Thursday 25 April 2019

Kanye West 'Ye' album review: 'He hasn’t completely left behind his idiosyncrasies'

4 stars

Kanye West (Yui Mok/PA)
Kanye West (Yui Mok/PA) newsdesk

A new Kanye West album used to be an event. Now the arrival of fresh material from the one-time hip hop innovator is a source of potential embarrassment – for him but also us.

Misgivings were particularly high ahead of Ye, recorded in his new hide-out/recording facility at Jackson Hole, Wyoming. West had spent the previous several months taking a blow-torch to his once impeccable reputation, by variously supporting Donald Trump (even while insisting he was apolitical) and telling TMZ slavery was “a choice”.

But having presumably got the self-sabotage out of his system, the 40 year old is on a steadier keel throughout his eighth LP (by far his shortest with just seven songs and a 23 minute running time).

He offers a homage to his wife Kim Kardashian on the dreamy Wouldn’t Leave, which features a heartfelt outro in which he thanks her for staying true to him in the face of recent controversies (she very reasonably feared they would be ruined following his TMZ meltdown).

Yet though West is seemingly on the road to recovery here, he hasn’t completely left behind his idiosyncrasies. Bare-boned opener I Thought About Killing You finds Kanye telling someone – Kardashian presumably – that he had considered bumping them off and that he’d contemplated taking his own life too.

That’s a dark beginning and thankfully Ye doesn’t lean into it. Instead, the record gradually pulls back the curtains and feels the sun on its face. Kanye makes light of/boasts about his emotional health issues on the yammering, minimalist Yikes, joking that bipolar disorder is a “superpower” (he also references the condition on the record sleeve, on which are scrawled the words “I hate being bipolar/It’s awesome”).

Kanye West 'Ye'
Kanye West 'Ye'

And he pays tribute to his daughters on the languid, fuzz-drenched Violent Crimes, in which he explains that parenthood has led him to look at the world differently.

After his recent outrageous behaviour, this is hardly enough to make amends or restore his status within the entertainment industry and celebrity-sphere. But it suggests that, having hopefully hit his lowest, Kanye has started to climb out of the hole into which he’s dug himself. By those metrics, Ye counts as a win.

Read more: 'It’s not a disability, it’s a superpower' - Kanye West diagnosed with a mental health condition at 39


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