“JESUS IS KING” in review

Ryder Brookes, A&E Reporter

On his ninth studio album, Kanye West turns his focus towards God, creating a short album with some notable triumphs, yet which overall shows little substance and zero musical growth.

The highly controversial, yet widely-acclaimed Chicago rapper finally released “JESUS IS KING” towards the end of this October after delaying its release on multiple occasions. Kanye is considered one of the most influential artists of the past two decades because he combined other genres with rap to create a unique and interesting sound, and he has always used a different musical palette with each album. 

With his musical track record, it seemed like Kanye would deliver a gospel album that would compete with his past projects as one of his best, yet the short 27-minute album left me underwhelmed.

The album opener “Every Hour” is an introduction to the gospel sound that is subtly sprinkled throughout the album. As the only song without vocals from West himself, it puts Kanye’s Sunday Service Choir front and center. The track is powerful and simple in its message of God being with everyone in every moment.

Another noteworthy track is “Use This Gospel,” featuring Clipse and Kenny G. The song contains some of the most introspective and creative lyrics on the album, and the darker production coincides perfectly with Kanye’s message of asking God for forgiveness and being grateful for the blessings he has received in his life.

“Use This Gospel” is also one of first-year Will Weisz’s favorite tracks.

“The introduction of the song and the Kenny G sax solo is very nice at the end,” Weisz said.

The minimal, rhythmic and gospel-inspired production is often the best part of every song. For example, a sample from musical artist Whole Truth’s song “Can Lose You By Following God” on Kanye’s “Follow God” highlights the sample-heavy and classic style Kanye is known for. 

While the album is in a different lane in Kanye’s discography, it has its flaws, mainly due to Kanye’s missed opportunity to shift the focus away from himself and towards general Christian identity.

On the album, we get egocentric Kanye who seems out of place for the messages he’s preaching. 

Although Kanye’s brash and confident personality has garnered a lot of fans, this step towards gospel music should have led him to write lyrics that focus the attention off himself and towards the Christian experience in America. For example, on the track “On God,” he says, “[I’m] the greatest artist restin’ or alive,” which totally throws the album’s themes of repentance and morality out the window. 

Based on what he’s said in the media about wanting to produce a pure gospel album, his praise is often not just focused on God, but capitalism as well. He mentions his material wealth throughout the project, which draws away again from the message he’s trying to promote. These lyrics and many others don’t justify any creative growth and shows he’s still stuck in his old ways.

When asked about if she liked the direction West is going in after the release of the project, sophomore Ashley Joe said, “Whether or not Kanye’s religious message connects with me doesn’t matter as much as the beat, rhyme and melody.”

Out of Kanye’s discography, “JESUS IS KING” is one of his most disappointing. The project lacks substance and a potent musical palette like his best albums “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” and “Yeezus,” both of which have a lot more to say and have a much more cohesive feel to them. And even “The Life of Pablo,” an album that isn’t revolutionary in its production, style or themes, is a consistent album that knows the message it’s trying to get across.

“JESUS IS KING,” on the other hand, is very scattered in its themes and musical palette. Comparing Kanye albums is difficult because of the stark contrast between their content and their time of release, and because Kanye West is an amazing artist who has had an undeniable influence over rap and the music industry. He is a genius, yet on this album it doesn’t shine through.

As a person, he says a lot of controversial things, but I think that if people took the time to understand what he’s really saying, they would understand that he’s actually not so crazy,” first-year Peter Fitch said. “Musically, I don’t think that anyone can deny that he is extremely talented and never fails to bring his best to each project.”

With all of this said, Kanye was able to make a short album that had some highlights. Yet, it still lacked the substance that made his other albums timeless. I have no doubt that he will come back and reinvent himself once again. If he wants to continue with his exploration of gospel-sound, he should focus less towards boosting his ego and more towards lifting up believers and nonbelievers alike.