“Jesus Is King” is a frustratingly imbalanced experience
November 5, 2019
ANDY ZABINSKI, Staff Writer—After about a month of delays, Kanye West’s ninth studio album has finally arrived; originally announced last year as “Yandhi,” West tweaked the project and renamed it “Jesus is King.” Between his eighth album, “ye,” and “Jesus is King,” Kanye began holding “Sunday Services,” performances of both traditional gospel songs and gospel renditions of Kanye songs, hinting that his next album would be gospel-inspired.
Two main differences from Kanye’s last project are evident. First, “Jesus is King” is sonically far different from “ye.” Kanye fuses aspects of gospel with the sonic elements from his previous albums, particularly “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Family”, “The College Dropout” and “808s and Heartbreak.” Second, while the lyrical content in both “ye” and “Jesus is King” are both quite personal, with “Jesus is King” Kanye often seems to be lashing out at his critics.
Like most Kanye albums, the opening track shows the artistic direction of the album: “Every Hour” sees Kanye’s Sunday Service choir performing a gospel song.
Next comes “Selah”, a powerful, uplifting song that features choir vocals reminiscent of “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” and incorporates many biblical references into the lyrics such as the Genesis Flood, Abraham, and books of John 8:33 and 8:36. It all comes together to sound heavenly and bigger than life, as a song about one’s faith should.
“Follow God” would fit in with West’s earlier work; Kanye uses a flow similar to “Never Let Me Down” from “The College Dropout” while rapping about his current faith and the religious lessons that he learned from his father.
With “Closed on Sunday,” the quality of the album falls. This might be the worst song that Kanye has ever written, period. Lines like “Closed on Sunday, you my Chick-fil-A” sit poorly when compared to lines he was delivering just a year ago.
Next, in “Cudi Montage,” he raps “Everybody want world peace, ‘til your niece get shot in the dome-piece, then you go and buy your own piece, hopin’ it’ll help you find your own peace”. In addition, the song’s bland and hollow guitar melody doesn’t do much to help it.
“On God” and “We Have Everything We Need” have outstanding instrumentals, and the layering of Ty Dolla $ign’s vocals on the latter song is gorgeous, but both songs are extremely poorly written.
Kanye uses “On God” to defend his selling of extremely expensive merchandise, supposedly to prevent his family from going hungry because the IRS wants to take 50 percent of his income. It seems hypocritical to complain about sharing your wealth on an album rooted in Christian values.
“Water” has a passable instrumental but is far more suited for an artist such as Frank Ocean. The lyrical content is better than the preceding songs, with Kanye’s rapping sounding almost prayer-like.
However, the album then gets even worse with “God Is” and “Hands On” which are only about three and a half minutes each, but feel much longer. Both are bogged down with poor singing from Kanye and minimal production.
“Use This Gospel” is by far the best song on the album. It features a strange otherworldly melody mixed with choir vocals. In addition, Kanye reunites the duo Clipse, made up of Pusha T and No Malice, who discuss the sins they have committed. Out of nowhere, Kenny G comes through with an outstanding Saxophone solo to close the song out.
Finally, “Jesus is Lord,” the shortest song on the album, sees Kanye singing over some horns about his faith and Jesus. It fits in with the album, but considering how short it is, it seems unnecessary.
When the album is good, it’s really good. It’s at its best when Kanye sticks to his gospel album concept, hops on a good instrumental and is lyrically focused i.e. “Selah” and “Use This Gospel.” However, when Kanye decides to go too far in defending himself, the songs fall flat and that is unfortunately true for a majority of the album.