ALBUM REVIEW: Jesus Is King by Kanye West

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WRITTEN BY: Julie Fosco

Kanye’s newest release Jesus is King is one of his most anticipated albums yet. Kanye was originally supposed to release “Yandhi” around November of 2018, but the project mysteriously never dropped. A few months ago, Kim Kardashian announced that a completely new album would be released – a gospel album. After the success of his few gospel tracks on The Life of Pablo, as well as a few behind-the-scenes videos of Kanye’s Sunday services, fans were patiently waiting for this album to release. Upon listening however, many die-hard Kanye fans were left confused and some even disappointed.

Fans have seen this from Kanye before. He is well known for shocking audiences and releasing music that defies mainstream sound. However this album seems to have a completely different tone and message behind it. Kanye has always been a Christian – his first smash hit was “Jesus Walks” on The College Dropout; that’s nothing new. What is really raising eyebrows is the sudden extremity of his faith. It is noteworthy that Jesus Is King, an entire album without a single use of profanity, is followed by “I Love It” featuring Lil Pump in Kanye’s discography. Kanye’s philosophy in life and in music has done a 180, which is shown this newest work.

The album starts out with “Every Hour” featuring the Sunday Service Choir. While it is certainly not a headbanger, the song is soulful, upbeat, and fun. It is a great way to start a gospel album.

Kanye then makes a few interesting references in “Selah.” In the line “Before the flood people judge, they did the same thing to Noah” he is comparing himself to Noah in the book of Genesis; he somehow knows something that others do not. Many people have understandably been critical and judgmental of Kanye, being in the spotlight with much controversy over the past ten years. He believes that his actions are all part of something greater. Following that line, he says “Everybody wanted Yandhi, then Jesus Christ did the laundry,” here he explained that he stopped his efforts on Yandhi because he felt a calling to make a Christian album. 

“Follow God” is without a doubt the most Kanye-sounding song on the album. It’s sampled from the late 60s – one of the oldest Kanye tricks in the book. In this track he reveals his frustration trying to be a devoted Christian with the many challenges that his life and society presents him. The line “I was lookin’ at the gram and I don’t even like likes” describes just one of the many ways that Kanye tries to disconnect from mainstream culture. This song is “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1” 2.0, which is most likely why it is the most popular on the album so far. 

“On God” quite simply lacks good production and lyrics. This song is probably the weakest on the album. It sounds like a Christian Kids Bop cover. A fun easter egg however, is the “okay” at the end of the song is sampled from Kanye’s previous work “Mercy.”

Then there is “Closed on Sunday,” arguably the most bizarre on the entire album. The song starts out with a quiet strumming of an acoustic guitar, followed by haunting harmonies from a gospel choir. The musical intro of this song immediately sounds like it’s going to be the best work on the album, Kanye then completely botches it with the lyrics “Closed on Sunday, you’re my Chick-Fil-A, you’re my number one, with the lemonade.” The combination of such beautiful sound with such absolutely ridiculous lyrics makes this song sound satirical. It is actually comparable to Kanye’s “Lift Yourself” AKA the “poopity scoop” song that was meant to be a joke. Had he replaced the Chick-Fil-A chorus with anything else, this track would have been the best on the album. 
“Closed on Sunday” isn’t the only song carried by production. Most of the album is produced beautifully, but the lyrics do not match in quality.

Still, Jesus Is King is one of its kind and something we really haven’t seen from a hip-hop artist before. What’s next for Kanye is a complete mystery. Kanye’s musical style apparently changed so dramatically within the last year, he stated in an interview with Big Boy that his previous music was “for the devil” and that he does not plan to perform them live anymore. This has fans a bit worried but still eager to discover what is coming next.

Track listing:

  1. Every Hour
  2. Selah
  3. Followed God
  4. Closed On Sunday
  5. On God
  6. Everything We Need
  7. Water
  8. God Is
  9. Hands On
  10. Use This Gospel
  11. Jesus Is Lord

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