AUGUSTINE
KATHERINE GORINA
ANTON VALSKY
VALID AS DESIRED
Little is known about Augustine. He looks good, he is surprisingly young, and lives in Sweden, but makes music as he lives in Portugal. He writes his own lyrics, he plays all the instruments himself, and of course, he sings, in a pure and powerful voice. He likes Maggie Rogers and The XX (which is fairly noticeable).

Few have reviewed him, but all of the reviews that exist are laudable.

Perhaps, in some ways, they are even too laudable.

He also has not yet released any full albums, although he does have the EP «Wishful Thinking». The EP has five filigreed tracks about growing up, love, and their side effects.

The debut song, Luzon, is ideal resort music: just right for falling in love with a nameless beauty during a break on the southern coast. It has a delicate introduction and touching vocals and an accurate beat. It would seem as though his music is nothing new, but it gets stuck in your head. This debut is exactly what it should be: written in a bedroom on a Mac, but at the same time, it is not amateurish. It is elegant and imaginative. In this case, his writing conditions are probably more a matter of image than an influential quality factor.

«A Scent of Lily», released a few months later, is at first glance far less catchy and far gloomier. Produced in the style of late the Warpaint, the track includes melancholy synths, a deep groove, and an accurate combination of the layers of percussion patterns. In the end, however, it is the unusual rhythmic structure and depth swings that make the track irresistible.

«Viola» and «Wishful Thinking» (both M83-like indietronica with the potential to be pop hits), and then «Slacks» (shy, with tender acoustics: Bon Iver minus depression) continue the theme of romantic ambivalence in general, which is reflected in both the lyrics and the melodies. There is a dual impression that makes you put his music on repeat in a hopeless attempt to decipher that, which cannot be deciphered.

Perhaps, in its broadest sense, the secret lies in this ambiguity. Augustine sounds like the music of the late 2000s, which has confused a decade. Similar to Flight Facilities, Phoenix or Cut Copy even – a little bit more soft, a little bit more sophisticated. Yet it remains unique and distinctive. Augustine confidently reinterprets the heritage and achievements of that period, passing them through a deep, personal prism. It sounds very mature already, so what comes next?

translated by Rita Bleier

«AND IT'S HARD TO RECALL
A SINGLE THOUGHT OF TODAY»
Augustine, «A Scent of Lily»
The Swedish pop artist Augustine's new album «Wishful Thinking» does not bring anything new to the table, nevertheless, it turned out just fine. The music reels you in and inadvertently climb into your head. The sound is polished and consists of a sweet falsetto, soft synthesizer, and an unobtrusive, simple beat. It is soft indie-pop (as if there is anything but).

In the music videos, an endearing Augustine beautifully smokes while turning halfway or softly dances with rays of sun in his hair, and the colors are almost pastel, with a muffled brightness, and contrasting. And his music is equally unobtrusive and difficult to remember. The sweet voice of the appealing boy inconspicuously sings about love not directed at anyone, rather speaking in the background to the same light rhythm. You inadvertently will return to it, like when you open the window for a reason unclear or take your leg out of warm blankets when you needn't go anywhere. It is dreamy and a little melancholy.

In the circle of (not a few) similar artists, like Sam Florian or Zacharias Zachrisson, both Swedish pop artists, Augustine differs, perhaps, because he is more relaxed, and bright accents and experiments are absent in his music. Although strange, this, in fact, makes his music notable. It is simply pop. Finally dressed in a white t-shirt. Sometimes, in order to not be like everyone else, you need to be as ordinary as possible. Not to mention the fact that his mixing is a bit better than the others.

It is difficult to consider each track separately, as they are all obviously simple, light, and in some way good. That being said, the most melancholy and catchy track «A Scent of Lily», which many like, stands out. Finding the roots of this music is also difficult, too much comes to mind right away (including Lana Del Rey). This might be the first album of a very cool artist, but it might also all end with one album. The musical talent of the artist as a writer is so far hard to discern, because of the album's obviously conscious simplicity.

translated by Rita Bleier
VALID AS DESIRED
Little is known about Augustine. He looks good, he is surprisingly young, and lives in Sweden, but makes music as he lives in Portugal. He writes his own lyrics, he plays all the instruments himself, and of course, he sings, in a pure and powerful voice. He likes Maggie Rogers and The XX (which is fairly noticeable).

Few have reviewed him, but all of the reviews that exist are laudable.

Perhaps, in some ways, they are even too laudable.

He also has not yet released any full albums, although he does have the EP «Wishful Thinking». The EP has five filigreed tracks about growing up, love, and their side effects.

