Kanye West The Life of Pablo
In 2009, Kanye West reached peak asshole after his career-defining, Taylor Swift-mic-snatching moment at the MTV Video Music Awards. But he followed that with one of the greatest albums of his career, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Critics might have hoped for a terrible record to justify their condemnation of his behavior, but Kanye dropped the opposite. Since then, he has continued to behave badly, whether crowning himself “the greatest rock star on the planet” or, more recently, telling Wiz Khalifa, “I own your child!” So what happens when ’Ye finally drops a bad album?
The reviews for his last LP, Yeezus, were less ecstatic, largely due to its off-kilter, electronic production style. But his latest effort, The Life of Pablo, goes a step further. It’s a record in which his creative musical output is not strong enough to quietly excuse his reprehensible public persona. In other words, sh*t is wack.
The Life of Pablo plays like a masturbatory love letter to Kanye, from Kanye. From its disastrous live-streamed Madison Square Garden rollout to multiple changes to its release date, title and tracklist, it’s clear Kanye is flying blindly without a clear plan. And that comes through in the music itself, which sounds sourced by a megalomaniac surrounded by a crew afraid to point out its flaws.
The biggest tell of all is Kanye’s sparing use of the drums, the backbone of most hip-hop tracks. Songs like “FML” and “Wolves” simply aren’t strong enough without the kick and snare, despite what Kanye believes. Elsewhere, the record drowns in AutoTune, like on “High Lights” or “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 2,” while tracks like “Freestyle 4” and “Feedback” are too weird for their own good. It’s a complete mess that will test listeners’ patience, with little to grab onto. But Kanye’s disciples are also in his audience, so few will say how they really feel.
His most grounded, poignant moment comes on the a capella freestyle “I Love Kanye,” where he admits that “I miss the old Kanye, straight from the ‘Go Kanye/Chop up the soul Kanye, set on his goals Kanye/I hate the new Kanye, the bad mood Kanye/The always rude Kanye, spaz in the news Kanye.” A moment of clarity, perhaps.