Kanye West is a man that elicits strong emotions from just about anyone remotely in touch with popular culture. Heralded by some as a musical genius and virtuoso, to others, he is a symbol of celebrity arrogance and controversy. While others view him as an Icarus figure that fell from rap superstardom to wearing the infamous red hat. West has no problem with controversy, seeming, at times, to revel in it. In recent years, the spectacle and hype surrounding West has seemed to overshadow the man himself. His recent shift toward Christian themes in his music has alienated some listeners and drawn in new ones.
Kanye West’s new album, “Donda,” is named after his late mother. Plagued by delays and constant rewrites, with three live listening sessions and three different versions of the same album, “Donda” disappoints. The album feels more appropriate as a rough draft, with 27 tracks clocking in at one hour and 48 minutes. Four of the songs are merely remixes of songs that appear earlier on the album.
Some listeners had high hopes and expectations for the album. After witnessing West’s apparent shift toward Christian music, many were interested to see how his lyrical themes would deal with his well-documented past. Everyone loves a redemption story, and many were looking forward to hearing how West’s faith changed his life. The opening track, “Donda Chant,” features a woman chanting the name of West’s mother, allegedly to the tune of her heartbeat as she passed away. The swirling rumors gave the expectation that the album would be rich in lyrical content, with Donda West serving as the unifying theme.
Instead, “Donda” is a bloated and uninspired album from Kanye West. The album seems to contribute more to the overall spectacle of Kanye West than being a good album. The constant delays and thirst for controversy are classic Kanye. The album features collaborations with Marilyn Manson, who has multiple sexual assault allegations against him, and DaBaby, who has come under fire for homophobic comments. In an album dedicated to one of the most influential women in his life, West’s inclusion of these collaborations diminishes the impression that the album is dedicated to his mother. Furthermore, it simply seems like a controversial move just for controversy’s sake. The album also feels like a draft of what should be a final product, feeling unfinished and uninspired.
The album does have some positive moments. “Hurricane” is a beautiful song, with the Weeknd absolutely killing his part. “Jail” has an anthemic, arena-filling sound as well as a guest appearance from Jay-Z. However, these are the only high points of the album. In fact, the highest points on the album come from West’s many collaborators, showing a ‘Ye in decline.
“Donda” is uninspired at best and downright lazy at worst. One or two of the songs on the album may achieve radio airplay, but it is unlikely that any of them will become classics. Kanye West seems to be intent on making himself a larger-than-life figure, more myth than man. “Donda” contributes to this, not because of its greatness, but because of its perfect illustration of the man that wrote it: a once-great artist that succumbed to the pressures of fortune and fame to become an uninspired figure that is not taken seriously. If you are thinking of listening to “Donda,” do yourself a favor and don’t.