by Rebecca Rosen
One of the best albums of all time? That’s the claim that Kanye West is making about his newest album, which ran through a gauntlet of titles—SWISH, Waves, and So Help Me God (my personal favorite).
With the highly anticipated album-streaming event that took place at Madison Square Garden this past Friday, (that I begrudgingly could not fly home to attend) fans were treated to the visual masterpiece of Yeezy Season 3 whilst listening to the “album of life” that is titled, wait for it—The Life of Pablo? Teaming up with Italian conceptual artist, Vanessa Beecroft who has regularly collaborated with West on other projects. The event was very much classic Kanye and the surprises he delivered were thrilling; Chance, Frankie, and Riri all on one album together (an aside: Frankie, where the album fam?) is arguably a dream come true.
The “This shit was hard to do man” feel was prevalent throughout the night and West went to great lengths to emphasize just how much his empire continues to expand; a hand here, a foot there, but ever present and influential in each of the fields he is a part of: fashion, music, fame and now video game designing. “Only One” the game. A video game. What a legend.
“I feel like sometimes I get misunderstood” is the allure that West brings; it’s the longing to figure him out, the trying to understand why he says what he says and does what he does. The release of “No More Parties in LA” and “Real Friends” were what Kanye fans needed a month or so back. New work is always refreshing for an audience as vast and diverse as Kanye’s. But the way in which it was presented and promoted was in a slap-dash, dare I say half-assed kind of way, but then again we are talking about the enigma that is Kanye, thus one should come to expect the unexpected. Whether West is trying to make another statement about the industry (a probable, especially after his announcement that he is bringing back G.O.O.D. Music Fridays) or not, I was left feeling unimpressed, and very much un-Kanye’d.
The cover art for the Soundcloud uploads gives you a sort of nostalgic warmth in the pit of your stomach, a-you could have taken that picture and your dad has that sweater- kind of aesthetic. The cover art for the album goes along with the “I could have done this myself” feel; a salmon background with minimalistic typography complete with a 60’s vibe family photo in the left hand corner. West presented it in a simple fashion, like flipping through an old photo album; you’re back in time, you’re there with him, remembering when he didn’t have to go anywhere or be anyone. I fell in love. But then this happened:
Another Cover pic.twitter.com/WOwEmmmlHI
— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) February 12, 2016
With one fell swoop of a tweet, the aesthetic that he had been building up leading to this release vanishes. But even if Kanye decides to go with this new cover, I don’t want any say in the matter. West has had fans involved in the process of producing his latest album unlike ever before. Even with wife Kim Kardashian’s twitter poll asking fans which album title they liked the most, So Help Me God (which won at 46%) wasn’t chosen. This was very much Kanye and one can’t help but wonder “Did he know all along? Was this a last minute decision? And, who the hell is Pablo?”
The unnerving bit is the mere notion that ‘we the fans’ were allowed take part in a process that has been called sacred by Yeezy himself. I want to be presented with the art that I lack any control over whatsoever, that hasn’t been desecrated by public opinion. So that I may be allowed respond to it, take it as is, a finished piece of work. Close my eyes, let it sink in. Breathe it. I don’t want track lists, then revised track lists, and then final track lists. I don’t want to see what it’s like behind the scenes when the smoke and mirrors are taken away. Instead, I want a proper release, a “wow I’ve been so excited for this” kind of feeling. I want to be in awe, to be shocked. A lot has changed for Kanye through the years; that odd bear phase, “Love Lockdown”, and marrying into (basically) American royalty. But something that has not wavered over the years is how he has completely and unapologetically been himself 100% of the time. Kanye has never catered to the public. So call me selfish but that’s something about Kanye that I never want to change and it seems that my worries are coming to fruition. So Kanye, if you’re out there listening, please consider my plea to take full control of your art. It’s what makes you, you.
Feature Photo courtesy of Dimitrios Kambouris/ Getty Images