Kanye West’s newest record, “Jesus Is King,” produces a mess of religiously themed tracks, reminiscent of what one would hear during Sunday school. The mixing is rushed and incomplete, lyrically it feels like Kanye is grappling to find something significant to say and holistically the project feels like a forced attempt at redefining the genre of gospel.
During every cycle of a new album, Kanye West completely envelopes himself in the mood, themes and direction of the project he is working on. He becomes a new version of himself. He takes on a contrarian viewpoint of whatever the expected social norm is; he goes on a slew of rants which completely shift his outward appearance. Every new album is like a new phase of Kanye.
With the release of his previous album, “Ye,” he became an unshakeable Trump supporter, started making thoughtless claims and fired up a beef with rap-superstar Drake. This time, Kanye is the same, except intensely religious.
However intense these phases may be, it comes off as authentic, but this time around it seems like Kanye is presenting a false version of himself.
Before the album’s release, he toured around the nation with what he calls “Sunday Service.” The services consisted of ensemble gospel choirs and instrumentalists led by Kanye, playing renditions of his original songs, as well as his own versions of worship songs. The shows were grand and theatrical and had fans coming from all over the country. It was the start of his new form, a devout Christian trying to bring worship music to the mainstream.
This new version of Kanye ushered in the release of his ninth studio album, “Jesus Is King.” The 35-minute, 11-track album is a gospel to Kanye’s intense devotion to god. He never once changes the topic.
Religious themes and Kanye’s belief in God have always been a central point in his music. One of his first hit singles was, “Jesus Walks,” a song detailing his desire to express his religious beliefs. He often talks about his battles with himself and religion throughout his album “Yeezus” or in songs like “Devil In A New Dress.” On the new record, Kanye feels emotionless. His previous calls to God were deeply personal and open, but this time around it feels forced and inauthentic.
Riddled throughout the album are lackluster lyrics. He repeats the same refrain track after track, which could be summed up as: Kanye absolutely loves Jesus and he thinks everyone should too. He repeats the themes so often and at such a basic level that it sounds like a parody of Christian worship music – it’s difficult to take seriously.
On tracks like “Closed On Sunday,” he uses Chick-fil-A as a reference of the importance of dedicating Sundays to God. On “God Is,” he repeats, with slightly different wording each time, that “Jesus is Lord” and that he deserves all the praise. To round up the album, he finishes off with the closing track “Jesus Is Lord,” where he repeats the title of the song over and over while a gospel choir sings in the background. The rest of the songs follow pretty much the exact same path.
Any redeemable qualities for the album are found in the instrumentals. On “Water,” the beat is an airy loop of a reverbing guitar strum, with the gospel choir guiding most of the track. “Follow God” sounds like a callback to “Watch the Throne”-era Kanye sonically, but like the rest of the tracks on the album, the lyrics distract from any notable moments on this record.
“Jesus Is King” finds Kanye once again going against the grain of what people expect of him. When people tell him no, it drives him to go and do just that – his entire career started because industry people told him he should only produce beats.
The album doesn’t feel like a real representation of Kanye’s emotions about God. It comes off as a rushed project that came out of his intense desire to prove people wrong. It feels as if he is using religion, the genre of gospel and the choirs found in his services and the album simply as a tool to feed his ego and deep desire to go against social norms. His new ventures are often met with doubt and quick criticism from listeners. However, he often finds success by going against the mainstream, but this time around the people were right – Kanye couldn’t do it.