Review Summary: Chapter 6: Alienation Of A Fanbase
It must be hard to be a superstar. Sure, you got the money and the fans, but what do you sacrifice? Your artistic credibility. For the most part, as soon as music executives see that you’re making something that sells, they want you to continue doing that one thing. This sadly kills any chance at experimentation, and you become less of an artist and more of a product. Even when a mainstream act tries something new, it’ll not only be quickly be labeled as a pathetic attempt at an artistic statement, but also leaves diehard fans wondering what happened to their favorite artist. You’re gonna have to really dig deep to even come close to having your work be considered a true artistic statement, which is exactly what happens here with Yeezus.
The opening track “On Sight”, while being one of the weaker tracks, was the perfect way to introduce the album. It quickly sets the mood of the album: it’s aggressive, arrogant, and doesn’t hold back. Yeezus is basically the anti-College Dropout. While Dropout had a smooth, soul inspired sound that gave it a very down to earth feel, Yeezus is full of jagged, abrasive electronic beats inspired by industrial music and samples of obscure 60’s Welsh prog rock bands. Even the final track “Bound 2”, which is supposed to be a throwback to Kanye’s earlier work, is surreal in a way. The unconventional song structure and the constant repeating of the line“Uh-huh honey” brings something new to the table, which is what makes Yeezus so great sonically. The fact that the biggest artists on the planet experimented with an unconventional style like what we see here is impressive enough. What makes it better is that he pulls it off fantastically. Tracks like “I’m In It” take advantage of the album’s minimalistic style by presenting us with some raw, droning synths (not to mention a haunting bridge sung by Justin Vernon of Bon Iver fame). However, the production truly reaches its peak when other instruments are added to the mix. The horns in “Blood On The Leaves” adds a certain intensity to the track and the pounding drums in “Black Skinhead” make it an absolute banger. There are, however, a couple experiments that fail. The screams in “I Am A God” fail to evoke intensity and just ends up being annoying, and the autotune breakdown in “Blood On The Leaves” is far from being the new “Runaway”. But thankfully, when Kanye decided to step WAY outside the box, he was still able to keep his footing.
To fit with the darker production style, Yeezus contains some of the most aggressive, provocative, raw lyrics West has ever brought us, and yet they’re the weak point of the album. Don’t get me wrong; there are times on this album where the lyrics truly shine. “Hold My Liquor” paints a picture of an alcohol-charged relationship that could crumble at any moment and 2nd verse of “Blood On The Leaves” tells of a pregnancy story that honestly feels soul-crushingly real. However, the lyrical climax is “New Slaves”, an album highlight. On this track, West compares the way slaves of old were forced to devote their lives to serving their masters to black kids today being manipulated to devote their lives and money to designer clothes and fancy cars. However, how are we supposed to take Yeezus seriously when lines like,
“Eatin’ Asian pussy/ all I need was sweet and sour sauce”
are sprinkled throughout the album? Some people may excuse them as just jokes, but if Kanye is aiming for a darker feel on Yeezus, he needs to take these topics seriously. However, I have to admit, some of those lines deliver a laugh or two. “I am a god/ hurry up with my damn massage/ In a French-ass restaurant/ Hurry up with my damn croissant!” Is a personal fave of mine.
I guarantee you that nobody expected Kanye’s album that followed the critically acclaimed My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy would be as messy, raw, and experimental as Yeezus was. In fact, I feel like a good comparison would be to The Beatles’ White Album. After Sgt. Pepper’s, a tight, slick album that received almost unanimous acclaim, they released the White Album, the polar opposite of Sgt. Pepper’s: overlong, experimental, mixed bag of pure madness. Then again, it only makes sense for a man who believes himself to be a god to follow in the footsteps of someone who said they were bigger than Jesus. Don’t stop being you Kanye, you’re at your best when you are.