So what's the deal with that new Kanye West album? It's supposedly titled So Help Me God, and we've already seen artwork for it. We've been told by Kanye himself that it will drop as a surprise release, because release dates are "played out."
We've also heard some music from it. While there is no confirmed tracklist, Kanye has steadily been releasing music the past few months that we can only assume are going to show up on So Help Me God. Unfortunately, the releases haven't been anything to get us very excited for the record, which leads me to suspect the rapper may be on the way to releasing his first weak record.
I admit, I got very excited about So Help Me God when it was announced that Paul McCartney would be collaborating with Kanye on it. Not to mention Kanye's track record; this is a guy who has not really released a single bad album. Every one has been an essential piece of the puzzle to figuring out the brilliance of his artistry.
Say what you will about the man's personality or actions, but never question his work. From The College Dropout on, he's made nothing but hits.
I was even more thrilled when, this past New Year's Eve, Kanye and McCartney dropped the first song they had worked on together, "Only One." It's one of the best ballads West has ever written. It goes back to his 808's and Heartbreak autotuned soul style, but Kanye's flair for Stevie Wonder-esque songwriting made this one yet another stellar accomplishment.
Unfortunately, on the other hand, newest leak "Awesome," which was purportedly stolen from West's laptop and will feature on his new album, is the same style, only done worse. [Note: a spokesperson for West later disavowed the stolen-laptop rumor.] Let's be honest: if release dates are played out, autotuned singing is so far beyond that. But where "Only One" could overcome that quibble due to its unparalleled melodic mastery, "Awesome" is just trite.
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It's not the first flop from the record, either. Previous singles "All Day" and "Wolves" seem to find Kanye reversing course from the abrasive darkness of Yeezus. Where "Only One" and "Awesome" are indebted to his 808's and Heartbreak style, these two find Kanye going back to "hip-hop."
He himself has described this as an album "embracing music, embracing joy and just being a service to the people." But when have we, as Kanye's fans, ever wanted him to embrace us? His relentless restlessness and forward momentum is why we love him. Going backwards may be his biggest mistake.
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These two songs are weak for the same reason most fans like myself don't really consider Cruel Summer a real Kanye album. When Kanye tries to tread the water of mainstream hip-hop, he descends into the sort of basic music we refuse to accept from someone we know is capable of so much more.
If this album is truly stepping back into that mode, along with dredging up tired tropes of autotuned singing, it could be the first time Kanye has ever taken a step back as well as the first time he has ever made a weak album.
Personally, I am still looking forward to seeing what Kanye has to offer, but so far the songs released from So Help Me God have me setting the bar low. That's something I'm not used to from Kanye, where previous singles only served to hype me up. Before Yeezus dropped, I predicted it would be the album of the year. It was. This time, I can't be so sure, and that's disturbing.
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