The ninth studio album of the modern world's leading musician is called «JESUS IS KING» — but it is not what it seems.
First off all, originally the album was supposed to be completely different and be released under the name «Yandhi» more than a year ago. After that, it was replaced by «JESUS IS KING», which also still could not meet its deadline — while Kanye banned his collaborators from having premarital sex while recording the album.
Breaking the deadline after the deadline, Kanye managed to presale merch, to release a documentary about an album recording — and he practically established his own church.
Sunday service, the project West launched at the beginning of 2019, is a mixture of musical performance and church service, as its name suggests. And there are quite a few questions already: from the dubiousness of the very idea of his religious speculations to claims of elitism in the "service," most of whose guests are Grammy-winners dressed from head to toe in Kanye's personal brand.
However, in the context of West's relationship with religion, this project is not at all surprising—quite the contrary, it is completely logical. His first big hit was «Jesus Walks» — and it really is about Jesus, going hand in hand with Kanye. After that everything went exponentially: releases «Late Registration», «Graduation» and «My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy» each in its own way was dedicated to Kanye's reflection of his sinful yet exalted nature. West's lyrics, in addition to biblical quotes, were always primarily filled with an extremely honest conversation about himself, with himself — full of bragging, rudeness, self-doubt, and self-flagellation.
In 2013, in his wild, chthoniс, gloomy «Yeezus», Kanye simply tells us that he is God; three years later, in the luxurious and dense «The Life Of Pablo» he demotes himself to the Apostle Paul; in the intimate «ye» of 2018, he speaks about his bipolar disorder and admits he is thinking about killing his wife.
Now Kanye has recorded an album, half of which is gospel music.
Of course, there is not only gospel — no one seriously expected that, in the whole year that had passed since the announcement, Kanye was just practicing choral singing. As usual, he collaborated with today's best musicians and producers: from Kenny G to Ronny J, from Fred Hammond to Timbaland. This is not surprising: Since the days of «College Dropout», Kanye has always known how to collaborate, so you can blame him for his exaggerated egocentrism as much as you want, but it does not prevent him from seeing talent in others and understanding how to use it.
«JESUS IS KING» is completely devoted to Kanye's relationship with God, which has always been quite complicated, but now seems to be in a bit better place: Kanye's lyrical alter ego is striving to move away from his own exhausting maximalism, which has forced him to constantly swing between self-praise and self-neglect. Now he is trying to separate himself from God and build some kind of dialogue.
«JESUS IS KING» has unexpectedly pure acoustics (the melancholy «Closed on Sunday»), and a return to classic R&B production («On God»), the heartbreaking saxophone of Kenny G («Use this Gospel»), a pipe organ, and the gospel itself (the incredible «Selah»), and the 80s: Name it and you got it. This is an enthusiastic, insightful, and melodic work, sparkling with references both to Kanye's past works and to the world's musical heritage.
Like the previous release, it is deeply conceptual and conceptual in a serious way: This is the hallmark of Kanye West both as a musician and as an artist in general — because he is no longer just a musician, and he hardly fit into this role ever. His concept was never just a game for him.
Kanye's alter ego cannot be separated from him himself, and his controversial, even odious public behavior looks like a performance. It's hard to say for sure whether the endless postponement of the release is the result of his perfectionism or just a marketing strategy meant to tick off the world media community. Nor can we say whether Kanye really does believe in his role as a preacher conducting Sunday services.
Because at the end of the day it does not matter.
But something hints at this: He is serious, nevertheless. It is precisely sincerity, that makes Kanye a truly great artist — not just unconditional melodic and poetic talent: to build a myth around himself, to believe in it and to make others believe, to erase the line between art and reality — not even erase, but to show there is actually no line — to do all of this, one must be absolutely honest with oneself and just as serious.