Review Summary: Kanye wearing Pablo.
After a while, Kanye finally decided on a title for his latest album that is easy to read into, but remains otherwise unclear - a contradiction that does nothing to temper Kanye's notorious polarity. Sometimes seemingly mindful, but always haphazard notwithstanding, Kanye seems to get a lot out of his system, but everything he says is mostly exceedingly unnecessary, insofar as his words, assuming they had an initial intention to begin with, hang suspended instead. From this position, Kanye's contest with himself escapes critique to inform various stories, as well as a growing number of unimportant, but tempting conclusions. Two conclusions seem most evident to me; the first being that Kanye is somehow really as brilliant as he claims; and the second that Kanye is clueless as to what he's always going on about, but he enjoys basking in every bit intrigue and speculation as they pump his ever-inflating persona to continue fashioning the Kanye West of today. And this might be where his genius lies, but with a work entitled The Life of Pablo
, Kanye has set himself up as an imposter, trying to fit in with all the Pablos. Could he be a misunderstood and prolific prodigy, a self-proclaimed untouchable who's apt at evading consequences, or a messenger of truth destined to uproot evil and shed light on us all? None of these Pablos climbed to great heights by being complacent, but perhaps they were if and when they tumbled.
It would appear Kanye's spreading some truth in “Ultralight Beam,” where a young child's innocence penetrates through organ pounding, hallelujah shouting, and simultaneous cries of exasperation, persecution, and protection from men and women of various ages and experience. This track, several perspectives intact, explicates two opposing forces that control Kanye throughout The Life of Pablo
. He is preaching to some higher power that acts beyond his ego on one hand, supported by his army of featured artists, all bound by struggle and aligned in campaign. On another, however, these spiritual undertones appear only sporadically, scattered by Kanye's self-serving lines in tracks such as “Feedback,” “Famous,” and “I Love Kanye.” Although “Famous” capitalizes on some good T. Swift-inspired entertainment, assisted by some of Rihanna's best vocal work, “Feedback” betrays itself by design. Overindulgent but devoid of matter, “Feedback” goes hard, spiraling around a big, extravagant core, but doesn't ever launch. Similarly, “I Love Kanye” might be Kanye being Kanye, but for a song whose purpose is obvious, unequivocal, Kanye is directionless on it, which is less a statement of intent and more a fixture of depiction.
The Life of Pablo
's lack of intention diminishes a lot of goodness that might be found. A bastardized gospel, T.L.O.P
cannot reach a purer state, because an encrusted screen taints nearly every corner of this album. An ill-concealed layer of crud that contaminates lusher, more thoughtful moments which flash brightly, but briefly. On occasion, though, Kanye sustains roots to their ends. Self-deprecating “FML” bears a dark exterior, which The Weeknd hollows out to untap his signature destructive element within. Both stoic and raw, “FML” builds a swell from uncomplicated, scattered notes to cold, ice-tinged percussive components, developing a succession of minimal sheets that, although intriguing alone, overlap and clash in both a satisfying and unsettling manner. “Real Friends,” too, shows a more serious Kanye. He sticks to one idea lyrically and musically, which pays off in stylistic and sentimental resonance.
These uninterrupted moments of ingenuity, even if great, highlight T.L.O.P
's general anachronism. Bright, compelling moments hardly quash a laundry pile of admittedly colorful and textured areas that unfortunately contain either hazardous or underwhelming combinations. A lot of themes and styles seem strewn or mashed together without conscientious exploration of suitability, which almost naturally
prompts songs that exhibit overflowing potential, but nonetheless remain unfinished, disjointed, overambitious, or lyrically uninspired. But even if these weaknesses were ignored, T.L.O.P
suffers still from thematic discontinuity. Kanye talks about a ton of stuff, touching on personal subjects from his wife to father to black bodies and rights, but never does he follow these messages through for concrete impact. More akin to afterthoughts, I can't say whether they had substantial makings to begin with. Rather than embody Pablo, Kanye wears Pablo on T.L.O.P
. He might be Picasso, but he's his myth, not essence. He might be Escobar, but he's unsteady on his mountain of snow. And he might be Saul of Tarsus, but he's not passing as enlightened, because something, or everything, is surely missing.