I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in having gotten a little burned out on Kanye West right around the time of The Life Of Pablo‘s release. Because despite going back and listening to his entire discography and being reminded that Kanye is undoubtedly the most essential pop artist of the 21st century so far, the ridiculousness of Kanye the man persisted. In the build up to The Life Of Pablo, he made so many bizarre comments on Twitter that it was hard to even decide which ones to be baffled by. And sure, I’d be lying if I said that there wasn’t a part of me that finds Kanye’s public persona to be refreshing in comparison to the bland masses of media-friendly celebrities that permeate our current entertainment landscape. But at a certain point, there’s only so much of Kanye’s insanity that one can handle. So I think shortly after Kanye’s dumb theoretical company chart and the emergence of the phrase “emoticon auto correct”, I’d had enough of Kanye, to the point where it took a while for me to have much will to listen to The Life Of Pablo, which was supposed to be the center of all his recent ranting and raving in the first place.
But of course, this frustrating juxtaposition between Kanye the artist and Kanye the person is what makes him Kanye. And this recent display of Kanye’s inability to concentrate on any one project (he kind of comes of as a kid with severe ADHD these days) seems to have spilled over a bit into this newest album. It’s a grab bag of sounds for sure, with songs like “Ultralight Beam” and “Low Lights” evoking a more gospel-sounding, spiritual side, while other tracks in the album’s first half are a bit more tossed off. 2013’s Yeezus was an album that felt more like a collection of sounds than a collection of actual songs, and that experimental approach to song-construction seeps it’s way in to The Life Of Pablo, while traces of Yeezus‘s eerier-sounds keep a lot of this album’s more heartfelt moments from ever feeling saccharine.
It’s a little hard to read what the general reaction has been so far for The Life Of Pablo, since the critical consensus has veered between mildly pleasing and the usual adoration that awaits a new Kanye West album. While there’s also the fact that the public doesn’t have an easy way of listening to it since it’s still only on fucking Tidal. But my first impressions of this album thus far have been that it’s a good Kanye album, but it’s the first one in a while (or maybe ever) that doesn’t feel like it’s trying to reinvent the wheel. A lot of it feels like it’s invoking stuff that was already done on Yeezus and 808’s & Heartbreak, but considering it contains more than its share of stand-out tracks (like “Real Friends” and “30 Hours”), it’s still a very good album, if not necessarily a “great Kanye West album”. But then again, Kanye has recently mentioned that he’s not even done messing around with The Life Of Pablo, so maybe an even better version of it remains to be seen.
Favorite Tracks: “Ultralight Beam”, “Real Friends”, “30 Hours”