latter two awards. Slant Magazine placed it atop their list of best singles of 2011.
The music video for "All of the Lights" was filmed in January 2011 and directed by Hype Williams. It features strobe-lit images of Rihanna and West, Kid Cudi in a red leather suit, and visual references to Gaspar Noé's 2009 film Enter the Void. The video premiered through West's Vevo channel on February 19, 2011. After reports of the video's images causing seizures with epileptic viewers and a public response from British organization Epilepsy Action, an alternate video was released that includes a discretionary warning that the video "potentially trigger[s] seizures for people with photosensitive epilepsy", and removed its opening prologue and neon credits.
In 2015, the video faced controversy when Gaspar Noé commented the similarities between the video and Enter the Void, especially when Hype Williams featured his name in the title and credit sequences over and over again.
An earlier version of the song's remix was leaked in 2010, featuring a verse by Drake. On March 14, 2011, an unfinished version of the remix was leaked to the internet, featuring guest verses from Big Sean, Lil Wayne, and Drake, a different verse from the leak. However, it did not feature West himself.
Credits for "All of the Lights" adapted from liner notes.