Kanye West’s religious turn just misses the mark

Asher Heimbuch '22, Web Editor

Rapper, producer, fashion icon and husband of Kim Kardashian, Kanye West has finally released his new album, “Jesus Is King.” After much anticipation, filled with countless delays, West’s ninth studio album and first album of the year was dropped on Oct. 25. The record, featuring 11 curse-free, Christian gospel tracks, is just over 27 minutes long in total. “Jesus is King” is a mixed bag of interesting new themes and sounds, but it doesn’t feel mature or have enough substance to sustain itself.

Throughout the last year, West has said to have gone through a religious awakening, embracing his Christian faith. West’s Sunday Service congregations – a weekly Christian gathering led by West himself – felt like a sign that he was looking to redeem himself from his controversial past. This is not the first time West has brought religion into his music, however. One of West’s first hits back in 2004, titled “Jesus Walks” was acclaimed by music critics, who praised the boldness that came with his open embrace of faith. West’s unpredictable mood swings and indecisiveness about the musical path he wants to follow, has ultimately led him to this new album release.

“Jesus Is King” opens with a fiery bang thanks to West’s Sunday Service. In “Every Hour,” not one word was heard from West in his first track, but the choir’s vocals mixed with sharp piano notes make for an uplifting sound. “Selah” offers beats that are hard hitting, thunderous in way, and a church organ that mixes with more of Sunday Service’s phenomenal background vocals. The track begins to fall apart in the last third of the track though. Some of the thunderous rhythms come in a beat early, which makes it feel off-kilter.

The shift from gospel-oriented to mainstream rap brings me to “Follow God,” which is the commercial song of the record, in my opinion. This track is followed by “Closed on Sunday.” The lyric, “Closed on Sunday, you’re my Chick-fil-A,” loses the sense of seriousness and quite frankly confused me while listening to the song. The phrase was corny, but it was one of the few lines that had an “old Kayne” comedic vibe to it.

In the first half of the album, the tracks seemed a bit anticlimactic. Each have a beautiful sound, but they don’t end up resonating with the listener because of their lack of time to develop. I feel as though West made this album to mark the start of a phase, hence why he made the songs so anticlimactic. Could he be planning something bigger or is he rushing to get to his next phase?

The singles start to feel more complete later in the record. The best features also came in the second half of the album. Individual artists: Ty Dolla $ign, Ant Clemons and Kenny G took the album to a higher level. Ty offers a wonderful, multi-tracked vocal hook on “Everything We Need” and Clemons has prominent verses on the songs he’s apart of. Kenny has a vibrant saxophone solo on “Use This Gospel” that give fans a nostalgic feeling of his popular song “POWER” from 2010.

While West’s departure from his previous self is refreshing in a sense, his long time fans might feel unfulfilled because it’s not as rooted in his previous works. West is a thoughtful artist, but this album seemed too forced. A majority of the tracks left me feeling either disappointed or just wanting more material. This record has less emphasis on production and more of a gospel influence. Anyone who doesn’t consider themselves religious might find it difficult to enjoy the album. However, this record may have the ability to reach non-believers and perhaps will even inspire some listeners. Although “Jesus Is King” displays to the world the “rebirth” of West, I would only give this album a 6.5/10.