And now, the review you've all been waiting for (just humor me).
There's this game I like to play in my head where I try and imagine what College Dropout Kanye would think about The Life of Pablo Kanye. They're the same man, really; two sides of the same coin. Both are insecure and self-aware. It's just that CDK does that with humor and depreciation, quietly making astute observations while TLOPK likes to barge in like he owns the place, bravado on blast.
And, well, he kind of does own the place, doesn't he?
I only just listened to the album all the way through last week— I'd been scared off by the seemingly manic track changes, rotating release dates and the fact he released it exclusively on Tidal (can we quit trying to make fetch happen?). Finally released to us plebs, I had the chance to listen to it in full.
I chose Famous as the first track to listen to and I was immediately smitten. Here we have glimpses of the "old Kanye" with his sharp wit, word-smithing and unexpected (but still beat heavy!) musical production that I missed on Yeezus (as someone on NPR said, Yeezus is Kanye's Kid A which is my least favorite Radiohead album). I also cannot get enough of the accompaniment that comes in at 1:50 on Famous. It's summery and jammy and cool.
I'll also say that I laughed out loud at almost every track the first way through. On Feedback, when he says "I bet me and Ray J would be friends .... only problem is I'm rich". I mean.
The album as a whole feels a bit like a scrapbook with the intros, snippets and call backs piecing together the album (and the fact that I'd say it's still kinda unfinished). Even if it's not all good (and it's not all good) it's still fun to listen to all the way through, in order, to fully experience it the way Kanye means for us to.
There are moments of transcendent triumph, however; Fade is particularly lavish. At minute 2:20 when the music swells, damn. Totally bowled me over. It's so lush and big. It's got house elements to it which I've dug since Miami (yes, everything comes back to Miami) and it makes me want to get thee to a club and dance.
Waves is beautiful and ethereal. Man, for being so messy leading up to the release, I really dig so much of the production of this album. Waves is the perfect kind of ballad— maybe not as major as Runaway but still with that floaty musicality behind it. It's moving in a way I forgot Kanye could be moving.
Wolves is another highlight for me; Sia's part is haunting, sexy and cool. I'm also going to say here that there are quite a few correlations I can make between 1989 and TLOP. Wolves is Kanye's I Know Places and I Love Kanye has that hyper-focused self-awareness that makes Blank Space and Shake It Off so brilliant. I've said it before but I see so many similarities between Taylor and Kanye as artists. They're both visionaries in their respective genres with perfectionist tendencies that are unparalleled (save for maybe Beyonce). They're also both song-writing masters with the ability to take a small moment and blow it up into a universal truth with a single turn of phrase. There's an elegance and spareness to both their writing styles that I will always admire (even as Kanye sometimes puts his foot in his mouth). Plus, they both have improvised moments in their albums that end with them laughing, so. Twinsies.
For all its issues, TLOP is certainly a success in my eyes. And as Ye says himself, name one genius who ain't crazy.