by Adam Clements
In the weeks surrounding the release of his seventh studio album The Life of Pablo, Kanye West has, more than ever before, behaved like a conflicted, hypocritical, arrogant misogynist degenerate. He has changed the album multiple times since its initial release, and claims it is still a work in progress. His questionable behavior has included claiming Bill Cosby’s innocence, admitting to being $53 million dollars in debt, publicly demanding a one billion dollar loan from Mark Zuckerberg, and verbally assaulting fellow rapper Wiz Khalifa after misinterpreting a statement on Khalifa’s Twitter account. However, if one can look past his despicable public image and often grossly misogynistic lyrics, West has managed to continue his career-long streak of strong albums.
Pablo is no My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy or Late Registration, two of West’s more polished and near-perfect albums. It is a jumbled and conflicted mess. Sonically, it has tones of modern trap music, gospel, soul samples, and industrial noise music. Content-wise, it ranges from West’s faith in God to his disturbing fantasies of sex with younger celebrities. West worked on Pablo up to the moment it was released, and it shows in the sound of the album.
Yet somehow, the hurried incohesion of Pablo works. Its rapid and unexpected shifts in tone make for a highly entertaining listen.
Although West’s strengths as a producer remain intact, his skills as a vocalist have declined sharply. The album is littered with mediocre lyrics and excessive use of auto-tune. Almost all of the standout vocal showings on Pablo come from guests. Chance the Rapper, Kendrick Lamar, Kelly Rowland and others all contribute outstanding verses.
At this point in his career, West almost functions better as a conductor than as a musician. His greatest strength at the moment seems to be bringing talented people together and pushing them to do their best possible work.
The clear standout on Pablo is the opening song, “Ultralight Beam,” which stands up to any of West’s best work. The simple yet highly effective instrumental, fantastic guest contributions, and remarkably well-placed choir arrangements come together to form a perfectly executed track. Other highlights included “Father Stretch My Hands” and “Wolves.”
Overall, Pablo is not quite at the extremely innovative, near-perfect standard we’ve come to expect from West’s studio albums. It is, however, an enjoyable and entertaining project start to finish. Fans of the artist should have no trouble finding plenty to appreciate, but for those who do not like Kanye West, this is probably not the album that will change their minds.