Review Summary: This is Kanye West.
Kanye West...what do you even say about the man? He's off his rocker to say the least and has been that way for some time. He hasn't put out a worthwhile album since Yeezus
by my estimation. His album rollouts have been unpredictable in the most irritating of ways. He can't be relied on to do or say the right thing ever, whether it was flocking to Bill Cosby's defense, his bizarre MAGA speech on Saturday Light Live
, that time he asserted that slavery was a choice, or casually hanging out with Marilyn Manson amid a series of pending sexual assault allegations against the rock star. West is no stranger to controversy, but his antics have lately crossed the line to irresponsible/dangerous. To Kanye, his ego is tied to his relevance, and he'll do anything
to remain in the spotlight. Since his music isn't all that good anymore, he's had to get more brazen (see also: stupid) to keep the conversation about him alive.
exists in the image of its creator; in other words, this shit is a mess. The album is a very bloated twenty-seven tracks and is nearly two hours long – not itself a strike against the record, but merely a representation of Kanye's scattered focus and overinflated ego. It's like he believes every single bar he writes deserves to be enshrined somehow, and that sense of entitlement can be felt here. Occasionally, the results are still excellent: 'Jail' is a legitimate adrenaline-pumping opener, 'Jesus Lord' is an absolute tear-jerker and lyrical masterpiece by all accounts, 'Believe What I Say' is rhythmically unpredictable and full of soul, and the pianos in 'Come to Life' offer quite a beautiful touch. But Kanye's problem has never been reaching these unbelievable highs, it's been practicing basic levels of restraint. Like in real life, he doesn't seem to know how to quit when he's ahead. Donda
overstays its welcome, inundating an otherwise solid core of memorable hip-hop moments with a dust cloud of filler comprised of trap beat crutches and autotune abuse. After a while it's simply hard to remain invested when you know that Kanye is literally throwing everything at you just to see what sticks. It's a perfectly viable method for streaming sales, but the flip side of that coin is that anyone trying to form a real critical analysis of the record will be left wondering what could have been. Because this really could have been something special had Kanye done what he seems incapable of for at least a decade: turning off his ego and allowing someone else to harness his genius. Instead, we're left with Donda
, which is meandering, amorphous, and lacking a sense of purpose. Kind of like Kanye himself.
The good news is that Donda
has those genuinely superb tracks. I don't want to understate how important that is in the wake of ye
and especially Jesus is King
. It's also worth noting that very little here sinks to deplorable depths. It makes for an interesting listen that is already proving to be divisive in all musical circles. It's not Kanye's return to form, but it does enough to stave off the kind musical
irrelevance that seemed to be creeping up on him as his detestable personal misconduct began to dwarf his poor-to-middling studio output. There's nothing wrong with saying that Donda
is merely a good album and nothing more – playlist aficionados will have a field day rearranging this to their liking, and that's fine. It's not the second coming of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
, but it sure is a laudable recovery from Jesus is King
. Now if he'll just cut the shit - in every possible way that sentiment could be applied – he just might redeem himself. Until then, it seems like we'll always be stuck on Kanye's wild ride – hip-hop gems inseparable from that undesirable side of filler, arrogance, and poor politics. What fun.