A review of Jesus is King
I think that we need some space. I had to put a lot of thought into this, but I feel like you don’t have my best interests in mind and I want you to know this. I love you but it’s far past the time that we need to have this talk. I know that a lot has changed for you in the past few years, but I haven’t changed with you. You’ve been associating with new people, who I unfortunately turned a blind eye to, giving you the benefit of the doubt. You found new beliefs, and even though they’re problematic, I trusted that you would pull yourself out. Kanye, I’m sorry but it’s time to talk.
You have always been there for me. I remember the first time that I heard Homecoming when I was in grade school, and it completely blew me away. You were the first artist that turned me on to hip hop and I felt such a strong connection being from the same city as you. I remember downloading all of your tracks onto my iPod nano and constantly listening to them on my walk to school. I remember the first album that I bought on iTunes was Graduation. I’ve listened to it hundreds of times since and it still holds a special place in my heart to this day.
I vividly remember where I was when every one of your albums dropped. I knew that every time it was necessary for me to drop all of my commitments to listen to them for you. When My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy came out, I rushed to my computer to buy it on iTunes. I listened to it over and over again on top of my Spanish homework that night. I marked down June 18th in my calendar during the run-up to Yeezus. I can still see myself pouring over the CD’s tracklist in the line at Best Buy and I still remember dancing around to every single track in my humid, sun-filled room that summer day. I didn’t even care that most of my friends hated Yeezus. I knew that you had your fan’s best interest in mind.
In high school, I felt a connection to your music unlike that for any other artist. I religiously followed you in not just music, but your life. I had become a fan for the first time because of you, and I completely trusted that you would remain faithful to your soul roots. I knew exactly how it felt to grow up religious in Chicago, and I felt kindred to the soul and house influenced beats of your early discography. I felt a beautiful relationship forming between my own struggles and the content of your message. I knew what it was like to be tempted into sin and excess, I knew what it was like to have difficult and dark thoughts, I knew what it was like to endure heartbreak and pain. You spoke to me then, but I have never felt more distant from you than I do now.
You used to put such meticulous effort into all that you did. I remember the mixed response to The Life of Pablo, and I remember my own confused thoughts on the release. On one hand, tracks like Father Stretch My Hands, Freestyle 4 and 30 Hours were classic Kanye. I felt the same emotion and energy in these as any of your old tracks. I felt the same passion and commitment to much of TLOP as I did to the tracks I had long ago fallen in love with. However, I felt almost betrayed by Feedback, Highlights, and Low Lights. I had difficulty with how fragmented these songs felt and I dismissed them as “not the real Kanye.” Hell, I Love Kanye was perhaps the most self-aware track in your entire discography and I knew that you had no intention to harm my trust in you. You even went out of your way to fix Wolves! It has come to me that you don’t care though, and I now realize that you have not cared for a long time now.
Kanye, I’m sick and tired of making excuses for you. Last summer, I defended you and forced myself to enjoy Ye, even though I honestly thought it was lackluster. I had faith that you knew what was best for your fans. Now I can be honest with myself and admit that I hate Ye. It was so disappointing to hear you lose your care and lose touch with what your old-head fans loved about you. I rationalized that you hadn’t lost your touch when Kids See Ghosts was released the next week, it felt like you were back on top! I was in my friend’s basement for both of these GOOD Friday releases, and I wholeheartedly defended you against any negative criticism for both albums. You were still on top of your game, and I knew that it was wrong of me to doubt you. I want so badly to still be able to defend you, but I cannot in good faith do so anymore.
Kanye, we need to talk about Jesus is King. I’ll put it past us that you never put any effort into releasing Yhandi on time, if you even planned to release it at all. I know you’ve never been good with timeliness. For the very first time in my life, I feel betrayed by you, Ye. I thought you wouldn’t let me down and now it has become abundantly clear that you’ve been doing so for years, and I was ignorant of it because of my love for you.
Let’s start with the good, because this will go a lot quicker than the bad. I can feel that your heart is still in the production, even though there is a lot wrong with this album, there were very few moments that I felt off-put by the beats. “Follow God” and the intro of “God Is” are both immaculately produced. I am also glad that you are sticking with the sub-thirty-minute format for this album, it feels like the perfectly digestible time length. There are moments on “Use This Gospel” where your vocals are as passionate as they ever have been and I’m glad to know that you haven’t completely lost your energy. To be completely fair, many of the lyrics are well written. I’m sorry though, Kanye, I am struggling to find any more redemption in this work.
Onto the part that I know will be hard for you to hear.
I don’t even know how to start this, so I’ll just dive right in. I do not trust you anymore. I know that an artist’s relationship with their fans is complicated, and there are plenty of arguments whether their content should be beholden to themselves or the audience. Sure, it was necessary for Bob Dylan to go electric, but it came at the price of isolating half of his fans. The difference is that when he did so, it wasn’t for lack of effort. It is clear that you do not care about what your fans want at all. Jesus is King is the first time I have felt betrayed by you, even though I should have felt so long before. All the signs were there, but I was too blinded by my affection to even notice. I know you’ve been told before, and will hear it again, but from a lifelong fan, I miss the old Kanye.
