Oh, Kanye. Our sweet, controversial prince, Kanye. With a strong reputation in creating new, innovative music, Kanye West has taken his history of busting our expectations and entirely turned it on our heads with his latest album, “Jesus is King.”
Fans certainly have heard of the album throughout its winding road of shameless plugs, promotions and controversial media. West first announced that he would stray from his hip hop and rap roots with a new gospel album, which had fans skeptical, but proved that fans were certainly along for the ride, regardless of where it would take them.
What followed were months and months of musical foreplay. To sum up some of the headlines and tweets…
“Kanye West takes trip to ‘find himself’ amidst creating new gospel album”
“Kanye announces release date for ‘Jesus is King,’ but then doesn’t”
“Fans finally catch glimpse of ‘Jesus is King’ tracks, only to have to wait another year to listen”
While this may be a simple generalization, it at the very least paints the picture for what fans and spectators had to endure before they could listen to at least a glimpse of the sought-after new music from Yandhi.
What followed was the musical equivalent of the Titanic.
“Jesus is King” leads with all of the style and flair of a hip-hop-inspired gospel album, as “Every Hour” kicks off the album with an upbeat hymn, fit with popping piano rifts and the swelling harmonies of the Sunday Service Choir. It’s flashy and inspiring, turning gospel — an intimidating genre for an unfamiliar listener — into something groovy and welcoming.
The ride into the musical seas of “Selah” showcase what Kanye’s hopes for the album always were: epic. The booming chords foretell of ballads that sing holy praises of biblical proportions and Kanye seems to lay his love of Jesus out for his listeners to take in. The waters are clear and smooth, and the vessel that is “Jesus is King” seems to live up to its ritzy hype.
Then the album hits the metaphorical iceberg around song number three. Kanye, I’m no music aficionado, but I do know that leading off any song with a reference to Chick-fil-A (regardless of how delicious their sandwiches are) is a musical sin.
The rest of the album feels like a slow, cold sinking into what was far from what was promised. “On God” feels like Kanye was inspired by money-sucking arcade game jingles and strives to make an overly-catchy beat with it. “Everything We Need” seems to drag way more than it should, and for a song with such a generic beat, the verses need to stand on their own. In this case, Ty Dolla $ign falls flat.
Don’t get me wrong, there were some high points in the album. “Follow God” is an absolute hit, with lyrics that fit right into gospel and production that screams classic Kanye. “Use Gospel” was a perfect example of what the rest of the album could have been, blending gospel and hip hop with Kanye’s signature style.
What really spoils a perfectly average album with a few hits were countless delays and insurmountable hype. While Kanye had all of the makings of a unique take on modern gospel, he built his own grave, hopped in and sang his own prayers into musical deafness.