The debut song, Luzon, is ideal resort music: just right for falling in love with a nameless beauty during a break on the southern coast. It has a delicate introduction and touching vocals and an accurate beat. It would seem as though his music is nothing new, but it gets stuck in your head. This debut is exactly what it should be: written in a bedroom on a Mac, but at the same time, it is not amateurish. It is elegant and imaginative. In this case, his writing conditions are probably more a matter of image than an influential quality factor.

«A Scent of Lily», released a few months later, is at first glance far less catchy and far gloomier. Produced in the style of late the Warpaint, the track includes melancholy synths, a deep groove, and an accurate combination of the layers of percussion patterns. In the end, however, it is the unusual rhythmic structure and depth swings that make the track irresistible.

«Viola» and «Wishful Thinking» (both M83-like indietronica with the potential to be pop hits), and then «Slacks» (shy, with tender acoustics: Bon Iver minus depression) continue the theme of romantic ambivalence in general, which is reflected in both the lyrics and the melodies. There is a dual impression that makes you put his music on repeat in a hopeless attempt to decipher that, which cannot be deciphered.

Perhaps, in its broadest sense, the secret lies in this ambiguity. Augustine sounds like the music of the late 2000s, which has confused a decade. Similar to Flight Facilities, Phoenix or Cut Copy even – a little bit more soft, a little bit more sophisticated. Yet it remains unique and distinctive. Augustine confidently reinterprets the heritage and achievements of that period, passing them through a deep, personal prism. It sounds very mature already, so what comes next?

Katherine Gorina
translated by Rita Bleier
«AND IT'S HARD TO RECALL
A SINGLE THOUGHT OF TODAY»
Augustine, «A Scent of Lily»
The Swedish pop artist Augustine's new album «Wishful Thinking» does not bring anything new to the table, nevertheless, it turned out just fine. The music reels you in and inadvertently climb into your head. The sound is polished and consists of a sweet falsetto, soft synthesizer, and an unobtrusive, simple beat. It is soft indie-pop (as if there is anything but).

In the music videos, an endearing Augustine beautifully smokes while turning halfway or softly dances with rays of sun in his hair, and the colors are almost pastel, with a muffled brightness, and contrasting. And his music is equally unobtrusive and difficult to remember. The sweet voice of the appealing boy inconspicuously sings about love not directed at anyone, rather speaking in the background to the same light rhythm. You inadvertently will return to it, like when you open the window for a reason unclear or take your leg out of warm blankets when you needn't go anywhere. It is dreamy and a little melancholy.

In the circle of (not a few) similar artists, like Sam Florian or Zacharias Zachrisson, both Swedish pop artists, Augustine differs, perhaps, because he is more relaxed, and bright accents and experiments are absent in his music. Although strange, this, in fact, makes his music notable. It is simply pop. Finally dressed in a white t-shirt. Sometimes, in order to not be like everyone else, you need to be as ordinary as possible. Not to mention the fact that his mixing is a bit better than the others.

It is difficult to consider each track separately, as they are all obviously simple, light, and in some way good. That being said, the most melancholy and catchy track «A Scent of Lily», which many like, stands out. Finding the roots of this music is also difficult, too much comes to mind right away (including Lana Del Rey). This might be the first album of a very cool artist, but it might also all end with one album. The musical talent of the artist as a writer is so far hard to discern, because of the album's obviously conscious simplicity.

Anton Valsky
translated by Rita Bleier
LANA DEL REY
ANTON VALSKY
KATHRINE GORINA
NORMAN FUCKING ROCKWELL!
In 2012 the flawlessly successful «Born to Die» was released. And since that time the sound is changing, but the main idea of a melodrama about insidious men is still remaining. Understandable, why one will change the thing, which brings her or him fame and money? Lana's reference track (both the text and the vibes) is «Blue Jeans», where an obviously stronger man throws a deliberately weaker lady. A classic story of the Romantic era (who's not sick of that?) has worked flawlessly in the twenty-first century as well.

Del Rey was always differed from the other plastic and defiant pop songs in a slightly more complex structure, kind of detachment even.

Her compositions have never been so flashy-vulgarly as the rest of the mainstream.

Anyway, Lana's albums were always more diverse and unusual than, let's say, Rihanna's (the comparable «Talk That Talk» to the «Born to Die»).

And in the new «Norman Fucking Rockwell» everything is still here: the same rock ballads, muffled drums, and occasionally arising sound effects from the 70-s psychedelia. And a love suffering for nasty peasants, of course.

Just imagine: sitting wrapped in a blanket, eating yummies to feel less depressive, watching a TV-show or listening to music (if such music isn't in such series already).

