Kanye West’s new album ye is mercifully brief. It’s comprised of just seven tracks, totaling twenty-three minutes. But in that short time, West is able to sprint through most of the bad press he’s been able to stir up in the month leading up to the album release. He speculates that the #MeToo movement is coming for him, doubles down on the “slavery was a choice” comment, and brings up Tristan Thompson’s infidelity. He talks at length about his mental health. The only sound byte left out is West’s bizarre endorsement of Donald Trump, a relationship that left most fans scratching their heads.
Moments of darkness, the ones West is referring to on “I Thought About Killing You,” are horrible. And yet, it’s nearly impossible to conjure any sympathy, or even too much interest. He sticks to the droll, singsong meter that made him famous. On “Yikes,” West’s refrain of “sometimes I scare myself” should be a cry for help, but instead it’s played out like a boast.
“Wouldn’t Leave” is a celebration of Kim Kardashian’s stony, ride or die virtues. It’s not exactly an apology, more of a proclamation of his wife’s endurance. “Violent Crimes” is a modern “Thank Heaven for Little Girls,” a creepy ode to his daughter’s potential hotness that is a brilliant example of West’s relationship to women. See, before fatherhood, women were objects to lust after. But now, they are objects that other men lust after. West’s worries about his daughter’s future “curves under her dress” sound much more like his pal in the White House, than a forward-thinking kid from the Chi.
“Ghost Town” is the best track off Ye. It’s soulful and satisfying, with hints of rumored (but not credited) contributor Kevin Parker (Tame Impala). Kid Cudi is featured, a teaser of his upcoming collaboration with West. It’s a measured, reflective sound, just without the bombastic one-liners of “Everything I Am” or “Late.” Instead, you’re left with the confused metaphor, “I put my hand on the stove, to see if I still bleed,” a line that sums up the confusion of the album succinctly—is this a joke, or are we giving him too much credit?
Technically, ye is fine. Tracks are catchy and have slick production. In typical Kanye fashion, samples come from inspired deep cuts, far-ranging influences that miraculously fit together when assembled by West (notably on the solo banger “All Mine”). But in 2018, most people don’t have Kim Kardashian-level patience for delusions of grandeur and denial of any social responsibility.
Kanye West has made some great music, so perhaps producing seven passable songs is just reflexive at this point. For all the juicy voyeurism ye provides, it mainly serves as a portrait of celebrity, offering very little material of substance in an otherwise pretty spectacular career.
Notable Tracks: “All Mine” | “Ghost Town”