29 February 2016

REVIEW: Kanye West - The Life of Pablo

There comes a time in every great artist's career when they hit a crossroads.  After about ten years, an artist either finds a way to successfully coast amidst the wave of new talent, or they implode under the pressure of their own stardom.  With The Life of Pablo, Kanye West is in somewhat of a gray area.  The album has gone through several name changes, even in the weeks (and days) leading up to its release.  This made fans wary of what to expect from the finished product.  Kanye, being the marketing genius that he is, managed to use his indecisiveness (as well as a scathing Twitter rant) as a massive tool for promotion which ultimately worked in his favor.  Alas, the album itself suffers from the same identity crises that have been plaguing 'Ye as an artist for some years now; TLoP has no idea what it wants to be.

We were treated to a lightweight edition of the "Good Friday" series where Kanye dropped a few tracks here and there to give fans a taste of what to expect.  The problem is that the songs he chose just so happened to be the best songs on the album. "Real Friends," "No More Parties in LA," and "30 Hours" all sound like vintage 'Ye, and would have fit perfectly on something like Late Registration.  By having these songs lead the way, it gave longtime fans hope that the rest of the album would be more of the same.

The Life of Pablo starts off with a church anthem in "Ultralight Beam," its most focused and complete track, which features a decent assist from fellow Chicago native Chance the Rapper. It's actually a strong intro, but the rest of the tracks on the album aren't nearly as fleshed-out, nor do they adhere to any sort of theme or concept.  From there, Pablo starts flying in several different directions in a half-assed attempt to appeal to the diverse fanbase Kanye has amassed over the years, while still striving to preserve his own established sound.  As a result, the project never gels the way that it should, especially considering the time Kanye poured into it.

The first half of the album is a series of skits shoved in between about six songs that range from 2-3 minutes each, and completely shatter any cohesiveness that 'Ye may have been looking for. Tracks like "Low Lights," "Freestyle 4," "Silver Surfer Intermission," and "I Love Kanye" all serve no purpose other than to help pad out an album that feels like it's about 10 tracks long.  "Highlights" could have easily been one of Pablo's strongest singles, but you're left feeling short-changed.  For a song that's only 3 minutes, it leaves you craving for at least one more verse from Kanye as it hits its stride.  Such is the case for "Father Stretch My Hands," "Pt. 2," and "Feedback," which are all around 2 minutes each.  What's even worse is that Kanye's ideas jump around within some of the shorter tracks.  It's like the man is channel surfing within his own music because he can't make up his mind on what to focus on.

It seems as if Kanye has forgotten how to put an album together, which may have been a reason for all of the name changes and alterations to the track listing days before TLoP's release.  It all amounts to a convoluted mess with a few bangers like "Famous" peppered across its 18 tracks.  Even though The Life of Pablo has some decent songs, the overall structure of the project makes it difficult to enjoy the sum of its parts.  There are a ton of ideas on Pablo that could have been really good, but simply aren't fleshed out enough to even quantify them.  Couple that with the overall lack of cohesion and this album feels more like The Life of a Gemini, which would have been a far more appropriate title being that TLoP exemplifies Kanye's zodiac sign far more than it does Pablo Picasso or Escobar.
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