Growing up in the 2000s, one of my favorite artists to listen to was Kanye West. His first three albums form a perfect trilogy. The production, lyrics and subject matter are all amazing. The same can not be said about most of the music he has released since the 2000s, especially his most recent project, “Jesus Is King.”
No one can talk about “Jesus Is King” without taking into account the controversy surrounding it and Kanye West. For his entire career, West has been a controversy magnet with incidences such as saying “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” or interrupting Taylor Swift. If I listed every dumb thing he has said or done this article would never get finished. The most egregious thing he has done recently is come out as a supporter of Donald Trump. With this came a flurry of ignorant statements with the most infamous one being “Slavery is a choice.”
While this nonsense with him and Trump was going on, Kanye was working on an album titled “Yandhi,” which did not come out on its initial release date in late September 2018. The album was then pushed back until November, when he stated that he would announce a new release when the album was done. He never did this, and to this day the album has not been released officially outside of random leaks on the internet. Throughout this year, Kanye started putting on a series of concerts with a choir known as “Sunday Service.” This is where the foundation of “Jesus Is King” was formed.
For this album, Kanye went all in on convincing the media that he was now a Christian. He even went as far as to ask anyone that was working on this album with him to not to have sex before marriage. In previous songs, Kanye mentioned his religious beliefs but they seem to not be anything he really lived by, especially since he made a song called “I Am a God” and has lyrics such as “Now, if I f–k this model / and she just bleached her a–hole / and I get bleach on my T-shirt / I’ma feel like an a–hole” and “I think I just fell in love with a porn star / turn the camera on, she a born star.” I don’t believe that this is genuine behavior from Kanye. I think that he is using his “faith” as a gimmick to get people to go out and buy the album. His plan was successful as “Jesus Is King” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.
The album itself is just like Kanye West: hollow and lacking any authenticity. Throughout the history of hip-hop, rappers have made gospel influenced songs and albums. Kanye is one of them, having released both “Jesus Walks” and “Ultralight Beam.” These songs are great, and I find myself listening to them when in the right mood. However, I honestly never want to listen to a song from “Jesus Is King” again.
I think the worst part of the album is its lyrics. Kanye has slowly been regressing in terms of lyrics for years now, but this album might have some of his worst. I think what makes the lyrics so bad is the fact that they are not clever in any way and are just basic and lazy. The best example of this is “Closed on Sunday” where the holy day of rest for Christians is compared with Chick-fil-A restaurants being closed on Sunday. I burst out laughing when I first heard this. It doesn’t sound like a real song — it sounds like a parody made by someone on Instagram, but sadly it is indeed real. Others online felt the same as many took to social media to voice their distaste.
Twitter user FeitsBarstool said the following about the album: “I *hated* “closed on Sunday she my chic fil a” the second I heard it and I’m gonna have to read it so many times before I mercifully die.” Another user said: “Closed on Sunday , you’re my chik fil a “ Da f–k … what a waste of potentially a really good song #KanyeWest #SundayService #JesusIsKing”
I *hated* “closed on Sunday she my chic fil a” the second I heard it and I’m gonna have to read it so many times before I mercifully die
— Feitelberg (@FeitsBarstool) October 25, 2019
— True Blue O (@El_Black_Mamba) October 25, 2019
“Jesus Walks” alone is better than any song from “Jesus Is King” since it has some sort of social commentary and depth in the lyrics. What type of social commentary or complexity is in this album? None, because all of the songs pretty much have the same theme: God and Jesus are awesome, and you should praise them. I have struggled to find anything deep in these lyrics from the song “God Is”: “You won’t ever be the same when you call on Jesus’ name / Listen to the words I’m sayin’, Jesus saved me, now I’m sane.” The entire album is like this and it is very disappointing because Kanye has shown in the past that he is capable of so much more than this.
Without a doubt his fans who buy his ugly and overpriced clothes and shoes will eat up these basic lyrics and praise them for being so deep and thought-provoking when they are just about as shallow as a kiddie pool. Kanye’s lyrics were never anything too deep or complex but at least they used to have meaning. Here he seemed so focused on telling us how God is so awesome and can help us that he forgot to make good songs that communicate this. The best part of all of the songs is the production. Kanye has always been a good producer and he does not disappoint in this area like he does with his lyrics.
The smooth jazz sounds by Kenny G on “Use This Gospel” fit the album perfectly, as does the production of the other songs. That’s where my praise for this album begins and ends. There is nothing else that redeems it for me. Not even a feature by Pusha T and his brother Malice can save it. Kanye will continue to sell thousands of albums to his die-hard fanbase who eat up all of his basic, surface-level lyrics like they are anything deep. I’ve long accepted that this is how he will be as an artist and yet I still find myself disappointed in the music he puts out because I know that he can do better.