Album review - 'Jesus is King' by Kanye West
Granted, it’s a little late to be reviewing this album, but I wanted to anyway because it’s definitely a standout album both in the context of the pop world and in the context of Kanye’s oeuvre. TL;DR: Favorite track: "Hands On" Least favorite track: "On God" ✝️⛪🕊️🍂🤍
The album focuses on Kanye’s conversion to Christianity and his new commitment to following Jesus Christ. Kanye has gotten a lot of flack for becoming Christian, especially because people doubt his conversion is genuine. He addresses this in the album. Is Kanye’s conversion genuine? Well, at the end of the day, I can’t know that for sure, so I’m not going to focus on that. I’m only judging this based on the music itself.
Jesus is King is a quick listen, clocking in at 27 minutes. The album opens with “Every Hour,” performed by Kanye’s Sunday Service Choir. It’s interesting, like an alternative, sped-up version of a traditional church choir. It’s fresh, a nice twist on that classic sound, and that twist doesn’t make it lose any of its spiritual essence. “Selah” seems to be about Kanye’s transformation as a new Christian, and also offers encouragement to other Christians. The naming of Bible verses with the drums in the background is a good inclusion, and so is the gospel choir singing “hallelujah.” “Follow God” is about the paradox of how we are often fighting God and not being Christ-like, but we still keep calling out for Him and needing Him. The message seems to be that the struggle of wrestling with God can be tiring and frustrating, and we should just let go and follow Him. “Closed on Sunday” is about a man with a family following God and all the reasons following God will help, protect and enrich his family. It’s a good song, but every time he says ‘Chick-Fil-A’ I want to laugh. I feel like “On God” is about the prosperity gospel and kind of, uh…excuses for Kanye to say he’s Christian now but continue to do really non-Christian things like charging really high sneaker prices and such. He just kind of says he’s going to continue to do these things without offering much actual explanation as to why. Unless this is supposed to be sarcastic or a self-deprecating joke, this would have to be my least favorite song on the album so far. He spent the past 4 tracks trying to convince us that he’s changed, and then this. “Everything We Need” is an almost Imogen Heap-esque positive-sounding track with the upbeat refrain “we have everything we need.” Featuring Ty Dolla $ign and Ant Clemons. “Water” is one of the best songs on the album for sure. A very, very nice song about the healing power of Jesus. The type of actually good Christian music we really need in this world. Featuring Ant Clemons. “God Is” is a great follow-up to “Water,” and might be even better. Another wonderful worship song, and Kanye at his most genuine. “Hands On” is about how Kanye feels like people, especially other Christians, don’t really believe that his conversion to Christianity is genuine. I think a lot of unconventional or later-in-life Christians can relate to this. This is one of the best on the album too, if not the best. The last minute of the song is the best part. Favorite lyrics of the whole album:
“I deserve all the criticism you got If that's all the love you have, that's all you got To sing of change, you think I'm joking To praise His name, you ask what I'm smoking Yes, I understand your reluctancy, yeah But I have a request, you see Don't throw me up, lay your hands on me Please, pray for me”
Featuring Fred Hammond. “Use This Gospel” is a nice song basically just about how great God is and how we should put our faith in Him. I will say that at this point in the album there have already been a few very similar songs and there is not much to distinguish each one. Throughout the whole album, he doesn’t really go into any specifics and the message tends to be more of a general “have faith in Jesus.” Nothing wrong with that, but it can get repetitive, whereas some other alternative Christian music like Starflyer 59 kept it a lot more interesting by going into specifics for different songs, like imagining what Heaven will be like or discussing how men and women can cause trouble together. That’s more of the path I hope Kanye takes if he makes another Christian album. Featuring Clipse and Kenny G. “Jesus is Lord” has simple worship lyrics; nice and beautiful nonetheless, especially with those instrumentals.