Kanye West’s latest accomplishments have been remarkable- a sort of global church, following the release of his album Jesus Is King and the IMAX film that turned heads. Jesus Is King is not his first gospel album; he did something similar with the more joyful, if somewhat rushed, The Life of Pablo. The album does feature all clean lyrics, as West is focusing back on religion and restoring his faith. Notable hallmarks of 20th century gospel are evident throughout the tracklist as well- a formidable choir, a rippling piano, and rhythms that transcend history and geography.
West released the song “Follow God”, bringing back the Methodist motif (“Father I Stretch My Hands To Thee”) from Isaac Watts in the 1700’s. He also sells the album as a repudiation from sin- a blank slate, a recommitment to his faith in Christianity. Despite his consistently dogmatic approach to his faith, Jesus Is King lacks the vulnerability and acknowledgement of his own moral failings that makes West such an individualistic artist.
West admits to getting lost in drugs and violence for a while, and losing the path of God- but he also appreciates the experiences he gained that helped him see a new perspective. He comes off excited, to keep preaching the gospel and preaching Christianity to those who will listen. Interestingly enough, Jesus Is King denotes specifically the ways in which religion has served Kanye himself, compared to the more traditional gospel invoking struggles and salvation.
I largely enjoyed listening to this album, but my confidence in Kanye’s inspiration and message is starting to quiver. West’s albums will always amaze those with a sound ear and mind, but the meaning behind them is starting to get lost in translation. Empty words and hypocriticism can’t be entirely smothered over by crunchy basslines and rousing gospel, and at some point the appreciation for West’s music will fall short.
By Brynn Sailing