By: Peter Kolb, First Year, English
“Who do I turn too?”
Following one of the most disastrous album rollouts I can remember, Kanye’s new album, “The Life of Pablo,” is finally out. Don’t bother reading too much into the name, as it seems Kanye probably ended up choosing it by flipping a coin (it supposedly refers to St. Paul, but at this point, whatever).
Initially, I thought the album was an even less cohesive version of his sophomore album “Late Registration.” A group of songs that, sure, are individually very good and a joy to listen to, but when they come together don’t form any clear message.
Then, after multiple listens, I started to get an idea of what Kanye was going for. This is a very personal album. “T.L.O.P” lets us into Kanye’s mind, where there’s a battle raging between his humble Chicago, faith-filled roots and the addictive limelight. This battle is nothing new to Kanye. He’s delivered some of the most soulful, beautiful tracks on “College Dropout” and some of the most arrogant, hotheaded tracks on “Yeezus.”
What’s so special about “T.L.O.P” is that we get both versions of ’Ye at once. Kanye leads off the album with an incredible gospel hymn in “Ultralight Beam.” Then, on the very next song, Kanye raps about having sex with a model who just recently bleached her a–hole. It’s a very abrupt juxtaposition that is by no means unintentional. This occurs over and over on the album. “Famous,” one of the standout tracks on the album, features a beautiful hook by Rihanna, which laments, “I loved you better than your own kin did… I don’t blame you much for wanting to be free.”
This touching chorus leads right into a verse with the rapper saying he and Taylor Swift “might still have sex” since he made her famous. A pleasant, sweet refrain met with arrogant, obnoxious verses. The examples are endless on the album. What’s important to me, though, is that this album does not lack cohesion, as some complain. It is a clear struggle between Kanye’s two temptations.
However, Kanye does get a little too self-indulgent at times. He often forces his own message, like on “Lowlights,” a two-minute track that is simply an unknown female voice talking about how much the Lord means to her. It’s no doubt touching and well written, but it is Kanye force-feeding us one half of his message. The other half comes out even worse at times. In order to show his temptation to fame and the “evils” of life, Kanye doesn’t pen some beautiful lines about it like he did on past tracks like “Runaway” or “Good Life.” Instead, he delivers some of the worst, ugliest lines I’ve heard on a Kanye album. (If you’ve listened to the album, you know which lines I’m referring to, since they stick out like sore thumbs on a few otherwise beautiful songs.)
While these mistakes are few and in between, it is nonetheless incredibly frustrating as I am a big Kanye fan. These mistakes ruin the album. Not ruin it in a traditional sense, where they’re so bad that the album is rendered unlistenable or even ruin it to the point that I would call the album “bad.” They ruin it just like “Drunk and Hot Girls” and “Barry Bonds” ruined his third album, “Graduation.” Kanye was so, so close to putting out something on the same level as “College Dropout” or “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” but thanks to these small mistakes, he fell short. “The Life of Pablo” is not a classic. I can’t imagine someone convincing me that this is his best album, or even top three. What’s clear from the moment this album release started is that Kanye is off his game. This album is messy, unsure of itself and, simply put, not great.
Make no mistake, even when Kanye West is off his game, it’s still pretty darn good. This album has some incredible songs (“Ultralight Beam,” “Real Friends,” “FML,” “Waves”) without having any real misses (although, special shout out to perhaps the worst addition to any Kanye project I have ever heard in “Silver Surfer Intermission”). What’s so frustrating about it is that we should expect more from Kanye. Any artist can put out a collection of good songs; only Kanye West can put out “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.”
While this album is very strong, it still failed to meet expectations set by Kanye’s past discography.
RATING: 8/10 STARS