Roc-A-Fella / Def Jam
Essentially the extended club sequence missing from Tron: Legacy, Yeezus combines the window-rattling throb of that film with the brazen, breathless, and ultimately unapologetic approach of pop music’s touchiest paladin. The results are, as you might expect, gripping and cinematic. At forty minutes the album also retains a focus absent from Kanye’s last meandering effort, 2010’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. That fairy tale was longer by half an hour, but let’s be frank—it felt like days.
As with many Kanye West projects, the degree of reality within Yeezus is unclear. Is this authentic upper class braggadocio we’re witnessing in “I Am A God” or the deftest of parodies? The line of demarcation is barely visible through the electro-dissonance West has sublet from producers Daft Punk. The rapper’s jaunty / bratty attitude doesn’t help, but when the dust settles ultimately I find myself not caring. When you create music as present and engaging as “Black Skinhead” or “On Sight” I afford you the right to have an asthma attack over tardy croissants (a picture Kanye paints in “God” that joke or not will now surely follow him to the grave).
Even when Yeezus slips into autopilot for a few tracks it’s startlingly good. “I’m In It” and “Hold My Liquor” both hit far harder than your average late night bangers about getting laid and having addiction issues (respectively). The latter is particularly affecting, moving from a jarring structure of West’s chanting between air horn blasts to a back end laden with slippery almost reversed-sounding guitar work. I assume this is one of Bon Iver founder Justin Vernon’s contributions, but I’m not ruling out a ghost appearance from Kanye’s purple pop predecessor (and equal fussbudget) Prince.
Yeezus eventually lowers the stakes on its final track, “Bound 2,” in which Kanye once again contemplates his lousy romantic skills, this time over a reboot of the 1971 Massey / Dukes soul classic “Bound.” The song strolls along with a breeze and comfort, exhaling a sigh of relief for an otherwise tense album. The change is as pleasant and touching as it is unexpectedly cathartic and provides no better comedown for what history will probably peg as one of Kanye’s top three ventures. Is it too soon to ask when his next one is coming out?
FINAL SCORE: Four Tron: Legacy light cycles (out of four).