I, along with millions of other Kanye fans, waited impatiently for midnight on October 25. This was the night that Kanye’s newest album was finally supposed to drop. After multiple rumoured drop dates, this one seemed to be legitimate. Even Kanye’s wife, Kim Kardashian, retweeted a couple of Kanye’s tweets about the album drop, convincing many fans this must be the real date. Kanye’s highly anticipated album JESUS IS KING finally dropped the morning of October 25 (almost a full month from the original drop date September 27) and there’s a lot to talk about.
Firstly, the elephant in the room is the ridiculous drop-date nonsense that preceded JESUS IS KING. Frankly, I think this was an abuse of Kanye’s influence, since he knew people would put up with his delays and excuses. It is incredibly on-brand for him to be controversial; maybe he wanted the hype and the scandal attached to this album. Some people would call this a respectable hustle to create more anticipation, making the album more popular, but I disagree. I denounce rewarding any respect to Kanye for teasing his fans; the tweets prior to the drop, even at 3:00 a.m. the morning of, were disgraceful to his incredibly committed fan base. It’s almost cruel to make a sea of fans wait multiple nights for your album, only to drop it mid-morning the day after the announced drop.
Leading up to the release, in an interview with Beats 1’s Zane Lowe on Apple Music, Kanye admitted to asking his team to abstain from premarital sex so they could focus on the album. Immediately, fans made this into a joke and a meme, but I do not find this funny; I find it really quite insane. According to Forbes Kanye’s net worth is in the ballpark of $240 million, which leads me to believe he could afford to hire more industry professionals to get his album done, as opposed to making such ridiculous requests of his team.
The song lengths max out with “Hands On” at three minutes and 34 seconds, although most of the album’s songs are two minutes or less. For all the hard work put into the album and his team’s abstinence, I expected substantially more quantity and much higher quality. The length of the songs seems like another way Kanye scammed his fans, as the hype was definitely not worth the album’s criminally short 27 minute play time. Aside from the absolute gong-show Kanye put his fans through, it is time to address the actual content and music of JESUS IS KING.
The album as a whole is a big question mark. A gospel album, from the same man who once rapped, “I’m a sick f**k, I like a quick f**k” and has a long history of vulgar songs such as “I’m In It” on Yeezus, struck me as an interesting concept to say the least. Kanye has been long known for his stake in the rap game, lavish life and hugely popular family dynasty, but he has recently added a modern Sunday Service to his list of accomplishments. His promotion of faith and endorsement of churches was surprising based on his controversial media presence and rap lyrics, but who am I to judge his journey to finding God? However, I will absolutely judge the way he went about finding God, namely, by scamming his fans. Many listeners were skeptical about this combination of faith and rap before the album came out, but at the end of the day, what’s important is if it actually delivered.
Content-wise, this album is a far cry from the Kanye many of us are used to. The entire album is an ode to religion, to loving God, living virtuously and being a model Christian. However, the gospel notes were undermined by Kanye’s rapping and the rap was drowned out by the gospel on most of the songs. The two genres clashed consistently throughout the album.
The biggest highlight of this album was “Every Hour” featuring the Sunday Service Choir. Their voices were gorgeous in every respect, yet were only heard for one minute and 52 seconds. The passion and raw talent in their voices is nothing short of intoxicating. The gospel singers are extremely talented, their voices are smooth and dynamic even when combined with a quick tempo in an upbeat song. This is the only song on JESUS IS KING that deserves to be put on repeat.
I’ll hand it to Kanye for “Follow God”, the beat is pretty catchy and his rapping has nice flow. The lyrics are shockingly coherent compared to the other songs on the album and this song could definitely climb up the charts. If the rest of the album followed the template of a catchy beat and quality rapping as seen on “Follow God”, it could’ve made waves in the music industry. Aside from “Follow God” and “Every Hour” however, this album is a flop.
“Selah” sounds almost satirical, the background music is too intense for the weak lyrics. He starts the song with “when I scream at the chauffeur, I ain’t mean I’m just focused” and continues to rap nonsense. Half the song is just the word “hallelujah” repeated ad nauseum, making the song feel half baked and hastily thrown together. The intense “hallelujah”s come across as a last-ditch effort to convince the listener the song is powerful and meaningful (which it really isn’t). To take it up a level, I hope and pray for Kanye’s sake he is satirizing himself on “Closed on Sunday”. He draws parallels to Sunday being a holy day and the fast-food franchise Chick-Fil-A, which is closed on Sundays. This comparison seems hilarious, but also random and surface level. The point of this song is completely unknown to me, Kanye equivocating worshipping God to Chick-Fil-A seems idiotic and takes away from the album’s serious intentions to bring gospel into the mainstream music scene.
Hypocrisy seems to be another issue with this album, like on “Everything We Need” for example. I can imagine it is easy to have everything you need when your family’s net worth is well over a billion dollars. In addition, I can imagine it is ridiculously easy for Kanye to say he has everything he needs after claiming God gave him a $68 million dollar tax refund. These lyrics seem rich coming from Kanye, someone of immense privilege and influence. This tainted the album because the message of faith and devotion was lost when the listener considers who is saying the lyrics. Hypocrisy and general confusion make this album cringe-worthy, as the content and sound miss the mark of being a worthwhile album.
On top of this poorly executed album, Kanye created a tie-in IMAX movie of the same name to coincide with the album’s release. Only grossing $1 million on its opening weekend, the film left me confused yet again. Why can’t Kanye write an album, release it on a set day and leave it at that? Why does he have to provoke drama by pushing his release date and make a hugely under-advertised film to tie in to his album? The underwhelming album and unnecessary movie were topped off with a merchandise release on Kanye’s website. The prices seem high, even for celebrity merch. The pull-over sweaters cost around $170-$250, plastered with Kanye’s name and religious symbols. A millionaire making money off of Jesus’s name seems like outright blasphemy and led many, including myself, to question Kanye’s intentions with this album.
He claims his music and film are supposed to focus on worship and God, but that is hard to believe, considering the media frenzy he caused with the outrageous statements about premarital sex, the inflated merchandise prices and the drama around the pushed back release date. The album cover perfectly analogizes Kanye’s shady intentions. If the album’s true focus was on gospel singers and God, one of the two could have been on the cover of the album, not just Kanye’s name. Again, I see this album as Kanye’s way of finessing his fans and slapping Jesus’s name on his work to make a buck and continue to uphold his controversial persona. In the case of Kanye, I can’t separate the artist from the music, which leaves me frustrated and uninterested in the album. The last nail in the coffin for me was the promotion from President Trump, who hawked JESUS IS KING on his Twitter account, making it even harder to listen to given the world it was released into.
This album is the kind of music you would download only because of the hyped up drop, listen to it once, then let it fall into the abyss of your music library. It is not an album for the ages, but it certainly is a testament to the music industry we know today, filled with drama, politics and greedy musicians who put cash and controversy before their fans.