The Life of Pablo / by Alice Hawke

My favorite tracks, in order (I’m not counting skits and I don't love every single track)

 

Waves

No More Parties in LA

FML (though I could do without the last 60 seconds)

Wolves

Pt 2

Facts (Charlie Heat version)

Ultralight Beam

Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1

Famous

Real Friends

Firstly, I think Kanye West is an artist. I don’t like everything he produces, but that’s not the point, art makes you feel and think something. Along with other projects of his, The Life of Pablo does that for me.

But, a lot of the beats also sound like they took no more than a few minutes on each. In music there can be ‘complex basic’ beats that are superficially simple but intricate if you listen closely. Then there’s ‘basic basic’ beats, where they’re blatantly simple. A lot of The Life of Pablo is the latter. I imagine this isn’t accidental, as he is after all very self aware - I Love Kanye demonstrates that. But it doesn’t quite work - I don’t think the Mona Lisa would be so admired if it had been done with a graphite pencil. Impressive nonetheless, but it could be even finer - more on that later.Lyrically I think it's as sound as any other Kanye album, it's just the beats are lacking.

For example, No More Parties in LA - it may be my favorite track, but it feels like there a lot of missed potential; few of the beats on the album really progress anywhere. In No More Parties in LA, the sections at 0:37-0:43, 0:59-1:04, 1:38-1:42, 1:57-2:04, 2:16-2:21, 2:37-2:43, 3:12-3:18, 4:11-4:16, 4:51-4:58, 5:11-5:15, 5:30-5:35, 5:50-5:56 feel like some promising progression is being teased, but then he just loops the beat again. Famous is completely different at the start and end (I prefer the sound of the end over the beginning), but Waves is pretty much the same throughout. Some tracks feel like they could be so much more...

Unless it’s all one track. When the album released, I delayed listening to it because you can only listen to something for the first time once, and many people recommended altered track orders. 18 tracks is long for an album, yet it’s just under an hour - a lot of the tracks are disappointingly brief. I decided to trust Kanye and listen to it in the order he intended, and I can’t see an argument for any other order. Musically, it feels like a very logical 58 minute journey, a journey I’ve taken six times in the last 24 hours and enjoyed each time. If it was on a CD (and it never will be, but if it was) I couldn’t tell you when some of the tracks necessarily changed because it flows so well.

With Waves, FML, and a few others, I’m disappointed that the tracks are quite so short, as I feel they could be so much more if he evolved them, if it was more than just a 58 minute journey. It makes the album feel rushed, this definitely isn’t 2+ years work. Which is a shame, as as I said, Kanye West is an artist, and with The Life of Pablo he’s not quite doing his 'artistry' justice. There’s not really a bad track on the album, but few feel complete. The album shows a lot of promise, I just wish he’d finished it.