The first track begins and I am hit by a soulful, emotionally charged song complete with a gospel choir. The song is “Ultralight Beam” and it takes me back to the old Kanye.
The Kanye of “The College Dropout” and “Late Registration.” The Kanye that feels thoughtful and emotional. I have always enjoyed Kanye’s music, but this feels like where he is at his best. Soulful, raw and substantial. This album is not a full reversion back to those days, nor should it be. It does, however, feel like Kanye invokes more emotion and soul here than in his last album, “Yeezus.”
After album name changes, a delay, the TIDAL streaming debacle and a Madison Square Garden fashion show, “The Life of Pablo” is finally out.
Kanye West’s new album feels like a metaphor for Kanye West himself; torn, fragmented and conflicted. The album contains moving masterpieces such as “Ultralight Beam,” “30 Hours” and “FML,” but switches tones from the emotional Kanye to the more childish and playful Kanye in “Famous” and “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1.”
Kanye’s sometimes childish reversion to jokes about Taylor Swift and bleached a**holes can feel misplaced, and even disappointing. The contrast between the immature and more somber Ye, however, is vivid and fascinating.
You can see Kanye struggling within this album, and it is a genuine conflict between the Kanye we perceive (jerk, arrogant, self-obsessed) and the Kanye we don’t see (father, husband, son). Kanye even gets self-referential when he make jokes about his self-obsession on the 44 second track titled “I Love Kanye,” where he raps “I love you like Kanye loves Kanye.”
My number one enemy has been my ego… there is only one throne and that’s God’s …
— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) February 17, 2016
This is one of Kanye West’s best albums, and the strange thing is that Kanye does not feel like the best part of the album at times. “The Life of Pablo” is at its best when featured artists like The Weeknd, Kelly Price, Chance The Rapper and Kendrick Lamar shine, with Kanye taking a bit of a backseat. Kanye does, however, shine best when he goes back to the emotional appeals of “FML” and “30 Hours,” which are two of the best tracks on the album.
One thing that Kanye does that many artists don’t do is make a complete album that feels like it works together and sticks to its themes, although this album differs from West’s previous works in that it feels more scattered. In a world of artists trying to have huge singles it feels like the art an album is being lost, something that few artists still focus on.
“The Life of Pablo” is a sporadic and dissonant offering from West, who comes off as sporadic and dissonant in his personal life. Kanye’s new music is a reflection of himself, and provokes thoughts of how we present ourselves differently in different facets of our lives.
Put aside what you think of Kanye as a person, the TIDAL exclusivity and all the background noise. The music on this album is spectacular and well worth all of the drama surrounding its release.