If in a school-time you were the same clogged child, as I was, therefore, you didn't listen to anything apart from aggressive metal. If so, it might be better to skip the new release and give a choice to the classic «Born to Die» for familiarization, and then forget everything.

But you can check the «Norman Fucking Rockwell» out, if you suddenly would like to be a sad teen from these songs: to go outside, sit on a bench under the oblique non-warming sun, tremble from the wading autumn wind and hold a bottle of wine, which you bought at a discount in the closest and cheapest store around a corner.

It's not a bad album: a very sleepy locks you in a melancholy. The best thing here – «The Greatest» – reminds me of the 60s by its sound. But if I'd like to sadly listen to romantic music, then I'll definitely choose The Beatles.

translated by Verena Podolsky
LANA FUCKING DEL REY!
«Norman Fucking Rockwell!», Lana Del Rey's sixth studio album: fourteen tracks (one of those is 10 minutes long, by the way) and a million of direct references, allusions: from The Eagles to Radiohead, from Joni Mitchell to Coldplay, from Sam Smith to Chris Isaak. Basically, one might play a «guess a melody» or come up with a drink game.

And in certain cases, all this huge amount of hints is paradoxically given in, let's say, «Beatles sauce».

This is the most unbearable and the most interesting her album.

First of all, it's unbearable phonetically, because the weakest thing here is the vocals.

At some point, the vocals crash full of melodic charm «Fuck it I love you». The same goes for the other bigger half of tracks, which are, in terms of music, made in a very, very interesting way.

«Venice Bitch» – the one, which is 10 minutes long – is good mostly because it's not about vocals, but about the arrangement. And here is happening something really incredible: in «Venice Bitch» exist basically everything, what you could expect from a song. It depends only on which exact part you will play it: such a psychedelic improvisation, almost trip-hop, which starts as a pretty innocent acoustic ballad.

In terms of music, here are a lot of actually good solutions. For instance, «California» is just the best thing about the whole album. It is at the same time an anthem and a slow dance, a farewell waltz and a first kiss. Made in a low velvet and non-obvious register, the song reminds of Chromatics. In the same way, as the band, «California» filled with this underlying trembling – it is so adequate itself, so stable, and it does not care at all how it looks like, which makes this song completely irresistible.

Thanks to Jack Antonoff, who produced almost the entire album.

Antonoff has been awarded four Grammys. One of those he received for producing Taylor Swift's «1989». Be that as it may, it was he who scored Lana's entire new album with psychedelic rock with impeccable electric guitars (primarily in «Greatest») and the most gentle piano.

Therefore, with regard to the purely musical part, the album is alive and well.

However, there is also another unbearable aspect: conceptual.

At this point, we have to recall The Beatles again: the album is saturated with their creation.

Their seemingly innocent sentimentality (not causing a single iota of trust) is no different from cynicism: it feels like a dessert of all the most carcinogenic ingredients at the same time, decorated with sugared cherries – it is indecent, shameful.

The Beatles personify the whole catastrophic philistinism of the bohemians of that period, all of «children of flowers»: everyone who preached free love in order to not have to avoid dealing with offended both: exes and friends.

Therefore their music is unusable without a context. Each homagium pulls it along, filling the music with fake, inappropriate decor. So what shall one do, if there is nothing else except the decor?

And it perfectly rhymes with what Lana Del Rey does in terms of meaning.

Just look at this! 2019 and a woman looks foolish, if she couldn't sing (or hoarse) the phrase «Fuck it I love you I really do». For a number of reasons, starting with the fact that this, directly speaking, is not true.

All these syrupy songs which you are trying to disguise with bruises after a quarrel with next James Dean (well, he's so handsome, mysterious and unpredictable!) Or is it an ode to a non-existent country, only vaguely reminiscent of America, the soundtrack for a trip on highways that will never happen?

One may continue to consider (as let's say, it was customary to consider in the days of «Born To Die») that Lana is such a deliberate antithesis of the femme agenda: for now, while everyone sings about Girl Power, she will brew your coffee and cover you with a blanket without damaging the perfect manicure. But now this idea is already starting to run out of gas because it has not received any development and internal reflection.

And all the instrumental experiments and insights go to nowhere because they do not frame any intelligible essence that would give meaning to everything that is happening.

