From the traditional, house moving vocals on Aretha Franklin’s 1972 gospel album Amazing Grace, to Shirley Caesars gospel work in the 80’s that included a modern twist on the classic genre, I have been a long-standing admirer of Gospel.
When Kanye West announced an impending Gospel Album as his 9th full-length project, entitled “Jesus Is King” fan’s expected the unexpected, as Kanye loves to keep his audience guessing and step out of his limitations.
As a Kanye West enthusiast, I had kept up with the documentation of Kanye’s fairly recent Sunday Services.
The service has been described as a church-ish gathering, mainly consisting of A-list celebrities and family members. With a different location for each service and a dress code for the choir and attendees, this extension of Kanye’s christian faith is truly a thought out production.
When multi-media millionaire and soon to be lawyer Kim Kardashian West announced the expected date for Jesus is King, it seemed like a natural expansion upon what Kanye had already been doing in his Sunday Services.
And after four missed release dates, and much anticipation, Jesus Is King came to streaming services everywhere on Oct. 25th.
While I don’t like to let my expectations dictate my opinions, I can unfortunately say Jesus Is King did not live up to the unorthodox and layered spin on soul I had in mind.
With Godly references left and right, complete lack of cussing and refrain from the use of any “impure” references, sure you could call it a Christ-like album, but with bland and somewhat childish word play and weak instrumentation, the highlight of this album is the gospel choir itself.
All jam packed into 27 minutes, this project is not short and sweet, but rather needed more. With features ranging from Ty Dolla Sign to Kenny G, I’d say a lot of the guest vocals and verses on here were the highlight of the album.
Westuses this label of a “gospel” album to express his own personal experience with faith, not applicable to everyone and very specific to him. He discusses his disputes with the media, and his unholy affiliations. On tracks like “Selah”, a high point on this album instrumentally as the choir increasingly swelles in volume to make a stunning wall of sound.
While I admire Kayne’s passionate flow on this track, the lyrics comparing his struggles to that of Noah, I find disconcerting, as almost a way to excuse his behavior with a religious figure. In more than one place throughout this album Kanye more or less uses God and religion as a blanket excuse for his wrongdoings.
As well as the slightly egotistical lyrics, the instrumentation in parts seems rushed and choppy compared to other Kayne West projects, where everything is usually wildly interesting and meticulously crafted. While artists expanding beyond the box of conformity is something music needs, this attempt was not executed well.
One of the tracks I have the biggest problems with is “Closed On Sunday”. 30 seconds into this track, I thought it would end up being one of my favorites. With its eery guitar plucking and a haunting carol like choir, it had a very grand introduction. That was until the lyrics accompanied the instrumental, “Closed on Sunday, you my Chick-Fil-la” … really? The song goes on to be pretty lyrically obnoxious, in the worst ways possible.
All and all, I love the idea of a gospel Kanye album, and while I think this album takes beautiful inspiration from gospel and has religious context, with Kanye’s level of expertise, experience with production and attention to detail, I know this album definitely could have been better.