|Image Credit: Daniele Dalledonne Flickr|
Artist: Kanye West
Album: The Life of Pablo
Record Label: N/A
Release Date: 14/2/2016
Though it seems that since 2007’s Graduation Kanye West has taken it upon himself to provide more questions than answers, it’s gotten to the point where his antagonistic marketing tricks and schizophrenic output have become far less complex to unravel in relation to their societal presence. For all the twitter-storms, media outrage and perhaps deluded attempts at garnering public sympathy, Kanye’s oeuvre has become as predictable as Nigel Farage’s fear-mongering, or Martin Shkreli’s continuously concocted hatefulness.
It’s the validity that the public reaction to all these things prescribes to him that fuels almost his every step on The Life of Pablo, whose first half would beg the question of how deliberately erratic it is, but by the time ‘Feedback’ arrives and rolls into ‘Low Lights’ the answer is set in stone. The problem with the deliberately agitating moments here is that, although antagonism in music is rarely a bad thing, it’s very hard to feel warmth towards it when most of the time it’s about absolutely nothing. In that respect, one’s enjoyment of ‘The Life of Pablo’ may largely be down to their ability to adopt the same mentality society should have to Yeezy’s public persona; blank out the bullshit and replace it with an interest in his sometimes visionary artistic sensibilities.
As a piece of art, The Life of Pablo is occasionally quite brilliant. ‘Ultralight Beam’ is as soulful and ambitious as much of his approach since My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and although the lack of substance on ‘Highlights’ may disenfranchise those wondering if West will ever regain some Earth-level relatability, at least he’s actually rapping, which is more than can be said for much of his “experimentation” on Yeezus.
Rather predictably the thematic paradigm shifts after the mid-point egotism of ‘I Love Kanye’ and ‘Waves’ is the first hint of vulnerability that West has showcased for years, a glacial and glitzy ode to heartbreak and loss. There’s almost a sense of regret on ‘FML’, a general address of his inner-sanctum that feels as though it’s both genuinely difficult and therapeutic for him to face his flaws. Such is the deficit of mental looseness that exists in almost every aspect of West’s being though, it quite often goes the other way, like on the constant references to how he is the key to cultural liberation in the record’s first half, or ‘Real Friends’, which reeks of “oooh it’s tough at the top” sympathy baiting. Lyrics like “Money turns your kid into an enemy” would sound valid coming from almost anyone else.
The Life of Pablo is like a knife that weaves its way between the marrow and sinews of elegance and ignorance. When it’s focused and elements work in conjunction it can be splendid, but so far ahead of everyone else in his own perception is Kanye that “yes men”, or indeed any other kind of consideration, aren’t even a reality. Ultimately, the disconnect comes with the idea that this works as the signifier as to how many chances one wants to give West in his artistic guise. If it continues in as double-edged a manner as this, I probably won’t be.