However, maybe this makes sense? Maybe we all really need Lana Del Rey, who will say that «happiness is a butterfly» — and so you can turn a blind eye to reality for a while and just slowly dance at the sunset of civilization with a handsome but terribly dangerous young man?
NORMAN FUCKING ROCKWELL!
In 2012 the flawlessly successful «Born to Die» was released. And since that time the sound is changing, but the main idea of a melodrama about insidious men is still remaining. Understandable, why one will change the thing, which brings her or him fame and money? Lana's reference track (both the text and the vibes) is «Blue Jeans», where an obviously stronger man throws a deliberately weaker lady. A classic story of the Romantic era (who's not sick of that?) has worked flawlessly in the twenty-first century as well.

Del Rey was always differed from the other plastic and defiant pop songs in a slightly more complex structure, kind of detachment even.

Her compositions have never been so flashy-vulgarly as the rest of the mainstream.

Anyway, Lana's albums were always more diverse and unusual than, let's say, Rihanna's (the comparable «Talk That Talk» to the «Born to Die»).

And in the new «Norman Fucking Rockwell» everything is still here: the same rock ballads, muffled drums, and occasionally arising sound effects from the 70-s psychedelia. And a love suffering for nasty peasants, of course.

Just imagine: sitting wrapped in a blanket, eating yummies to feel less depressive, watching a TV-show or listening to music (if such music isn't in such series already).

If in a school-time you were the same clogged child, as I was, therefore, you didn't listen to anything apart from aggressive metal. If so, it might be better to skip the new release and give a choice to the classic «Born to Die» for familiarization, and then forget everything.

But you can check the «Norman Fucking Rockwell» out, if you suddenly would like to be a sad teen from these songs: to go outside, sit on a bench under the oblique non-warming sun, tremble from the wading autumn wind and hold a bottle of wine, which you bought at a discount in the closest and cheapest store around a corner.

It's not a bad album: a very sleepy locks you in a melancholy. The best thing here – «The Greatest» – reminds me of the 60s by its sound. But if I'd like to sadly listen to romantic music, then I'll definitely choose The Beatles.

Anton Valsky
translated by Verena Podolsky
LANA FUCKING DEL REY!
«Norman Fucking Rockwell!», Lana Del Rey's sixth studio album: fourteen tracks (one of those is 10 minutes long, by the way) and a million of direct references, allusions: from The Eagles to Radiohead, from Joni Mitchell to Coldplay, from Sam Smith to Chris Isaak. Basically, one might play a «guess a melody» or come up with a drink game.

And in certain cases, all this huge amount of hints is paradoxically given in, let's say, «Beatles sauce».

This is the most unbearable and the most interesting her album.

First of all, it's unbearable phonetically, because the weakest thing here is the vocals.

At some point, the vocals crash full of melodic charm «Fuck it I love you». The same goes for the other bigger half of tracks, which are, in terms of music, made in a very, very interesting way.

«Venice Bitch» – the one, which is 10 minutes long – is good mostly because it's not about vocals, but about the arrangement. And here is happening something really incredible: in «Venice Bitch» exist basically everything, what you could expect from a song. It depends only on which exact part you will play it: such a psychedelic improvisation, almost trip-hop, which starts as a pretty innocent acoustic ballad.

In terms of music, here are a lot of actually good solutions. For instance, «California» is just the best thing about the whole album. It is at the same time an anthem and a slow dance, a farewell waltz and a first kiss. Made in a low velvet and non-obvious register, the song reminds of Chromatics. In the same way, as the band, «California» filled with this underlying trembling – it is so adequate itself, so stable, and it does not care at all how it looks like, which makes this song completely irresistible.

Thanks to Jack Antonoff, who produced almost the entire album.

Antonoff has been awarded four Grammys. One of those he received for producing Taylor Swift's «1989». Be that as it may, it was he who scored Lana's entire new album with psychedelic rock with impeccable electric guitars (primarily in «Greatest») and the most gentle piano.

Therefore, with regard to the purely musical part, the album is alive and well.

However, there is also another unbearable aspect: conceptual.

At this point, we have to recall The Beatles again: the album is saturated with their creation.

Their seemingly innocent sentimentality (not causing a single iota of trust) is no different from cynicism: it feels like a dessert of all the most carcinogenic ingredients at the same time, decorated with sugared cherries – it is indecent, shameful.

The Beatles personify the whole catastrophic philistinism of the bohemians of that period, all of «children of flowers»: everyone who preached free love in order to not have to avoid dealing with offended both: exes and friends.

Therefore their music is unusable without a context. Each homagium pulls it along, filling the music with fake, inappropriate decor. So what shall one do, if there is nothing else except the decor?

And it perfectly rhymes with what Lana Del Rey does in terms of meaning.

Just look at this! 2019 and a woman looks foolish, if she couldn't sing (or hoarse) the phrase «Fuck it I love you I really do». For a number of reasons, starting with the fact that this, directly speaking, is not true.

