Chaos and Kanye West
The surprise album release has become so en-vogue one could argue it isn’t a surprise at all.
The explosive 24 hour focus an artist receives via social media from a surprise release has been deemed more valuable than a traditional three months press build up. Kanye West has taken surprise release to an extreme with an impromptu live tweet of every creative decision made regarding his album. West, always the savvy self promoter, is aware that this generation will generate buzz on his every tweet just as the paparazzi try to track his every move.
First there was Swish, Waves and finally TLOP (The Life Of Pablo). Tracklistings came and went, photos from the studio were posted recording songs we can assume were debuted days later via laptop at a sold out Madison Square Garden arena. While fascinating to watch, this method puts the thrill of the surprise over the thrill of the music. The reason we expect artists to disappear for years at a time to allow them the time to create an album with intention. While parts of The Life Of Pablo show how talented a producer Kanye is, we often get the impression that parts of the album haven’t been fully formed or edited.
It begins on a strong note with ‘Ultralight Beam’ displaying the gospel inspiration Kanye has cited and Chance The Rapper shines over soulful keys. Nostalgia runs throughout the album as Kanye ponders ‘Which/One’, the phrase that is repeated on the album cover. The choice is between the christian family values he was raised on and the bikini clad model he actually desires. ‘Famous’ and ‘Real Friends’ are strong and recall the menace of My Beautiful Twisted Family. ‘Waves’ and ‘Wolves’ lack focus and sound aimless over a strong beat. The album is diluted by too many filler tracks. The highlight of the LP, ‘No More Parties In LA’ , shows just how good Kanye can be when Kendrick Lamar is there to raise the bar. On ‘30 hours’ Kanye receives a phone call and says audibly ‘I’m just doing an ad lib track right now’, this is why, unfortunately, some of the songs fall flat and appear hurried. The album closes with the great beat of ‘Fade’ but the buzz around this has faded from its previous online release.
With too clearly much on his plate, it appears Kanye was torn between where to focus his energies. While TLOP has its great moments the album’s lack of focus leaves it on the lower tier of Kanye’s discography.