Mosaic / Reviews / March 2, 2016

“The Life of Pablo” disappoints

Kanye West is off the deep end.

In a style that can only be described as a millennial’s dream, Kanye bypassed traditional standards to announce the release of his new album, “The Life of Pablo.”

Who needs elite album release parties or a Hollywood Bluetooth-wearing publicist?

Instead, the artist switched album names and covers a few times, promised album drops on Twitter and finally came through last week when he released it on Tidal, practically begging the world to snub iTunes in favor of a streaming site no one seems too familiar with.

Kanye chronicled the entire saga on Twitter in a series of hysterical, stream-of-consciousness tweets. Some are innocuous: “… on another note, can brah be the girl verson [sic] of bruh??” Some are political: “BILL COSBY INNOCENT !!!!!!!” And some simply beg to be retweeted: “Mark Zuckerberg I know it’s your bday but can you please call me by 2mrw?” Of his 639 tweets, 329 of them were written in February 2016.

It’s easy to expect Kanye’s album would be a simple reflection of his online presence: quotable and a little chaotic. But it’s not. It’s a solid, sprawling collection that almost feels like a mix tape. It’s eclectic, and his use of artists like Chris Brown and Rihanna give the album a distinctly 2008 feel.

But it’s not 2008 Kanye — in the process of producing four albums and becoming a product of Calabasas and the mass-produced, corporate Kardashian circle, Kanye’s lost some his vulnerability and self-awareness as an artist that made him so attractive over a decade ago. Some of his songs like “Father stretch my hands pt. 1” (with Kid Cudi) or “Father stretch my hands pt. 2” (featuring Desiigner) sound like something you’ve heard before, but not from Kanye. They sound like digitally mixed, synthesizer tracks you’d hear blasting from a fraternity house.

He bounces back with a few tracks like “Wolves” (featuring Frank Ocean and Caroline Shaw) and “Ultralight Beam” (featuring Chance the Rapper and Kirk Franklin, although it could be argued that Chance is the only one keeping that track afloat), but they’re not enough to revive the entire album.

With these many guests traipsing all over Kanye’s album, it’s not surprising the album doesn’t really sound like his.

It’s an album that feels just as familiar as it does uncomfortably new. It’s less innovative and melodic as his earlier work. He samples less, and relies on guest artists more. It’s disappointing.

And in a distinctly Kanye style, he still leaves you wanting more.

Kate Mishkin
Kate Mishkin is a senior majoring in English literature and minoring in journalism. She started working for TKS as a freshman and subsequently served as managing editor, co-news editor and co-mosaic editor. Kate is the recipient of four awards from the Illinois College Press Association for news and feature stories and one award from the Associated Collegiate Press. She won the Theodore Hazen Kimble Prize in 2015 and 2014 and the Ida M. Tarbell Prize in Investigate Journalism in 2014. She has interned at FILTER Magazine, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and WGIL radio and the Virginian-Pilot.

Twitter: @KateMishkin

Tags:  album kanye west music rap review

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