Kanye Omari West needs no introduction. After dominating the ‘00s, Mr. West opened the 2010s with, arguably, the best album of the decade: “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.” While his next two albums — 2013’s “Yeezus” and 2016’s “The Life of Pablo” — were a bit more divisive, the general consensus being that both were substantial bodies of work in their own different ways. In 2018, West returned to produce and release five albums for both himself and others like Pusha T, Teyana Taylor and Nas. West’s own release that year, “ye,” was plagued by multiple controversial comments he made in the promotion leading up to it, including his continued support for President Donald Trump and his idea that “slavery was a choice.” While the album itself was not all that bad, it felt too normal for a Kanye album. “KIDS SEE GHOSTS,” his collaborative album with Kid Cudi, released just a couple weeks later, gave fans that fix that was missing and showed fans that he may still have a lot left in the tank. So, when he announced the release of his new album “Yandhi” in September 2018, fans were eagerly awaiting to see the innovators’ next pivot point.
But September came and went, and the album never came out. Finally, after much-maligned delays, “JESUS IS KING” is here in its place. Following up the adventures of his Sunday Service crew, “JESUS IS KING” is a full-fledged religious offering. No swearing, no sinful substances and, apparently, no love-making. The album truly is another unique stage in his ever-changing discography; not unlike his ventures into auto-tune on “808’s & Heartbreaks” or his altering of song structure norms on “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” or “Yeezus.” The difference between those paradigm shifts and this one, though? This one sucks.
The album kicks off with a true highlight in the soulful choir instrumental “Every Hour”; a highlight in that Yeezy himself is nowhere to be found on vocals. After that, it’s all downhill from there. The album is filled with what can only be described as the corniest of corny lyrics and themes. “Closed on Sunday” is potentially the worst song in the entire Kanye catalog; a song so terrible it might make you question ever going to a Chick-Fil-A for the rest of your existence. “God Is” is without a doubt the worst vocal performance of Kanye’s career with each agonizing moment sounding like nails across a chalkboard. While “Follow God” is far from the worst song on the album, the mixing is terrible. While the mixing on “Selah” is perfectly normal, the song is not worth being mixed because it’s a load of garbage. “Everything We Need” with Ty Dolla $ign and Ant Clemons is just boring at best and is too short to be labeled as important to the LP.
Even the actual highlights on this album are nowhere near the bar set by West in the past. The production, usually wholly original on West’s albums, sounds mediocre at best despite a good showing from Pi’erre Bourne on “On God.” Four of the album’s final five songs are actually enjoyable – the one that isn’t? “God Is,” of course. The problem with each of these tracks is still the overriding feeling of fakeness and corniness that comes along with them. This is not a bad album because it’s a religious album. This is a bad album that just happens to be a religious album.
Kanye’s arrogance to the point of making outrageously stupid and false comments in the past few years has resulted in a project that never comes across as genuine because the audience can see right through it. West started the decade on top of the world, but come the end of the decade and it appears as if the reign of one of pop music’s most influential artists has come to an end. Jesus may be king, but Kanye West no longer is.