Track 1: On Sight
The album starts off strong. This Daft Punk-produced electro-noise assault is a confident statement of the album’s electro-minimalist intent but is lyrically full of typical self-‘bigging-up.’ Thankfully, Kanye’s vocal is raw, confident and sparse; no layering, no reverb; just close-up spitting in your ear/face/ear. Couple of references to his dick and where he can put it – one at the end which tastelessly stands out a bit too much (no pun intended!)
Track 2: Black Skinhead
Another Daft Punk-produced dark, electro track complete with intermittent, sharp screams. I can’t deny that it is wonderfully produced – truly masterful stereo mixing too – but I just can’t embrace it. First time I heard it was few weeks back, Kanye’s SNL performance, and I just kept on thinking of Marilyn Manson’s ‘The Beautiful People.’ I subsequently found out it that it does it fact sample that (momentous) track but this didn’t help me warm to it; every time I hear it I just think of how good the Manson song is and not how good the Kanye song I’m listening to is. Also, the ‘funnel-tin-echo’ effect on Kanye’s main vocal, although slight, is very noticeable; and it has the net result of distancing his vocals in the overall mix. This essentially creates a textural and atmospheric conflict between the vocal immediacy and closeness of the other tracks and this one. (The song also contains the following lyrical blunder (historically speaking): “I keep it 300, LIKE THE ROMANS, 300 bitches, where’s the Trojans?)
Track 3: I Am A God
3rd Daft Punk collaboration and definite contender for best track on the album – sonically superb and pounding. Lyrically it revolves around Ye’s sense of self-importance and ‘greatness’ mixed with the theologically-sound assertion that he – like everyone potentially is – a ‘god’. And this is important to note, i.e. that he does not say he ‘is’ God – see Psalm 82:6; John 10:34 and the (Christian) theological idea of ‘divinization’ or ‘theosis‘ for further clarification. “I am a god,” Kanye spits emphatically, “Even though I’m a man of God. My Whole Life in the hands of God. So y’all better quit playing with God.”
Track 4: New Slaves
Straight up fantastic (‘social commentary’) song. Not Daft Punk produced. Actually innovative and inspiring. Great sonically and lyrically. And the lyrics are delivered with utter finesse and conviction. Sparse, intimidating, A-game sh*t right here. Contains possibly the lyric of the album too: “You see it’s leaders and it’s followers, but I’d rather be a dick than a swallower.” (Although, I would add you could always bite it clean right off if you ain’t the d*ck in that equation). That being said, the auto-tune effect on the first half of Frank Ocean’s outro vocals sticks out in an annoying way. It should’ve just been clean; Ye should’ve left that whole effect off this album; all the vocals should’ve just been raw, clean and digitally unaltered. #ActualBestTrack
Track 5: Hold My Liquor
The album starts to slide a little from here on in. The tone here is more ‘spaced-out’ and Bon Ivor’s vocals lends itself perfectly to such a feeling. The soaring, reverb-laden electric guitar only magnifies this overall effect and truly lifts the listener into space. I presume this song is meant to be a brief respite from the last four songs’ unceasing verbal assault. And that it most certainly is – it’s a nice space-out song that borders on becoming filler but luckily never fully falls into that territory (as it is sonically rejuvenating).
Track 6: I’m In It
Hello R&B Nine Inch Nails. Musically very much like a cleaned-up Trent Reznor track which Kanye happened to find on the editing floor on The Downward Spiral mixing room. It’s a grand song yeah, but very far from the excellence of the opening tracks. It essentially starts to feel like Yeezy’s threading water here…the album is losing its focus (which is not untypical for a Kanye album, but this album has less tracks than his others and so it should be perfectly stream-lined – there should be no filler here). #BorderlineAlbumFiller1
Track 7: Blood on the Leaves
Sampling Nina Simone’s haunting version of ‘Strange Fruit’ – a song about the racist lynching of African-Americans – we see West threading familiar territory here. Auto-tuned vocals over a quickly repeated classic sample with impressive (also sampled and hyped-up) brass section. It’s a good song (although there’s a bit of an uncomfortable clash between the content of Kanye’s lyrics and the lyrical content of ‘Strange Fruit’), but the auto-tuning again seems out of place. This song should be as vocally raw as the first few. No auto-tune please! It contradicts the albums raw minimalist intentions as far as I’m concerned.
Track 8: Guilt Trip
Auto-tune overuse again. Still sounds out of place. Not much going on here to keep listeners interest. #AlbumFiller2
Track 9: Send It Up
Dance-floor horns which border on irritatingly repetitious and mindless. Minimalist intentions maintained but song is largely an unfulfilling listen (and about god knows what). #AlbumFiller3
Track 10: Bound 2
Ah. Nice. This track is a straight up Yeezy nostalgia trip. West is teasing us with his historical self by taking us back to the beginning of his career. A warm track that invites you to remember how he used to sound. ‘Tis like a nice warm bath full of nice salts and aromas; sorely need after having being punched in the face and torso repetitively (and yet satisfactorily) by the first half of the album – but also tonally a little out of place for that very reason.
I can’t help but feel that the reason everyone is going bananas about this album is because everyone has been told to go bananas. Just like everyone has been told that Daft Punk’s ‘Get Lucky’ is amazing and ingenious, now we are being told that YEEZUS is innovative and really, really important. But I would like to suggest that it’s not. I actually think Dark Fantasy is a superior album. I would next like to (modestly) suggest that Yeezus is a really good album, with some quite superb moments, by an amazing contemporary artist who has done consistently narcissistic and bloated – but often great (and greater)- work than this over the years.
The simple truth is that Yeezus is actually quite a forgettable listen at times. And why…? Mainly because there’s a lack of hooks (on a Kanye album!!!). West certainly sounds hungry and fresh on Yeezus, and that’s great; he sounds like a new artist fighting for attention and respect, which is a genuine achievement for such an established act. He doesn’t sound tired at all (but the lyrics are often childish and the songs thematically limited). But if this was a new artists’s debut I’d be thinking, “Wow. This is great…can’t wait to see where he goes with this…can’t wait to hear album #2…he didn’t quite nail it on this one but wow the potential!” Because I am usually overjoyed by entire sections of a Kanye album – be it lyrically or musically – I honestly found myself disappointed here and that confused me. Perhaps my expectation was simply too high (as I am a big Kanye fan and ‘New Slaves’ impressed me so much when I saw in on youtube weeks ago). In short, great first half…not so great second half. (Still love ya though Ye!)
Full YEEZUS album credits to be found HERE>