You know it's spinning out of control when the album cover gets shipped and shaped out of order by the internet. I mean, hey, nobody expected that to happen right? Not like I'm going to expect another 5(000) tweets from Kanye on Twitter... Let's get on.
When Kanye himself stated that his upcoming album would be a gospel-like record, I'm pretty sure hardcore fans either gasped pretty loudly while listening to Kendrick Lamar or have either fallen off the bandwagon completely considering what happened with Yeezus. Hint: that predecessor record was really not all that good. And here we are, around 3 years later and cue Kanye being this narcissistic, abrasive, thought-tweeting artist that seemingly just wants anything to do with trouble. Alright, maybe I'm not giving him that much respect there, but how are people going to take him seriously he talks about how "he is the Jordan and Steph Curry of music" and that meaning he's "the best of 2 generations". I mean, that's self-explanatory right there.
The Life of Pablo is Kanye West's seventh studio album, and might be his second most polarizing record (first if you haven't heard Yeezus) for fans and listeners alike. What do we have in store apart from all the blabber on Twitter, the name-changing and all that crazy stuff that's been going around Kanye? Well, I think this album might've been a lateral parallel comparison with the artist behind the mic as well. Considering I never really listened much to Kanye in the past except for My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy which was a great record, it probably opened my ears and eyes to what could potentially happen. Enough of the preamble then, let's get on in.
Ooh boy, what an album. What an album over at some review sites that gave the album a 9/10, in which I was probably thinking that maybe I had listened to the wrong record all along. Turns out, it wasn't. And I believe that's what makes the album so appalling for everybody. On one hand, there's praises due to it's production stylistics routes that Kanye takes that surprises on many levels such as the gospel opening with Ultralight Beam which is fantastic, while on the other hand the album goes in so many directions that just makes the flow and listening experience messy and chaotic.
For instance, on Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1, Kid Cudi delivers a decent hook with a tugging beat driving the track before Kanye's auto-tune shanks itself with unimpressive lyrics about being an asshole because of bleach on this girl and then having this flow that sounds uninteresting as hell. This continues on to Pt. 2 with a vocoder end and a choppy sample before leaking into the controversial Famous track featuring Rihanna (who is great). This happens throughout the entire album, and it gets so frustrating to listen to.
Some tracks could've easily been cut down to reduce the 60 minute listing time (seriously) and would've gotten to the second-half of the album which is where the meat of the record is. Low Lights, Highlights and Freestyle 4 could've all been removed easily. To think that we have 18-tracks on a Kanye record which seems to be more focused on the features that Kanye has rather than on Kanye himself, and that is saying a lot on why this album feels vocally more surprising.
At the same moment, we might need to get back to the gospel part where Kanye has stated that this album was, and if he had been upfront about it like he was with his album titles, maybe people wouldn't be unimpressed at all. And the first half of the album was not just unimpressive, but it reminded so much of Yeezus that left a bad taste in my mouth. Ultralight Beam and maybe Feedback was probably the better songs in the first half of the album, but as I've said above, the second half after I Love Kanye is where The Life of Pablo truly shines.
Waves, FML, Real Friends, some parts of Wolves and No More Parties in LA deliver on so many levels consistently that brings the album up from being bad or mediocre. There were moments where it felt like Kanye was channeling some of the energy and vibes he had from his previous records and that made the experience for listening feel more genuine, particularly the first three tracks I've mentioned.
Chris Brown's addition on Waves was good, even though I don't particularly like him. The Weeknd's vocals on FML were a great addition, and as a fan it was great to hear. Those who have not yet listened to Beauty Behind the Madness, I urge you to do so, ironically on a Kanye album review. Lastly on Real Friends, Ty Dolla $ign also makes a decent appearance to effect. It's tracks on the second half that really carries the album, and you can largely say what is going on with this album.
On the flip-side, there are some very blatantly weak tracks that seems to be sloppy or weak ideas that Kanye thought of during a day and decided to take into the studio. Facts? Fade? 30 Hours is okay at best, but there's not much enough here to bring it up high enough, and that's quite a problem. What caused it though?
Was it the ego? The way Kanye looked at himself and said that he was the greatest artist of all-time? But at the same time can't write a string of verses to save his career? The whole album felt like a much more concise and finished product as compared to Yeezus, that's for sure, and due to the amount of tracks, it's inevitable. There's more hits than misses, but at the end of the day, it's a Kanye West album. And as of right now, I don't even know what Kanye West I'm going to get.
The Life of Pablo is an incoherent mess that bleeds at the top but slowly structures itself and has a much more level-headed Kanye West approach towards the second half. As much as this album deserves praise, there's also a couple of elements that are either just so different from the rest of the album or are just so absurd in the way it's presented and executed. I can get behind this album on a few occasions, something which I couldn't with Yeezus.
Essentials: Ultralight Beam
Favourite Tracks: No Parties in LA, FML, Real Friends
Least Favourite Tracks: Fade, Facts, Low Lights
Benny Ong: Just your regular guy who likes soccer more than most people, and also a little downtime is pretty nice.