All these syrupy songs which you are trying to disguise with bruises after a quarrel with next James Dean (well, he's so handsome, mysterious and unpredictable!) Or is it an ode to a non-existent country, only vaguely reminiscent of America, the soundtrack for a trip on highways that will never happen?

One may continue to consider (as let's say, it was customary to consider in the days of «Born To Die») that Lana is such a deliberate antithesis of the femme agenda: for now, while everyone sings about Girl Power, she will brew your coffee and cover you with a blanket without damaging the perfect manicure. But now this idea is already starting to run out of gas because it has not received any development and internal reflection.

And all the instrumental experiments and insights go to nowhere because they do not frame any intelligible essence that would give meaning to everything that is happening.

However, maybe this makes sense? Maybe we all really need Lana Del Rey, who will say that «happiness is a butterfly» — and so you can turn a blind eye to reality for a while and just slowly dance at the sunset of civilization with a handsome but terribly dangerous young man?

Katherine Gorina
«KANYE IS KING»
KATHERINE GORINA
ANTON VALSKY
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.


Kanye has long been a public figure more than anything else. The difficulty is that it is almost impossible to separate Kanye the performer, Kanye the character of his songs, and Kanye the noisemaker, they are all stuck together too tightly. Of course, this was done rather consciously. Just like the emphasis on his bipolar disorder and everything else, that makes up his image.

However, I have no desire to get into the modern culture of America. Especially since it will be ridiculous, sitting in Russia, to discuss what an offensive tweet Kanye published or in whose support he spoke out. Therefore, I'll talk about the album.

Like any well-made pop release, «Jesus Is King» is catchy, memorable. Among rap albums, it's quite varied in the choice of samples and tricks. Quality pop music. What is here? Gospel and recitative. Gospel rap. Yes, non-original - one way or another, many famous artists have turned to this genre, from Johnny Cash to Amy Winehouse.

One might be enraged by mastering or heterogeneity (the tracks seem to be accidentally mixed all together), but come on, it is 2019, now everyone does so. And what difference does it make at all? An artist of this level can make incoherent noise and earn millions. Someone will be nostalgic for «The College Dropout» or cry that there are no hits of «Black Skinhead» level in the album. But in fact the flow-blah-blah hooks have not disappeared.

One may laugh at the way the musician uses autotune or interferes with fast food and religion («Closed On Sunday») or calls himself God, but all these nit-pickings do not make sense, given West's popularity.

Also, there exist a couple of possible reasons for discontent: There are no mind-blowing hits, and the theme of the songs is the God-seeking of a person personifying pop culture, such a search leads to inevitable simplification and posturing.

It's too flat for true Christians, unusual for others. If you have passed by before, then you should start with the release «Yeezus» (2013), if not, you've heard that already.
KATHERINE GORINA
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.

ANTON VALSKY
Kanye has long been a public figure more than anything else. The difficulty is that it is almost impossible to separate Kanye the performer, Kanye the character of his songs, and Kanye the noisemaker, they are all stuck together too tightly. Of course, this was done rather consciously. Just like the emphasis on his bipolar disorder and everything else, that makes up his image.

However, I have no desire to get into the modern culture of America. Especially since it will be ridiculous, sitting in Russia, to discuss what an offensive tweet Kanye published or in whose support he spoke out. Therefore, I'll talk about the album.

Like any well-made pop release, «Jesus Is King» is catchy, memorable. Among rap albums, it's quite varied in the choice of samples and tricks. Quality pop music. What is here? Gospel and recitative. Gospel rap. Yes, non-original - one way or another, many famous artists have turned to this genre, from Johnny Cash to Amy Winehouse.

One might be enraged by mastering or heterogeneity (the tracks seem to be accidentally mixed all together), but come on, it is 2019, now everyone does so. And what difference does it make at all? An artist of this level can make incoherent noise and earn millions. Someone will be nostalgic for «The College Dropout» or cry that there are no hits of «Black Skinhead» level in the album. But in fact the flow-blah-blah hooks have not disappeared.

One may laugh at the way the musician uses autotune or interferes with fast food and religion («Closed On Sunday») or calls himself God, but all these nit-pickings do not make sense, given West's popularity.

Also, there exist a couple of possible reasons for discontent: There are no mind-blowing hits, and the theme of the songs is the God-seeking of a person personifying pop culture, such a search leads to inevitable simplification and posturing.

It's too flat for true Christians, unusual for others. If you have passed by before, then you should start with the release «Yeezus» (2013), if not, you've heard that already.
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