Jay-Z and Kanye West
Watch the Throne


2.5
average

Review

by Adam Downer STAFF
August 11th, 2011 | 99 replies | 11,626 views


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Two former MVPs suit up for an exhibition.

Remember a few years ago, when the world hated Kanye West? Where did he get off with his God complex, his unearned pretentions, his crown of thorns on the Rolling Stone cover? When his personality distracted us from the talent he supposedly had? And then remember how he found a way to finally, gloriously bridge the gap between Kanye West the musician and Kanye West the pop-culture punching bag on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy? At long last, he buttressed his braggadocio with grand productions and a cast of superstars, elements that insisted “I’m Kanye Goddamn West. Fuck you.” And it was bloody fantastic.

Now he and adopted grandfather Jay-Z are literally saying that. Watch the Throne? The conceit is exposed in that middle-school title: Look at Us, We’re the Best. Look at us, we who demanded the best beats from the best producers in the world, we who embrace both hip-hop’s odd future and Beyonce every night. And they can demand that we pay attention. They’ve earned it. Kanye’s still the strongest force for good pop music has and Jay’s the Game’s Derek Jeter, a New York darling, past the peak of his impressive career, running victory laps. And as good despots, they deliver: jams, tons of ‘em, well-crafted and produced to the stratosphere. Watch the Throne is in no way a disappointment; in fact, it satisfies expectations perfectly. Kanye and Jay live up to their egos and literally remind us how brilliant they are, which is all we could’ve asked for.

But should that be all we could ask for? I struggle to go nuts over Watch the Throne, because even though it boasts better beats and more progressive structures than Dark Twisted Fantasy, it is messy, mildly underwhelming, and redundant. We already know that these artists are the kings of hip-hop; did they have to make a whole album about it? West, rather than continuing to do the real-person thing, returns to caricature status, while Jay, though nowhere near as out of place as he was on Fantasy’s “Monster” and “So Appalled,” continues to struggle with bringing A-game. Kanye and Jay-Z create with no tangible point other than to sing their own praises, exploiting the post Fantasy high and sacrificing ambition for traditional pop thrills.

The resulting hodgepodge sounds great in the instrumentals, it really does, but it is also aggravatingly shallow. So often, mind-blowing beats are flattened under the Ye-Z combination’s clumsy, witless junk. Eye-rollers like “Twisted love story, true romance/ Mary Magdalene, from a pole dance” and “I made ‘Jesus Walks,’ I ain’t ever goin’ to hell” seem have to have slipped through the editing process because they’re The Throne, dammit. That’s where this whole celebration parade gets its route mixed up. Without something to prove, they have no check, and there’s no other voice but the unfiltered opinion of these two affirmed braggarts on themselves. When Kanye indulged in himself on Fantasy, he exposed a flawed character in an honest way. On Throne, the character is mostly just boring, lacking narrative, lacking something to hold on to warrant the its braggadocio. Without it, Kanye and Jay are left to rephrase hollow boasts and breeze through their A-List jams without the counterpoint to sell it. Even the album’s more meditative moments like “New Day,” and “No Church in the Wild” ring flat. Frank Ocean’s hook on the latter, “what’s God to a non-believer?” Well tread Kanye territory, done before, better, on the very song that guaranteed him salvation.

You can take that 2.5 up there with a grain of salt because I can’t say I hate this album. There are some diamonds in here. “Lift Off” one-ups Fantasy’s title track with a slightly more amorphous beat and Beyonce’s wonderful ability to make any sentiment, no matter how coarse, sound honest, while “Why I Love You” and its skyscraping hook are cynic proof. And while the album certainly suffers from producer-overload, it truly does perfect radio-dominating ecstasy in its beats. The music itself isn’t really the issue. It’s the conceit, the fact that even though Kanye and Jay-Z truthfully are nailing what pop can sound like, they use their royal stature not to communicate fresh ideas but pander to their subjects because they fucking can.



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user ratings (625)
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Electric City
Staff Reviewer
August 11th 2011



15728 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

counterpoint

Digging: Alvvays - Alvvays

Trebor.
Contributing Reviewer
August 11th 2011



49955 Comments


Every time she makes a point I make a counterpoint

Digging: Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate) - You Will Eventually Be Forgotten

Satellite
August 11th 2011



20723 Comments


best sum ever

AtavanHalen
August 11th 2011



17927 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Remember a few years ago, when we hated Kanye West?


Speak for yourself pal

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
August 11th 2011



15728 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

changed to something less specific

Trebor.
Contributing Reviewer
August 11th 2011



49955 Comments


An exhibition game doesn't mean anything

Irving
Staff Reviewer
August 11th 2011



7163 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Well done sir. Fantastic review. Best I've read in a while.

And what the hell's a braggadocio?

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
August 11th 2011



31050 Comments


Just means that he used to boast about himself a lot

Digging: Marcel Dettmann - Fabric 77

Irving
Staff Reviewer
August 11th 2011



7163 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Stop being such a braggadocio, Deviant!

FlawedPerfection
Emeritus
August 11th 2011



2806 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

U mad

Ire
August 11th 2011



41753 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

being adm dnr must be fun!

qwe3
August 11th 2011



21355 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

jay z is just not a good rapper

Crowe
August 11th 2011



435 Comments


The music itself isn’t really the issue.


o rly?


mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
August 11th 2011



17920 Comments


americans saying 'bloody'

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
August 11th 2011



17920 Comments


also holy shit the amount of throne-subject-king puns being thrown around in reviews for this is maddening

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
August 11th 2011



15728 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

well they started it

Tyrael
August 11th 2011



20798 Comments


Remember a few years ago, when the world hated Kanye West?

Em... no?

iFghtffyrdmns
August 11th 2011



7047 Comments


reading this makes me want to stop writing reviews because never in my not-so-illustrious writing career will I ever be able to stuff that many perfectly placed puns and shockingly obvious yet shockingly revealing statements into 5 simple paragraphs and wrap it up and but a bow on it and make it seem as if I didn't even try and as if writing it took 5 minutes of just typing out my thoughts and this is a run on sentence and good job dude.

shinfo, but I lived with a kid who pretty much thought he was kanye west (and therefore felt he ought to be treated as such) for 8 months. let me tell you about the good time that was.

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
August 11th 2011



15728 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Em... no?


well it happened, dude

conradtao
Emeritus
August 11th 2011



2090 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

"Better beats and more progressive structures"

...where?



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