Despite Kanye West’s recent cancelation of over 20 remaining dates on the Saint Pablo tour, which seems to be be due to his recent hospitalization, and wondering how comfortable we should be listening artists destroy themselves, The Life Of Pablo still remains one of the most widely discussed records of 2016.
As this year comes to an end, The Talkhouse asked Will Toledo, the mastermind of Car Seat Headrest, who also released a much-lauded record in the last 365 days, to write an essay about about Kanye and The Life Of Pablo.
The essay opens with a simple declaration: “The Life of Pablo is a repulsive album.” However, Toledo then goes on to say that he has nonetheless spun TLoP more times than anything else this year (with the exception of Bowie’s swan song Blackstar). “Why?” he asks. “Well, it’s just good.” He then goes on to discuss the importance of transitions on the album, and how songs don’t feel complete unless they move into the next in sequence: “I might go into it intending only to listen to ‘Ultralight Beam,’ but the experience of listening to that song feels incomplete until I hear the opening strains of ‘Father Stretch My Hands Part 1.'”
He also notes the ways in which the record reflects Kanye’s declaration that the record is actually a Gospel album: “While that statement seems intentionally paradoxical considering its content, it’s not a joke.” He says that once the listener looks past all the references to Kanye’s sex life, the lyrics actually tie almost directly into Biblical content, and allude to Kanye’s being the embodiment of “the modern sinner, broken by sin, held together by the grace of God. He is Saul/the Apostle Paul in the process of conversion, always with scales falling from his eyes, always with new ones forming in their place.”
Perhaps the most interesting part of the essay comes in the last few paragraphs, with Toledo discussing the ways that Pablo is indicative of the human experience as a whole:
What Kanye understands, what he was recently trying to convey through a somewhat muddled series of speeches on Donald Trump, is that there is no sin too great to be forgiven, no act so heinous as to make the man intolerable, either in the eyes of God or ultimately of the public. The Life Of Pablo thus shines in its heinousness. The album encompasses simultaneously the contemplation of the crime, the crime itself, the repentance of the crime, and the granting of forgiveness. It would be a thoroughly despicable exercise, except for the fact that we do forgive it; we do see the beauty in it. A human being is a repulsive creature, too, when broken down into parts. It is only upon glimpsing the whole that beauty can be found.
Check out Toledo’s full essay here, and if you’ve somehow forgotten about that bleached a*shole line, stream The Life of Pablo below.