#1 – KANYE WEST – YEEZUS [spotify]
(feat. track – “I’m In It” [spotify])
What are two things that Foxy Shazam’s Foxy Shazam, The Bigger Lights’ Battle Hymn and Motion City Soundtrack’s Go have in common?
- They were my album of the year (2010-12, respectively)
- There wasn’t a whole lot written about any.
That #2 there greatly effected how I decided to write about those albums – that combination of experiential and evangelical writing that was sort of the basis for this blog to begin with.
But there’s no sense in me evangelizing on Yeezus. It’s the most-discussed album of the year. Discussed to death. Everyone has weighed in, not the least Kanye himself, numerous times. If you haven’t read either the New York Times interview or the one he just did with Steve McQueen in Interview Mag, or watched the Zane Lowe interviews, I can’t recommend them highly enough. He’s enthralling. Scattered, sure, but so are lots of the smartest people I know. And doesn’t give a fuck about code switching half the time – not sure if that’s because he doesn’t care or because it’s a thought-through stance. I really don’t care which it is, either way, those would be terrible, pedantic reasons to dismiss what he has to say. I love his brashness, his embrace of ego, his intransigent honesty, his intelligence, his desire to live ArtPOP (rather than just call things ArtPOP) – and if you don’t, I’m not convincing you. I’m not about to thinkpiece the most-thinkpieced-about record of 2013.
So what I will say is this. I listened to Yeezus more than any other album in 2013. In the car, on the train, at work, hanging out with my fiancee* in our apartment, in concert. All year long. And I’m not even a little bit tired of it – if anything, the more contexts I hear it in, the more it reveals itself to me. It’s pleasing intellectually and it’s equally pleasing viscerally. I loved the glitchy, blipped-out sonics of the first half on first listen. I came around to the slower, uglier, less musical tracks** later, after many listens, and now I love those even more. It, like 808’s and Heartbreak and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (my #7 album of 2010) before it, will prove to be massively influential*** five years down the line. I saw the Yeezus tour in concert four times; the staging and pageantry were both astonishing, Kanye was vibrant and engaged and present in a way that I’ve found few performers to be, especially those on large arena tours, and each night was a progressively better performance, culminating with Lindsay and I on the floor for the final show at Madison Square Garden, maybe 10 feet from the man himself as he did work – as he jumped, stalked, was raised as a god and prostrated himself to another one, as he ranted spoke Swaghili soliloquized – an experience I will truly never forget among the thousands of shows I’ve seen and will see to come.
In short, Yeezus absolutely dominated my year; it wouldn’t make sense to have it anywhere but at #1. I’d place it higher if I could.
* She’s the biggest Kanye stan I’ve ever met. It’s one of her finer qualities. Is there anything more inspiring and wonderful than people who are really passionate about something?
** That’s the big secret about Yeezus – while it is an oblique, harsh, not-readily-approachable record, the Daft Punk tracks are actually the most approachable ones. The synthesized tracks aren’t nearly as gnarly as they’ve been made out to be; spiky, to be sure, but tuneful. It’s the knotted treetrunks of tracks like “I’m In It” and “Hold My Liquor” and “Guilt Trip” that really require some serious listening time to find footholds in.
*** That said, while I think a lot of folks agree that Yeezus will reverberate in a way that changes modern music, I don’t think it’s going to be for the harsh, Daft Punk electronic elements. I think the combination of the chopped-up, jump-cut, seams-showing aesthetic and the use of manipulated dancehall samples are both going to prove to be the real lasting legacy.