The irrepressible ‘Yeezus’ returns to his saintly duties with the hotly anticipated media furore that is ‘The Life of Pablo’. The self-appointed “biggest rockstar on the planet” delivers a polarising mess of an album, which smacks of desperation to be “artsy”. Kanye sells these half-baked, pretentious pieces as concepts, yet from within these trenches of mediocrity, a few bursts of genius do emerge.
Auto tune defecates its pristine shimmer all over this record, particularly on the lacklustre ‘Wolves’ and ‘Pt.2’, this seeks purely to remove any promise the song may have had and serves as a ferocious irritant throughout. That being said, there are some fantastic vocal performances in places, particularly on the wonderful, gospel-inspired Kanye communion of opener ‘Ultralight Beam’, Kelly Price provides a soulful edge to the song, combining seamlessly with the euphoric gospel choir and stop start beats. Other guests have mixed success on ‘The Life of Pablo’, with Rihanna’s poppy vocals threatening to derail the decent ‘Famous’, the bass is pulverising while Kanye’s well-documented gargantuan ego carries the track, yet its scattered nature is its Achilles heel, it doesn’t follow any logical progression in its pursuit of sounding “edgy” and falls, flat and edgeless. Kendrick Lamar’s guest verse on the slinky banger that is ‘No more parties in LA’ is an album high, his flow is impeccable, and this seems to bring some fire out of Kanye, who is not the greatest rapper or lyricist in the game, but delivers one of his most convincing performances of the album. Kanye is a spokesman for the self-entitlement generation, an arrogant, narcissistic brat at times, he summarises the hopeless nadir of modern society in the murky, manic ‘Facts’ with a reference to “Kimoji’s”, a creation of sickening malevolence, proving that while he may not be the spokesman the younger generation want, he’s the one that a generation in which “Kimoji’s” are allowed to exist, deserve. ‘Fade’ sees out the album not with a bang, but a pointless, mundane whimper, a horrendous 90’s dance throwback where Kanye’s influence is barely registered.
The skits on ‘The Life of Pablo’ are a mixed bag, as is everything on the LP to be honest. ‘Silver surfer intermission’ is barely worth a mention, but the tongue in cheek, hater-baiting ‘I love Kanye’ is the pure essence of Kanye as he sarcastically spits “I hate the new Kanye//the bad mood Kanye//the always rude Kanye//spaz in the news Kanye”, affirming his intolerance for critics as though it wasn’t already thrust into the faces of the public on a near-daily basis. The dark menace of ‘Freestyle 4’ contains the erraticism of the rest of the record, but channels it to its advantage, producing a lo-fi, erratic snarl of a track. This collision of ideas fails more than it succeeds however, with the album flowing about as cohesively as two small moons colliding, the transition between songs is jarring, and even within certain tracks, the progression does not allow for an enjoyable listen, particularly on the bizarre, annoying electronic whir of ‘Father Stretch my hands Pt. 1”, in which Kanye provides beautiful poetic prose about “bleached assholes”. The double take of ‘Low lights’ and ‘High lights’, ironically, are both low lights, pure filler tracks, sounding rushed and confused in their own artistic direction, as does the track that precedes them ‘Feedback’, where gnarled beats mask poor lyricism and a weak flow from Kanye. Both ‘Waves’ and ’30 hours’ are a chore to endure, the irritating, crawlingly slow nature of both cuts grates the eardrums, while ‘Waves’ has a particularly aggravating mash of vocals that achieve nothing. ‘FML’ had the potential to be good, with Kanye’s verse injecting some much needed urgency into the frequently turgid ‘Life of Pablo’, yet the Weeknd’s overblown vocals detract from the genuine sincerity of the track. Kanye remains defiant to his haters, and apparently logic on this track, as the ending ventures into some distant realm, making no sense whatsoever. ‘Real Friends’ is the most heartfelt track on the album and a real high point, where sombre backing instrumentation, including a chiming piano melody, blends perfectly with Yeezy’s ode to the fake friends encrusted into the poisoned chalice of fame.
‘The Life of Pablo’ is certainly a mixed bag, ultimately sounding like a collection of ideas rather than a cohesive album, where some of the ideas are executed masterfully, as on ‘Ultralight beam’, ‘Real Friends’ and ‘No more parties in LA’, or conversely, where the rush of the creative process produce songs lacking a clarified musical direction, and sounding deeply confused and uninteresting as a result.