Column: “Donda” delivers … sort of
After several missed release dates, listening events in Atlanta and Chicago, and an Instagram post saying Universal Studios released the album without his approval – Chicago artist Kanye West has finally released his 10th studio album, “Donda”.
While any drop from West sparks a conversation, the 27-song album is a representation of the logistical hell he put fans through to get there.
I will say, I’m a little tired of adjusting my expectations; To say that Kanye has fallen out of favor in recent years would be an understatement. Even removing his pro-Trump antics from the image, the quality of his music has hit rock bottom with “Jesus Is King”. It seemed that making any sort of return to real stardom was downright impossible.
Kanye will always be selling records, and he will always have an unyielding horde of fans behind his back, but anyone with working ears and a sense of objectivity will agree that Kanye hasn’t lived up to his name since “I Love It “.
But “Donda” is the return of Kanye as one of the most dynamic and curious names in music. At one hour and 48 minutes, it’s a strange mix of the marvelous and the disappointing.
Simply put, “Donda” is basically two albums: a good one and a really bad one, which I take as a win.
However, I am disappointed to have to make this concession. I’m disappointed that Kanye probably never reaches the heights he reached in 2018 with his sessions in Wyoming. And I’m disappointed to have to sift through 10 (roughly) inferior songs when many Kanye albums are nearly perfect.
Songs like “Junya pt 2”, “Off The Grid”, “Pure Souls” and “Believe What I Say” are some of my favorite Kanye songs since 2010. But songs like “Jail”, “God Breathed” “And” New Again “are a test of reality that he will never return to his best level.
Kanye has always been an artist foremost in production, and “Donda” is perhaps the most striking example. While he gets carried away by features on some songs and some of his Jesus bars cringe, the production is on a new level. There’s a different intensity West finds with drums and bass on the project, showing his work with Playboi Carti on “Whole Lotta Red” in 2020 paid off.
Organs, choirs, pianos, and synths are curtains that frame the rest of the songs, providing a backdrop to the vocals layered on each track. But Kanye hasn’t been an above average lyricist since “The Life of Pablo” in 2016, and there are plenty of verses about the project that raise eyebrows. I was excited for Kanye’s verses, and now I’m just happy he’s trying again.
And that’s why I say I’m tired of adjusting my expectations.
With every new Kanye album, with every new Kanye track, I feel like I have to stand up for my enjoyment of the music that I really want to be better in the first place. I generally like albums that sound like dumps of songs on the surface (“The White Album”, “Speakerboxxx / The Love Below”, etc.) and “Donda” is no different.
But with the missed release dates, the Marilyn Manson and DaBaby association, and the general hysteria surrounding a Kanye release, is it selfish to wait for more? If it’s an album by the man who made “Late Registration”, “Yeezus” and “808s & Heartbreak”, the answer is no. But will I still listen?
Sure. It’s Kanye.
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