Review: Is Kanye West’s ‘Yeezus’ A Masterpiece Or Do We Just Want It To Be?

1. Never leave your computer, ever. For the past week, I’ve either been in a car, boiling, or tent, boiling, or waiting to see Paul McCartney, boiling, at Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tennessee, so I wasn’t able to take part in the collective Internet orgasm known as OMG NEW KANYE WEST YEEZUS #yeezus Day when the album leaked. In theory, this should be a good thing — it allows separation from instantaneous reactors; opinions are never as outrageous as they are right when something happens. If you write a review about a movie or album directly after you’ve seen or listened to it, you’re more likely going to speak in big proclamations, with little room left for evaluation. Things will either be AMAZING or TERRIBLE. But why is it TERRIBLE or AMAZING? That might be left out…

2 …and yet, Yeezus BEGS to be greeted with big opinions. It could be Kanye’s first true masterpiece, where everything that came before it sounds like the rock ‘n’ roll to Yeezus‘ punk, or it could be an unironic heap of messy nonsense. “Send It Up” is the perfect example of this: one man’s “distorted airhorn-bleating slow mover” is another’s “Kanye out dancehalls dancehall, and yes, that’s a compliment.” Dissenting opinions, of course, aren’t specific to Kanye (not EVERYONE hates the same things???), but they do seem to intensify when he’s involved. That’s because when you talk about the manic Yeezus, you’re talking about your feelings of Kanye West as a person first and musician/rap icon/whatever second. Maybe it’s not fair, but, well, when you identify yourself with Jesus Christ and “a god,” not THE God mind you (that guy hates croissants), and say all this crazy Michael Jordan accurate gibberish (it’d be infiruarting if it weren’t true), no one’s feeling sorry for you.

3. That’s why I think Yeezus is a stone-cold classic. If it’s not Kanye’s best album, then it’s at least his most fascinating and likely to sound as good in 50 years as it does today, assuming he hasn’t made us all his (new) slaves by then. (In the future, everyone’s forced to listen to “Blood on the Leaves” until they blow their brains out.) When Kanye performed “Black Skinhead” and “New Slaves” on SNL, the assumption was that he was going to release an angry political album — the times they are not only a-changin’, but it’s time to set some sh*t on fire. Shame on us for assuming anything when it comes to Ye. Instead, Yeezus is fiercely personal, an album about how the world perceives a man on the verge of the metaphorical slavery known as fatherhood (and how little he cares), not literal slavery. It’s moody, but not like the increasingly beloved 808s & Heartbreak was moody — where that album sounded conflicted and worn down (not a bad thing), Yeezus, in both sound and spirit, is scattered, scary, raging, conflicted, and imperfect. But that’s what it makes it so perfect. Kanye West has made brilliant albums before (all of them, except Watch the Throne and Cruel Summer), but never one that sounds as visceral as Yeezus.

4. But what if The College Dropout never came out? Or put more accurately, imagine if Yeezus was Kanye’s first album. The reviews would be miserable. “Artless,” “formless,” “reckless,” these are the words that would be associated with it, not “genius” and “Rick Rubin.” Despite sounding nothing like it, Yeezus needed “The New Workout Plan” to happen because the album works best as a reaction to everything that came before it, not unlike, to bring back something brought up earlier, punk, a rallying cry for those in the 1970s who were fed up with the mainstream and the bloated nature of music. In Yeezus, Kanye has made an ambitious punk album in spirit, if occasionally in sound (particularly in the first half). It doesn’t make itself easy to enjoy, but if you do like it, you LIKE it.

4. But for real, that croissant line.