Never have the limitations of Kanye West as a persona been more on display than on Jesus is King. With a scattered, off-the-cuff feel similar to The Life of Pablo, the album displays none of its highs and only a small amount of its inventiveness.
It seems as though Kanye simply forgot what made his best work special: a sound that was as complex, meticulous, exuberant, sophisticated, and cerebral as he believed himself to be. It didn’t matter that Runaway began with "I sent this bitch a picture of my dick”, its majesty could be instantly recognized and allowed listeners to believe in this largeness of persona. Perhaps for the first time ever, Kanye’s ego, considered by many to be either his downfall or the driving force behind his creative ambition, now seems to be leading him to new, unconventional terrains without purpose.
Though the shift to Evangelical Gospel music may seem like a lake dive in comparison to his recent run of 20 minute albums, day one Kanye fans can reference West’s connection to God and music by scrolling all the way back to Bring Me Down. Still, Jesus is King is executed as a divisive modernist concept album in comparison to the spoon fed soul samples of early Kanye, but without the braggadocios rigour and bravery of Yeezus.
It should be of no surprise that the man who once compared his need for God to Kathy Lee Gifford would be capable of forming such brainless allegorical references as “what if Eve made apple juice?” A handful of songs do show promise, with West’s touring phenomenon Sunday Service and a host of different producers acting as sort of deacons in the Church of Kanye. In the end, a lack of cohesion or sonic identity throughout the album mutate these efforts into half baked ideas. What’s worse is that for all of the difficulty and offence, this is a baby step in a storied career of risk taking.
The widely reported Closed on Sunday, aside from plugging bible thumping fried chicken empire Chick-Fil-A, doesn’t achieve much but an uncharacteristic acoustic guitar and a chorus of vocals with no considerable message. During On God, Kanye’s new status as a “radically saved” born again takes full effect with rehashes of his comments on the prison industrial complex, a modern day devil in Instagram, and how the IRS and his voluntary lack of competitive reality show appearances pushed his 3 billion dollar Yeezy empire to mark their sneakers so high.
It all climaxes at the record’s finale where the long awaited Clipse reunion, pulling the great No Malice out of rap retirement, is paired with a high frequency sax solo from smooth jazz impresario, Kenny G. Later, Kanye screams “Jesus is Lord” in autotune before the album abruptly cuts to silence. It is more absurd than it sounds.
By record’s end, one must ask themselves if Kanye’s conversion to devout Christianity is genuine rebirth. Kanye considers his embracement of Christian music and belief as an overall win for Christianity more than himself, which by every means is bonkers. Other than that, between Kanye’s best releases and forays into exuberance and darkness, Jesus is King sits at the bottom end of the catalogue, offering neither with a messy and sporadic presentation.
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