Review: Kanye West's 'The Life of Pablo'

Wednesday, February 17th, 2016 at 7:43 PM
Review: Kanye West's 'The Life of Pablo' by Britton Rozzelle

Despite several days of delays, numerous track changes, mysterious shows at Madison Square Garden, confusing tweets and terrible PR, Kanye West’s “The Life of Pablo,” is finally out and available to stream exclusively on Tidal.

“TLOP” is an incredibly consistent, dense album, not only from a production standpoint, but from the lyrics as well. Each song flows almost perfectly into another, all the way until the positively mesmerizing bass of “Fade,” the album’s closing track.

The album’s opener, “Ultralight Beam,” is quite possibly one of Kanye’s strongest introductions across his entire discography. It sets the mood, the themes of the album, and starts us off in a much more personal and intimate way than “Yeezus,” for example. That trend sticks for the remainder of the album, as where “Yeezus” felt very angry, arrogant and chaotic at times, “The Life of Pablo” is a more positive and personalized album. Yes, Kanye reminds us how great he thinks he is, but it wouldn’t really be a Yeezy album without that, would it?

“Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1” and “Pt.2” flow seamlessly together, first continuing the gospel-inspired nature of “Ultralight Beam,” and second delving deep into the hip-hop roots West is known for. We are consistently reminded of Kanye’s ability to weave classic samples with modern beats throughout the album, most notably on “Famous,” one of the strongest tracks on the album, which samples Sister Nancy’s “Bam Bam” to great effect and features fellow Tidalowner Rihanna.

In “Feedback,” Kanye compares himself to a “ghetto Oprah,” and it seems like one of the only songs that doesn’t fit on the album. Sonically, it would have fit better on “Yeezus,” but lyrically it falls into “College Dropout” era-Kanye.

“Low Lights” and “Highlights” are a particular strong point for the album, and where it really finds its stride, with “Low Lights,” serving as both an intermission, and a strong transition to “Highlights,” which joins a strong orchestral backing to Kanye rapping about his family and friends (which happens a lot from this point on in the album. Daughter North West is mentioned in at least four tracks).

“Freestyle 4” and “I Love Kanye” provide a short buffer between my personal favorite series of songs and “Highlights,” where Kanye takes approximately three minutes to go off about not only his past, taking obvious queues from Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly,” but how he’s in on the joke, as far as his ego goes.

“Waves,” a track that was apparently almost cut from the album, fits strongly in this tracklisting, and calls back to “808s and Heartbreaks,” while embracing the modern music industry, and confirming the positive-energy West has stated surrounds this album. On “FML,” Kanye reveals some more of his actual human feelings while collaborating with The Weekend, making excellent use of his vocals to send the message home. “Real Friends” is another standout track, explaining his family woes and how he got to where he is today, adding to the comparisons to “Pimp a Butterfly.”

“Wolves” serves listeners a dark and rhythmic track featuring the vocals of Frank Ocean, who evidently resurfaced to fill in this spot on the song. “30 Hours” and “No More Parties In LA,” are two of, if not the strongest songs on the whole album, the former being an emotional ride through the life of Kanye, partially produced by Drake. “No More Parties” features Kendrick Lamar and from start to finish is a fun listen, with old school beats and R&B samples mixing under Lamar and West’s tightly woven verses. “Facts” gets Kanye back into the more aggressive style that he found with “Yeezus,” but only until we flow into “Fade,” an incredibly well-produced track that I can picture being a hit in clubs until the end of time.

“The Life of Pablo” is, as it stands, one of Kanye’s strongest albums, and is a good listen regardless of how you feel about him as a person or his theatrics. This being said, it’s unfortunately only available on Tidal, as West has stated it will stay on the streaming service and not go on sale.

Britton Rozzelle is The Arts Editor for The Spectator and he can be reached at ae.spectator@gmail.com.

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