I have a hard time saying this, but other than “Follow God“, I felt that all of the songs on this project were a shadow of your former self. My first, and biggest complaint, is that you lost sense of why your relationship with God was so compelling on your past projects. Look at tracks like “Jesus Walks” or “Father Stretch My Hands”. You show your commitment to your faith as an abstract struggle, something intangible that confuses and frightens you. You knew that God was there. You knew that he had a chosen path for you, but it was a path through temptation, torment, and pain. The beauty of the religious imagery you conjured was that it was relatable to anybody. Sin and the struggles of your faith were illusory to existential struggles that everybody will confront. Greed, lust, and wrath are inherently human emotions that you explored through the lens of God better than any other artist I know of. Jesus is King is completely ignorant of this strained relationship, extending a blind faith in the higher power that ignores the strife that everybody has to confront within themselves. There is no complication offered in the contents of this project. You have always been one offering to lift the wool off our eyes, but here you are forcing it back down on us.
I really wanted to enjoy this project, I wanted you to show in some way that you still cared, but you let me down yet again, and this is my final straw. So let’s address where you went wrong here track by track and I hope it clarifies why I cannot do this anymore.
“Every Hour” is perhaps the most uninspired gospel track I have ever heard. It is an intro track seemingly designed to be skipped. The lyrics are so unimaginative that I have a hard time even believing that it was you that wrote them. The synthetic layers you added onto the vocals could be appealing if they hadn’t been juxtaposed with clean, grand piano instrumentation. The mixing sounds cluttered, rushed and claustrophobic.
“Selah” is another track that I would have planned to skip over had I the motivation to listen to this album again, thankfully that won’t be necessary. The “hallelujah” repetition is the laziest mantra on the entire album and the only standout moment of this horrible track.
“Follow God” is easily the best track on the album, but it gave me a false hope that I would be getting something worthwhile out of the rest of the project. And because of this I feel even more let down by this track than any other here. The soul intro feels like you went back to your roots and the production feels like classic Kanye. But still, problems present in the rest of the album hold true here. Your flow is anemic, the lyrics are not standout whatsoever and there is a muddiness in the beat toward the latter half of the song.
“Closed on Sunday” has climbed straight to the top of my list of least favorite songs by you (yes, even worse than Barry Bonds). The lyrics in this song are hands down the worst and laziest of any track you have ever released. I thought my ears deceived me when you spit the line, “Closed on Sunday, you my Chic Fil A.” This is the song that made me realize how little you care about the content of your music anymore. It makes your relationship with your fans abundantly clear, and it hurts me to know that you really don’t care.
“On God” was yet another disappointing track. The only standout detail is the Pierre Bourne production and it could not be further from what I expect out of a Pierre song. The synth arpeggios are migraine-inducing, and the beat felt amateurish and rushed. A far cry from the phenomenal minimalistic trap work he’s done with Playboi Carti and Lil Uzi Vert.
“Everything We Need“, “Water“, “Hands On” and “God Is” all suffered from the same weaknesses that have been present throughout, and they all blend together as a long, unnecessarily drab middle section of filler. One of your redeeming qualities in the past was that even if I hadn’t been completely invested in a track, it at least felt unique. This is the first time that I have actively felt that you gave up in favor of making the work easy. All of these tracks are completely skippable.
“Use This Gospel” is the track that I would argue completely defines this project. There are some great elements like Pusha T’s verse, great vocals from yourself, and an interesting intro. It then devolves into completely unnecessary additions. The most standout is the Kenny G saxophone solo; the beat stops in order to fit it in, and it completely ruins the continuity of the song. It felt like the only reason it made the cut is just to have the feature name there. The beat trails off as if you just gave up on your meticulous attention mid-song. Overall the song is very mediocre, and I don’t even have any desire to listen to it again.
“Jesus is Lord” suffers from the same issues as the intro track. The album is bookended by lazily produced tracks, and then filled with a level of mediocrity that you have never gotten close to approaching before. This is all definitive of your career at this point.
One of the moments I felt closest to on this entire album is when you tell that you, “thought the book of Job was a job.” I feel that my own relationship to you, and I am sure this rings true for many other fans, is similar to that of Job and God. You have tested us all with the downward trajectory of your career and I cannot endure this test any longer. You have let us all suffer through your apathy, and I am struggling to maintain my faith. I don’t see why you are subjecting your fans to this torment. I know that others will scorn at my lack of trust in you, but I cannot suffer any longer as your fan.
Kanye, I feel that our relationship is coming to an end. I have trusted you for my entire life, I defended you to no extent, and recently I just feel tired. I feel so beaten down by your lack of care that I cannot in good faith defend you as an artist any longer. Your relationship with your fans has constantly been changing and I was ignorant of how little effort you’ve been putting in. I know that many out there will continue to maintain their trust in you, I cannot any longer though. From a fan of over fifteen years, I break up with you Kanye. I can’t keep having my hopes shattered by your lack of care, and I can’t keep carrying my end of this relationship if you don’t put in even close to half of yours. I know it won’t change the direction you head in, and I know that I will still listen to your classic albums, fondly wishing that you were still Chicago’s wunderkind. You’ve let me down far too many times to justify my faith in you any longer, I hope the best for you, but I’m done with the heartbreak.