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Kanye and Friends: Where is Kanye going next?


by Adam Clements
After Kanye West’s daring sixth album Yeezus, many listeners were dumbfounded as to what his future music might sound like. Violent, dark, and minimal, Yeezus was the complete opposite of Kanye’s previous album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Each of Kanye’s albums has been widely praised for its innovation and originality. Throughout his career, he has never failed to keep listeners and critics alike guessing, and it appears to be “Yeezy Season” yet again as he prepares for a mysterious new release.
More than a year after the 2013 release of Yeezus, Kanye resurfaced again in August with a low-quality bootleg of a new song, called “All Day,” initially believed to be his next album’s first single. “All Day,”  a confident and relatively conventional hip-hop track, surprisingly lacked the out-of-the-box originality that often marks Kanye’s music. Now, six months later, an official completed version is yet to be released. Instead, on New Year’s Eve he surprised the world with a completely different track, a solemn yet optimistic track entitled “Only One.”
After “All Day,” many listeners were shocked and confused by the drastic shift in tone from other recent works by Kanye to “Only One.” It featured a lightly autotuned Kanye singing from the perspective of his deceased mother over a simple keyboard arrangement performed music legend Paul McCartney. The stunning departure from the style of his recent music indicated he had a change of heart from his initial plans for the album. Once again Kanye had found a way to do something completely unexpected. The trajectory set by “Only One” continued in late January 2015 with “FourFiveSeconds,” a collaboration with pop artist Rihanna about a struggling relationship. As with “Only One,” Kanye’s new single has a somber but uplifting sound with an absence of the usual drums. The song again features Paul McCartney, but this time on guitar. Both songs were performed at this year’s Grammy awards.
Although “FourFiveSeconds” lacks the emotional impact of “Only One” and is very simple lyrically, it carries a strong enough musical aesthetic to keep expectations positive for the upcoming project. But the question still remains: What will Kanye’s new album sound like? Early in 2014, an anonymous source told Billboard that the album contained “mostly a mixture of soul samples and tamed ‘Yeezus’-esque darkness. Nothing abrasive.” In an interview with website Life+Times, acclaimed producer and rapper Q-Tip claimed to be producing the album alongside fellow producer Rick Rubin. All such statements were made in the first half of 2014, however, and it is entirely possible that the circumstances surround Kanye’s seventh album have changed.
Is it possible that songs like “Only One” and “FourFiveSeconds” are on the same album as songs marked by aggression and darkness? Maybe. Yeezus contained largely industrial, aggressive, and electronic sounds, a far cry from the mellow keyboard and guitar chords of “Only One” and “FourFiveSeconds.” It seems unlikely, but given Kanye’s track record of experimenting and unusual decisions it is possible. Most likely, however, he recorded most of a more traditional hip-hop album filled with braggadocio and aggression, only to decide in its late stages that it did not fit his standards of quality and innovation and start over in a completely different direction. When asked about the album’s details during an appearance on The Ellen Degeneres Show in January 2015, Kanye said, “I don’t know yet, we’re still trying to find the vibe with this transition from what I felt from when I did Yeezus to what I feel now.”
Nobody can know for sure what will happen in the world of Kanye West music this year, perhaps not even the man himself. “Only One” and “FourFiveSeconds” may not even end up on his album. Regardless, it seems likely we will be seeing new music from Kanye in 2015. This is great news for the music industry, and signals an exciting year for Kanye fans.

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