I woke up on Friday expecting “Jesus is King” to be available on Spotify. Instead, I woke up to various music publications announcing Kanye West’s failure to release on time.
This shouldn’t have been a depressing surprise, but unfortunately, this isn’t the first time Kanye has left fans waiting on his projects. “Jesus is King” joins the ranks with albums like “Good Ass Job,” “Yahndi,” “Cruel Winter,” “Turbo Grafx 16,” that collab record with Drake and more that Kanye either announced once and never released, or announced and delayed “until further notice.”
I can’t think of a single other musician in recent music history that has been able to announce so many projects and just never make good on them. And Kanye does this all while keeping the spotlight on himself, with the announcements plastering the front pages of music blogs everywhere. Combine this inconsistency with the extremely rough decade that he’s had and his career should be over. But he remains at the forefront of American culture nonetheless.
Why doesn’t this hurt Kanye’s reputation? Why does he get coverage and apologies from fans and critics alike despite all of this?
From a strictly musical standpoint, the controversy surrounding Kanye’s 2016 record “The Life of Pablo” was the first real warning of problems to come. It almost joined the list of albums that were released late. First it was called “So Help Me God,” then “Swish,” then “Waves” and finally “The Life of Pablo.”
From there, Kanye announced the album would have ten songs and come out on Feb. 12, 2016.
It didn’t come out until Feb. 14 and had 19 tracks.
It didn’t stop there. People complained about the mixing, Kanye posted his infamous –– and now deleted –– “imma fix wolves” tweet and on March 31, Kanye released the album again with minor changes to almost every song. On June 14, 2016, Kanye added the track “Saint Pablo” to the record and the album was finally complete.
In the history of modern music, the road to “The Life of Pablo” was unlike any other. Kanye had been an infamous controversy stirrer in the music scene for over a decade, but until that album, it had never crossed over into his music past the lyrics.
It’s hard to say if this was a good idea or even an intentional one. On one hand, the “finished” version of “The Life of Pablo” is miles better than the version that was released on Valentine’s Day. But on the other hand, it may be the reason why we face the constant frustration today that is Kanye’s inconsistent and frequent album non-releases.
For the most part, the general public gave the ordeal a pass. It was new, it was innovative and it was funny to see the name of the record change so many times.
But it was also frustrating, set a dangerous precedent in the era of streaming and signalled to Kanye that his music-releasing methods can be fluid from that time forward.
With that logic though, I shouldn’t be surprised that “Jesus is King” isn’t out.
So why am I?
I attribute this to the confidence his five-week string of releases –– May 25-June 22, 2018 –– instilled in me. To provide a quick refresher, Kanye announced via Twitter that five new records (by himself and other artists) were going to be produced by him and would come out every Friday for those five weeks in a row.
To everyone’s surprise, he delivered. Now, the reception of these albums were mixed depending on who you ask and Kanye didn’t get most of them out exactly at midnight, but they all came out at some point on the day they were supposed to. Separating the massive controversies he had during this time, this was the most success Kanye had with a release schedule since 2013.
“Yandhi” failing to release should have been the real warning sign, but even that had a bootleg release, showing it was real, even if it was scrapped.
With “Jesus is King,” all we have to go off of is a promise from Kim K. and a screenshot on Kanye’s website. As of 8:00 p.m., Oct. 2, the site still has the picture of the tracklist and release date, but Kanye himself has been completely silent.
If the album never releases, I don’t think that Kanye’s reputation will be damaged at all, but for me, this is the last straw.
We would never give this type of leeway to any other artists, especially one with such a controversial list of gripes to go along with them. It’s been tiring to be a Kanye West fan for a long time now and now that he’s extended these idiosyncrasies to his release schedule, it has become absolutely agonizing and frankly unacceptable. It is already difficult to pay attention to Kanye, but now that there isn’t even music to back it up, it’s hard to justify his place in the music industry anymore.
Opinion desk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alex Whetham is an asst. arts editor for The Spectrum.