Caleb Schreurs — Staff Writer
I considered asking the Diamond powers that be for anonymity before writing this album review, because if my Lover album review inspired backlash, the potential fallout for what I could say in these 800 words is massive. Let it be known, that if I am burned at the stake on the green in the next week, I would like my body donated to the Dordt University science department. Oh, and have Kanye perform at my funeral.
With that aside out of the way, let us dive in. Jesus Is King is the ninth studio project from rapper, producer, songwriter, fashion designer, and public figure Kanye West. The album comes after what one could call “an eventful year” for the artist, or more accurately: a flaming dumpster hurricane of public image troubles.
After the 2018 album Ye wrestled with the nitty-gritty of Kanye’s mental health, the artist took a 180-degree shift in his artistic direction and released a fully gospel-inspired album. The questions that most listeners have been wrestling with is as follows: is this shift genuine? Is Kanye a Christian now?
While this question is genuine and should be discussed, let’s give Kanye the benefit of the doubt and assume he is a Christian. Good for him. I can’t speak for the entire readership of the Diamond, but I do not do a CRC background check before listening to an album; if the artist claims to be a Christian, I will take that at face value.
Diving right in, track by track. The strongest point in this album are the two opening songs, “Every Hour,” and “Selah.” “Every Hour,” sung by Kanye’s personal gospel choir, is the most solid opening to an album this year since Tyler, the Creator’s “IGOR’S THEME.” My only gripe with this track is that it is not two hours long. The mixing makes the listener feel as if the choir has been singing for an hour, the sound tech decided to start recording, but then abruptly ends before two full minutes have even run their course. The Sunday Service Choir is horrendously underutilized outside of the opening two tracks- a definite misstep from West.
“Selah,” soars with pipe organ, driving, thick beats, and some strings scattered in tastefully. West’s self-comparison to the biblical figure Noah does cause a listener with a Christian background to jerk their head some, but this is the only lyrical moment that caused a single eyebrow raise from myself. The instrumentals on this track are reminiscent of The College Dropout released by West in 2004 in all the best ways.
“Follow God,” comes off as filler, a tactic that should be avoided on a twenty-seven-minute album. No lyrical or instrumental moments to speak of here, except for the fuzzy sample in the back of the track, again reminiscent of early 2000s Kanye.
If anything is getting me crucified in this review, it will be this next paragraph. “Closed On Sunday,” is my least favorite song on any album I have reviewed this year, beating out even “Hot Shower,” by Chance The Rapper. Corny rhymes meet lack-luster instrumentals, and what does “Closed on Sunday, you my Chick-Fil,” even mean? Where my brain goes is not the most PG interpretation and there seems to be little in the realm of other interpretations. This track is a pseudo-spiritual proverb vomited over a beat and is nothing more than Instagram quote bait for worship arts majors and essential oils salespeople.
Kanye has a tendency to group his strongest songs together- and also his weakest. The three tracks following “Closed On Sunday,” are equally as weak as the track proceeding them. “On God,” suggests Kanye is under attack from the IRS, the media, and his fans. He proceeds to use these attacks to justify charging over $100 for a t-shirt that looks like it was designed on a pirated version of 2004 MS Paint for the Heaven Gate cult and/or a VBS.
The only other stand-out song on the project is “God Is,” which brings back the Sunday Service Choir to redeem this track. That being said, the choice of going on another trademarked Kanye rant is questionable at best. Why not utilize the fantastic choir readily available? The mixing is also weaker on this song, making it feel like an unfinished idea.
Jesus Is King feels as if Kanye had one or two finished tracks and said to his producer “What if we made a whole album out of this?” When viewed in the context of his most recent project Ye, this most recent release seems to continue the dialogue of West’s mental health, even if indirectly. The religious theme of the album can come across as contrived, convoluted, and even contradictory at times. Musically, it pulls heavily from earlier projects such as 808s and Heartbreak, The College Dropout, and Graduation. Thematically, “Jesus Walks,” off of The College Dropout comes across as a more fleshed out incarnation of West’s theology. Jesus Is King is a fitting follow-up to Ye, finding West in a tumultuous mental state and in varying degrees of public favor.
WILL LISTEN AGAIN:
BURN IT DOWN:
Closed On Sunday
Use This Gospel