Kanye West releases Christian-themed album

Following a year-long absence from releasing music and a relative lack of controversy on social media, vocalist and producer Kanye West has returned with an artistic statement in the form of the album “Jesus Is King,” released on October 25.

“Jesus Is King” should be applauded for being an ambitious stand alone album. It fails, however, to hold up well against the rest of West´s discography. The 11 tracks and 27 minutes of the album are very inconsistent, with the tracks ranging in quality from subpar to astounding.
West fans have waited for new music from the multi-platinum recording artist ever since the cancellation of the album “Yandhi,” through an announcement on September 17, 2018.
“Jesus Is King” is an album very few could have anticipated.
One thing that must be stressed is that “Jesus Is King” is a gospel and Christian rap album. These genres are not foreign to West, as evidenced by tracks such as “Jesus Walks,” “I´ll Fly Away,” and “Ultralight Beam.” However, this is the first time West is making an entire album composed of these musical influences.
Perhaps the biggest departure from his past albums is the lyrical content. West shies away completely from profanity on this album, focusing instead on his Christian faith and how it has allowed him to grow as a person.
This is best displayed in the tracks “Selah” and “On God” where West comments on his public behaviors, criticisms and different struggles within his life.
The loud, exciting production on these tracks grabs the listener’s attention. However, West allows his own self-indulgence to get in the way. West claims his message is to spread the ideals of his faith; instead he uses his faith as a way to enhance his own self image.
This, along with the songs on the album feeling short or unfinished, becomes a consistent issue that hinders the album from reaching its full potential.
“God Is” is arguably the best song on the album. From the vocal sample of gospel singer James Cleveland in the background, to the raw, impassioned vocals from West, this song is an amazingly beautiful gospel ballad. This track stands as one of the few examples of West not allowing his ego to get in the way of the song’s message.
Most of the gospel vocals on the album are provided by the Sunday Service Choir along with R&B vocalists Ant Clemons and Ty Dolla $ign. On many tracks, these artists even manage to steal the spotlight from West himself.
“Water” is a prime example of West allowing the featured artists to outperform him. While Clemons and the Sunday Service Choir sing with passion and soul, using “water” as a metaphor for purity, all West provides to the track is a stoic, lifelessly performed rap.
The album also features guest performances from gospel singer Fred Hammond, jazz saxophonist Kenny G and hip hop duo Clipse.
At its best, “Jesus Is King” is one of the most ambitious gospel albums of recent years, fusing the genre with elements of hip hop, soul, R&B, jazz and electronic music. The album moves West’s artistic boundaries further, while still providing long time fans with the signature production style of West.
At its worst, the album is a showcase of West’s ego, with its short run time being due to the slew of tracks that feel more like half songs than fully realized musical compositions.
Overall, the album is surely a recommended listen for any fans of Christian music and fans of West alike. Beyond a number of underwhelming performances and unfulfilling songs, the album should cause reasonable excitement and speculation towards the future of the West’s musical output.
*** 3/5 Stars