Kanye West is simply too talented to make a terrible album. As a producer alone, the man understands music and can utilize samples in such interesting ways that a poor album from him would be an above-average project for many other artists. Unfortunately, however, Jesus Is King is still certainly a poor album by these standards.
Throughout his work, Kanye has never been shy about his faith, one of his first singles was ‘Jesus Walks’ and you’d be hard-pressed to find an album of his without a reference to faith on it. Many of these songs have involved impressive gospel instrumentation with that Kanye flair, which at their best blends gorgeously. The strength of these tracks made me excited to see Kanye try his hand at a full gospel album.
At its best, he does create a number of gorgeous gospel tracks similar to those which appeared on previous releases. ‘Every Hour’ is a fantastic intro and if every song on the album had that perfect blend of top-tier Kanye production with gospel, Jesus Is King would be an undeniable classic. Many come close, especially those which open and close the album. ‘Selah’ is not my favorite Kanye song, but actually has well-written lyrics and transitions to a pretty hard beat. ‘Follow God’ is the closest thing to a “religious banger” that the album offers, Kanye actually spits on it and the beat is really great, even if the production feels rushed.
The final songs also have some beautiful moments to them, notably ‘Hands On’ and ‘Use This Gospel’, which features an absolutely chilling Kenny G saxophone solo. However, the middle of the album is somewhat forgettable and messy. ‘On God’ is sloppy, ‘Closed On Sunday’ has its moments, but the most used bar in the song is also one of Kanye’s corniest.
All of this leads to the root of why this album is a disappointment: it sounds rushed and half-baked. At its core, there’s a remarkably good gospel album here, it just needed a couple more months to flesh out the songs, tighten up the production, and throw in some better lyrics. Sadly, Kanye stops himself from reaching his full potential through his need for attention by setting deadlines for a project that is not finished. The 808s throughout it are sloppy, there is little profound being said, and many of the tracks are too short to know if they are even substantive.
Jesus Is King is not a failure, but it is a disappointment. For as much as this album tries, that beautiful, pure final verse on ‘Family Business’ there could shake an atheist to their core more than any track here.
Image: Shaheen Karolia via Wikimedia Commons