Discovering a long awaited spiritual reawakening, Kanye West reinvents himself once again, this time in the hands of God. As the lord turns water into wine, he turned a rockstar into a gospel star with ‘Jesus Is King’. Dividing fans with an invasion of religious themes and biblical references, Kanye’s latest body of work is a soundtrack of worship, and yet another polarizing release.
Cleansing the soul by avoiding profanity and themes that’d be consider a sin, the album washes away West’s past life, in hopes to reborn and be closer to God. As an album built on a campaign of various delays, the only thing to expect, was the unexpected. Therefore, as I continue to digest the album, here’s a track by track, no holds barred, unscripted, and unfiltered first impression reaction to the album. (Written first day of release)
1.) Every Hour, (featuring Sunday Service Choir)
The standard of an opening track on a Kanye West album is always incredibly high after a streak of discography highlights (Dark Fantasy, Good Morning, On Sight, Say You Will, Ultralight Beam). No possible intro would’ve been more fitting than Every Hour, as it defines the direction of the sound, while representing the inspirations of the project.
As the intro to the project, Every Hour essentially presented itself as a prelude to Selah. On a 27 minute project, the expedition in search of a climax is short lived, as the drum packed, hallelujah chanting thunderous gospel track is an instant attraction, even before knowing what to expect with what was to come.
3.) Follow God
During the Jesus Is King listening party at The Forum in Los Angeles, the snippet of what is now, ‘Follow God’, was expected to be a fan favorite due to how immediate it is. Upon release, the song became the most streamed song due to its accessibility, it’s the least gospel-sounding song on the album.
4.) Closed on Sunday
Just when you thought nothing could get worse than Kanye West’s second verse of, Wolves, the Chick-Fil-A appreciation song proves you wrong. It was at this moment when the album began to feel like a parody album, which is a commonality throughout the rest of the project.
5.) On God
Over the past couple of Kanye West releases, the effort in his lyricism has become more and more lazy. The lack of effort in which West presents himself as the serious lyricist that everyone once fell in love with, is prominent with every bar leaving listeners with the desire of wanting more. On the fifth track of the album, Kanye showcases the potential of exactly how each of these last three solo albums would’ve been even better, if the focus was there.
6.) Everything We Need (featuring Ty Dolla $ign & Ant Clemmons)
Originally titled, The Storm, featuring the late, XXXTENTCION, Everything We Need is a watered down, downgraded version of the leak. In all of it’s glory, the song shines by the music industry’s favorite Rent-A-Hook artist, Ty Dolla $ign, but that flow by Kanye is just awful.
When Kanye premiered the song during Sunday Service at Coachella earlier this year, fans were doomed from the get go. Laziest lyrical content in a Kanye West song, and a poor excuse to throw in some biblical references without experimenting. Boring!
8.) God Is
Arguably his best vocal performance to date, Kanye’s growth as a singer is showcased on this track in particular. ‘God Is’ is almost the first moment on the album where the theme feels authentic, the approach is near refreshing, but yet falls flat with a lack of emotion.
9.) Hands On (featuring Fred Hammond)
One of the longest tracks on the album just so happens to be the most underwhelming. The themes of Christianity and exploring the concept of religion seemed to be too ambitious for the rapper despite raving about his newfound relationship with God. Consciously rapping about Jesus in a socially relevant way isn’t an unfamiliar territory as he tapped into it conceptually brilliantly on Jesus Walks.
10.) Use This Gospel (featuring Clipse & Kenny G)
For the first time on any Kanye West project I sat back and bursted out in laughter. ‘Use this gospel for protection...’ the rapper hilariously proclaims, sounds like lyrics to a Kidz Bop Kanye song. With a phoned in verse by both members of Clipse, sounds like somebody mashed up two different songs to force a reunion that was much anticipated. Kenny G was the lord and savior of the album with his sax solo being the highlight.
11.) Jesus Is Lord, Kanye West
Works fine as a closing track... I guess.
Inauthentically producing a Gospel like album that is reliant on Jesus worship, and an overuse of biblical references, demonstrates the fact that Kanye West can get away with any and everything. Drawing influence from religious themes, the album had everything to be another ambitious, genre forward, and refreshing release in his catalog, but yet falls flat much like refusing to answer when a Jehovah Witness knocks on your door. At 27 minuets long, Kanye tried to sell Christianity, rather than compellingly trace his path to what led up to being saved, failing to tell a story with a body of work, and instead, compiling a collection of singles. In his stage of his career, expecting lyrical greatness is somewhat bogus considering his delivery over the years, but the lack of depth as a whole, including mixing and attention of gone, and it’s mind boggling. With various versions of the album being played in various cities, there was no excuse for the final product to feel unfinished, a reoccurring habit as of late. Jesus Is King is a gospel parody of YANDHI.
(Remember this is not a review, but first listen impressions, written from the perspective as a reactor, not as a reviewer)