I don’t really want to comment on this record – I need more distance from the hype before figuring out what I truly think about this mess. I’m more interested right now in what I’ve been seeing from music writers about the record. There is a lot of negative press about “Donda”, and it seems to fall into two camps.
First, there are the people who can’t separate the art from the artist. I get it – Kanye is the most exhausting personality in music today. In one way, he is the exact opposite of his nemesis, Taylor Swift. (Insert Drake’s tears here – sorry, Aubrey, but your beef with Ye can’t compete.) Swift wants to give the impression of not caring about the game, of being all about her art, but she is deadly serious about managing her image and product (see the Scooter Braun fiasco for an object lesson in this). Kanye, on the other hand, wants you to see how much effort he is putting into being in control of, well, everything.
The second issue I am seeing is that a lot of writers are talking about how it isn’t as good as his previous albums. This annoys the crap out of me. Of course, it isn’t as good as the old stuff. This is the man who gave us “The College Dropout” and “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”. It’s like slamming Paul McCartney because Wings never made a record as good as “Sgt. Pepper”. Duh, almost nobody has. The curse of being a great artist is being compared to your greater younger self. I prefer to judge art on its own terms, which is why my Goodreads has a Hardy Boys book with a five-star rating (“What Happened at Midnight” rules!), and Martin Amis, an undeniably much, much, much better writer, gets only one star (because less than this isn’t permitted) for the pure excrement that is “Yellow Dog”. Amis should’ve done better (and has since), but that Hardy Boys book is a perfect mystery aimed at young readers.
Having said that, this is not Ye’s “Yellow Dog”. It’s weird and self-indulgent, but never boring. I picked this first over Drake’s new record because I knew Ye would hold my attention, while the most interesting thing about Drake’s release was when Kawhi Leonard turned up in a video where they all looked like the lamest Boyz II Men tribute band ever assembled. (Having now listened to “Certified Lover Boy”, I feel vindicated in my choice.) There are some tunes that I genuinely love: “Jail”, “Off the Grid”, “Jesus Lord” and especially “Hurricane”, with The Weeknd’s silky falsetto. And I have felt compelled to replay it, which is the ultimate compliment for music, right? So I will keep on ignoring the press, and keep giving “Donda” the chance to make me fall in love with it. I don’t think I will, but Kanye has surprised me before.