Here’s What Critics Are Saying About Kanye West’s Divisive ‘Jesus Is King’
"'Jesus Is King' is impersonal, repetitive, boring, and somehow too long at just 27 minutes."
Late last week, after countless delays, Kanye West dropped his new album Jesus Is King. To call its reception ‘mixed’ would be something of an understatement.
Within the time it took for the audience to listen to the thing just once, it had already become a source of much online mockery. Short, aimless, gospel-inspired and about as energetic as an upturned tortoise, the record was quickly derided not only as one of the worst of the man’s career, but one of the worst of the year.
The internet jibes called to mind the response to another exploration of faith, Chance The Rapper’s The Big Day. As the internet had done with Chance, the mockery wasn’t just relegated to the record itself, but to its creator. Kanye’s support of Trump became a controversy all over again, and a predictably intense interview with Zane Lowe was pored over for all of the most salacious quotes.
It was a mess, basically — one made only messier within a day or so, when the critical notices came out. Turned out it wasn’t just the general public’s opinion that Kanye had phoned the thing in, but the critics’ as well.
Here then is a round-up of everything they said, a grand catalogue of all the dunking on rap’s most thin-skinned millionaire.
Pitchfork gave Jesus Is King the respectable score of 7.4 — which only makes the savagery of the review itself that much harder to understand.
Writer Rawiya Kameir does concede that the new album is “much more focused than his 2018 album ye“, which is a little like calling a brutal axe murder less devastating than two brutal axe murders. But he savages how out of touch Kanye has become, noting that the musician now lives in a world utterly unlike the one occupied by his fans.
“It’s hard to take West seriously when the obstacles he distresses over are Instagram likes and steep tax rates (the IRS, he complains, wants ‘half of the pie’),” Kameir replies. “Rather than the grace, justice, and love that characterises faith at its most transformative, West internalises the religious entitlement that props up the wealthy and powerful, validating months of jokes about his ambitions as a megachurch pastor.”
The final word: “Kanye albums used to stretch our perspectives and imaginations. Now they illuminate the contours of his increasingly shrunken world.”
Brendan Klinkeberg of Rolling Stone also had some good stuff to say, noting that the record is filled “with moments of undeniable brilliance.”
Which was an odd comment to make, really, given that by the time his article went up, the internet had done a lot of work denying the record any moments of brilliance.
But when it came time to talk about the piece as a whole, Klinkeberg let loose. “The strength of those moments are often derailed by the presence of West himself,” goes the review. “Time and time again on Jesus Is King, West’s presence front and center weakens his work as a producer.”
The final word: “If West really, truly believed that it could save someone’s — everyone’s — immortal soul, you wish he had tried a little harder.”
Dean Van Nguyen of The Guardian slapped two stars onto the whole mess, noting that the record somehow feels even less substantial than its brief running time might imply. “Jesus Is King is too slight a record, too lacking in substance, to offer any sense of purification or real insights into West’s mind.
“What we get is 27 minutes of perfunctory religious discussion that tell us little of God’s place in the life of this one believer and almost nothing of God’s place in the modern world … This is another slapdash project from a once great album-maker.”
The final word: “Jesus Is King might be the definitive assertion that West’s golden period is over.”
Consequence of Sound
The most savage criticism of all might have come from Wren Graves from Consequence of Sound, who definitely delivered the best headline: “Kanye West Even Bores God with the Passionless Jesus Is King.“
Graves calls the thing “twenty-seven minutes of cliches, half-finished thoughts, and vaguely religious gesturing” and notes that ‘On God’ is a “dollar-store ripoff of ‘All of the Lights’.
The final word: “Jesus Is King is impersonal, repetitive, boring, and somehow too long at just 27 minutes.”
But hey, it’s not all bad Kanye! NME liked the record, calling it full of “community” and “absolutely clarity and confidence.”
Less positively, the review is mostly a process of sorting through Kanye’s recent controversies, and doesn’t actually have a huge amount to say about the music itself. But hey, you take the good where you can get it.
The final word: “You may hear Jesus Is King and hope Kanye West is one step ahead of us, as so often he has been.”