Who would pay $150 to watch Kanye West play, not perform, his new album The Life Of Pablo, from one end to another, while a static fashion show appears center stage at Madison Square Garden. Well, me and 20K other people would and it was worth it. Apparently, the new Kanye, is the old Kanye and not the new Kanye “the bad mood Kanye, the always rude Kanye”, was pretty darn cheerful.
The show negan around 530p and went on for an hour, the Kardashians, all dressed in bizarre white outfits designed by Yee, and looking like the Munsters with butt jobs, took their seats, and Kanye, shaking hands, hugging it out and being generally as unlike himself as possible. No long tirades, no Godhead (though quite a bit of Godhead on the album). On the stage, on two levels, were models wearing his Season 3 new wardrobe…. I can’t do this stuff so I stole the description off Billboard’s Adelle Platton: “a stationary display, created by Yeezus tour and Yeezy fashion show visionary Vanessa Beecroft and paid for by Adidas. Models of color stood atop two square platforms as other YS3 models, draped in multiple layers of red, orange, beige, black and gray with expressionless faces, peered into the crow“. As for the fashion. Well, as Sade once noted when I interviewed her, I know nothing about fashion. Naomi Campbell showed up for a moment in black fur and everybody looked like rejects from “The Maze”.
At the computer was Yee dancing about and being friendly,. Remember the Yeezus tour where he wore a mask for three quarters of the show, well, all he wore on his head this time was a basketball. You know how for a year he never stopped scowling, well, except to berate some bloke for dissing Michael Jordan (it’s a sneaker thing), he never stopped smiling. Kanye was, no, I don’t dare, ah to heck with it, charming.
But the album, The Life Of Pablo itself? A masterpiece. At 36 minutes in length, when you know he could double that with ease, it plays the same Tomas Donckers same length The Mess We Made does, it insists you put in on repeat and after awhile the hooks settle in, and it just a complete masterpiece. Opening song “Ultra Light Beam” -with great Gospel singer Kirk Franklin, Chance The Rapper, and Kelly Price, who completely kills the chorus. This is high order faith influenced Gospel music, yet Gospel that sounds nothing like Kirk Franklin. West has called The Life Of Pablo a Gospel album, the very next song “Father Stretch My Hands, Pts. 1 & 2” is another search for God (that’s the father), I guess he isn’t a God anymore. If this is a spiritual, it doesn’t sound like a spiritual, with howls and feedback, noise and pain in the words. Of course, it doesn’t sound like anything else either.The difference between Kanye and Drake is Drake will sell more, and he is good, as good as Jay Z, West will sell less but he is genuinely a musical genius. This song is breathtaking.A little later, with “Famous” he will make his pop movie. “I feel like me and Taylor may have sex,” he claims. “Why? I made that bitch famous.” The song is good but Rihanna’s hook is straight up killer. Produced by a DJ you’ve heard me namecheck around a million times, the flawless Hudson Mohawke.
Thematically, it is God and family with the occasional old West showing up. Both the black rage and the brittleness are not around, this is not Kendrick Lamar and Black Lives Matter are not involved. This is a life in motion, a world of work, children, love. On “High Lights”, Carole King (yes, you read me right) sings the chorus, a story of hopes for his real Life Of Pablo. This is one of two excellent songs written with The-Dream. Except when it isn’t, of course. If the album has a weak link, it is the obvious “Feed Back”, except the usual stuff sounds so unusual in his hands and the second half is awesome (that’s the “bad Kanye” rap I mentioned earlier). The last song “Wolves” I’ve raved about for a year now, this version is not as good as the terrific Sia and Vic Mensa one I already knew, the last verse on his album is rapped by Frank Ocean!
So, after the album, Kanye thanks his stage designer.. Vanessa Beecroft and Adidas. Then he shows us a new game where his Mom tries to get into heaven and that is it buddy. All done in an hour. $150… worth it? Every penny.
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