Associate News Editor
On Oct. 25, 2019, Kanye West released his ninth studio record, “Jesus is King.” While this marks West’s second vulgarity-free album, the first being “808 and Heartbreak,” much of the album’s significance comes with its focus on Christian-beliefs and the worship of God. West has a history of Christianity influencing his music: spiritual titles such as “Jesus Walks,” praiseful lyrics in tracks such as “Ultralight Beams,” and even gospel choirs and preacher-esq monologues in tracks like “Never Let Me Down.” With all the pre-album press, such as the controversial West announcing himself as a born again Christian, many were excited to hear this new style of Kanye music. After waiting beyond the hype and reevaluating the record, however, I found the 27 minute album felt as if it was missing something.
The album begins alright with “Every Hour,” The tune features a church choir singing gospel-esq lyrics over a simple piano riff. While it would work really well as a transitional track mid-album, I feel it lacks the proper impact for a true album starter. In Kanye’s past iterations of choir vocals, the vocals made the song feel grand beyond the proportions of a typical rap song. The mixing is also a bit odd, as there’s no crescendo or beginning cord, with the song seemingly beginning mid-track.
The first instance where Kanye creates a powerful atmosphere through church inspirations is “Selah,” the main single of the album. The mixing of the organ and choir with modern beats truly makes an impact. The lyrics also focus heavily on Chirstian characters and stories, even directly reciting bible verses. One of the stronger tracks of the album.
“Follow God” is a track which subjectively had potential, but falls short due to some issues. The song starts tremendously strong, with Kanye’s signature of fantastic sampled-beats; yet, the song is hindered by Kanye’s boring, almost monotone delivery, removing a lot of the song’s energy. The lyrics also become rather repetitive, even for a less than two minute track.
“Closed on Sunday” is likely the weakest track of the record. The lyrics here are notably awkward, being the one song on the album feeling cheap and pandering. The synthesized instrumentation is also bland, making the two and a half minute song feel tedious.
“On God” is also rather weaker. While the lyrics are certainly improved, the synths still feel a little too strong. Perhaps, it’s just a personal bias, but I always find Kanye’s at his best when combining electronic elements to natural instrumentation. “Everything We Need” upholds similar issues, albeit still being more enjoyable. The autotuned choir felt more fitting in this track, with the organ-esq backing supporting the artificial sounds.
“Water” contains some of the strongest vocals of the album, both from the featured single and the featured ensembles. The beat is also very calm, which is potential symbolism for the spiritual cleaning held within water. Ironically, the weakest aspect of the track is Kanye’s single verse. Luckily, “Hands On” improves on these features, giving off strong “808 and Heartbreaks” vibes.
The eight and tenth tracks, “God is” and “Use this Gospel” respectively, are the strongest songs in the album. “God Is” in particular uses an amazing sample with piano and flute instrumentation, along with choir backings, creating a fantastic sound which fits the themes of worship the album builds upon. “Use this Gospel” is also notable for its breathtaking saxophone solo performed by Kenny G.
My feelings towards the final track, “Jesus Is Lord,” describes my overall feelings of the album: while set up with some great instrumentations, it feels lacking in impact and build-up. It’s also oddly short at less than a minute. While I’m interested to see Kanye build upon these themes in future projects, I don’t know if he can capture the same appeal with the masses without his impactful beats and iconic lyrics of past projects. Overall, I rate the album a 6.5 out of ten.