in Review

Kanye West – Yeezus

At this point, I’m pretty sure every yutz out there on the internet has put in their two cents about the new Kanye West album, but I still got some shit to say about it, so I figure I might as well say it.  Plus, I don’t know that these kinds of instantly formed opinions are very well-suited for an album as challenging as Yeezus.  I’ve listened to it a few times now, and though I’ve come to a fairly conclusive opinion, I wouldn’t be surprised if I ended up liking it more further down the road.  But for now, I’d say Yeezus stands along with 808s And Heartbreak as one of Mr. West’s more uneven – if nonetheless fearless and ultimately fascinating releases.

I’m not terribly unique in the regard that I’ve come to appreciate Kanye West’s ability to mash together all sorts of different soulful sounds in a way that’s sweeping and epic, while his lyrics have often been markedly honest and soul-bearing.  Yeezus is pretty much the sound of Kanye taking a giant dump on both of those trademarks, as it musically bears an intensely bare-bones, almost industrial kind of dynamic.  As for the lyrics, I’m not sure what to really make of them, though my best guess is that they’re the words of a man trying desperately to exorcise his demons.  The lyrical content is almost uncomfortably graphic in its hedonism, but because Kanye is still able to intersperse his dark sense of humor, you kind of get the idea that he’s merely playing the role of provocateur.  You could make the case that because of his impending fatherhood, Kanye’s using this lyrical approach almost as a way of venting every dark twisted thought lurking in the back of his mind.  But at this point, it’s hard to make any clear sense of whatever the fuck is going through Kanye West’s head.

I hate to be this reductive about such a lightning rod of an album, but for me Yeezus is really just an album that starts out really strong and kind of loses its way towards the middle.  With a combination of ass-stomping rhythms and memorably subversive lyrics, “Black Skinhead” and “New Slaves” almost perfectly distill the kind of abrasiveness he seems to be shooting for here.  However, once you get to the kind of pulsating ickiness that you see on a song like “I’m In It”, things start to feel a little muddled for me.  However I do appreciate that Kanye threw us a bone with the album’s closer “Bound 2”, which feels like a grandiose throwback to 2010’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, an album that now feels almost light years behind us.

The gaping difference of opinion that’s happened between music critics and the general music-listening public in regard to Yeezus has been kind of fascinating to me.  And because I don’t think I quite fall in to either category, I’ve been torn about what kind of star rating to assign to this album in a way that rarely happens to me.  But basically my conclusion is that, as an artistic statement, Yeezus is remarkable.  As something that I want to listen to, it’s more of a mixed bag.

Favorite Tracks: “Black Skinhead”, “New Slaves”, “Bound 2”