John Kearns: Kanye West's new album has sublime melodies, killer rhythms and firecracker lyrics
SO AFTER what seemed like 500 title changes and as many false starts, Kanye West's new album has finally arrived.
The self-proclaimed `greatest rock star in the world' has actually delivered an artistic hurricane of a record filled with sublime melodies, killer rhythms and firecracker lyrics.
The Life of Pablo finds Westie at the absolute top of his game - which is fortunate considering the hype and preamble devoted to the album ahead of its eventual release. Although the artist would claim, of course, that fortune had nothing to do with the outcome – more like a combination of years of intense labour and organic talent - and in this case he may well have a point.
The record possesses a rare quality in 2016 in that it flows like an actual album from start to finish, where moods shift and stories unfold as the listener's attention is consistently captured.
While so many contemporary albums parade as a collection of standalone 'singles' ripe for iTunes cherry picking, The Life of Pablo reads like a book and plays like a movie with a diverse selection of chapters peppered and punctuated with clever interludes and loaded with swagger and irony in equal measure.
From the opening shot of Ultralight Beam, with its gospel chorus and quirky percussion, to the strident Famous (with Rihanna on guest vocals), the album instantly drags you along for the ride, willingly or otherwise, through the dramatic rapper's delight of Feedback pausing just at the right moment to mellow the mix with Low Lights – an inspired and inspirational dash of positive energy before flipping into Highlights, a breezy R&B stroll featuring Young Thug.
There are, of course, a few weaker moments on the album but in the main West has managed to make a fiercely strong and indignant record which culminates with the final track actually being the best – the beautiful bass-aced romp of Fade is a finale worth waiting for.
These songs are deserving of a much more 'band driven' live show when he decides to tour the new material. They are worthy of a more elaborate and musical on stage treatment than one man standing there solo and exposed under a thousand light bulbs.
Love him or hate him, Kanye West combines actual talent with immense self-belief and very effectively marries style with substance.
Behind the bluster there is an artist and a writer with plenty to say and very little to prove.
There have been many recent challengers to his hip hop throne – Kendrick Lamar and Drake to name just a couple - but The Life of Pablo has more than weathered the storm.