Life of Pablo – Album Review

My thoughts, song-by-song (maybe overly critical, maybe….you decide)
Ultralight Beam – Excellent song. The intro is the perfect level of unsettling. I give Kanye props for pulling off this song, not so much for his performance on the track, but for his creativity. I loved the intro and he nailed it by featuring Kirk Franklin and the gospel choir. Chance The Rapper was the obvious/ideal choice for this song. It brings me back to the growing up with 90s gospel blasting in the house.  But where was Kanye?! He obviously produced the song more than he performed it. Chance The Rapper was a welcome voice, and this song was very much in keeping with Chance’s other work.
After my second listen to the album, reflecting back on this song, I realize that it just makes me like Chance more. Kanye didn’t deliver to that same degree anywhere else in the album, so I don’t know how much credit to give him, other than the fact that he was a facilitator for this song. Also Chance has the same soulful elements throughout his work, so I feel like he set the tone in this song and Kirk Franklin was the perfect collaborator.

Father Stretch My Hands part 1– The intro is a smooth, perfect transition from Ultralight Beam, but the dubbed voice and lyrics ruin it. The first minute of the song is great and then it quickly degrades. The lyrics are hilarious (or perhaps purposefully ironic) given the previous song. He goes from a gospel tone to talking about models bleaching their assholes (with perfect enunciation!). I don’t know Kanye well enough to know if this was intentionally ironic. Although the song was too dubbed, the choir-like voices in the background kept the flow with the previous song.

 Father Stretch My Hands part 2– Once again, promising first 10 seconds, but then it is a let-down because it’s a typical Atlanta-style hip-hop song. I didn’t find it particularly creative or unique. The almost stereotypical bells in the background give it a familiar and generic feel. Don’t get me wrong, the Atlanta-style bells and beat are amazing when done right and mixed with creative lyrics, but the lyrics and hook left a lot to be desired (if there even was a hook). Overall, this song was super bland.
Famous – It starts as a typical posturing song (first 1-2 minutes), but it has good beat and the hyper-masculine lyrics are a “must” for any hip-hop alum produced by an artist like Kanye. The interesting thing is that the song rolls from being a hyper-masculine song to a very soft (almost love song after min 2). It’s as if the Kanye is just making an appearance in a love song. I look forward to hearing remixes of this.
Feedback – Pretty boring. The beat is actually good and I like the unique instrumentals, but he just didn’t have shit to say. The funny thing about this song is that he says he is crazy. I think he is crazy, not because he says it, but because it is such a terrible song and he thought it was good enough for his album. So yes, he has lost it, but not for the reasons he thinks.
Low Lights – This needed to be a minute shorter, it was way too drawn out
Highlights – Good beat, it’s fun to dance to, but the lyrics are obnoxious because Kanye once again outdoes himself by being narcissistic, “we are the new Jacksons”?! Fuck no! It’s clearly going to be (if its not already) the radio hit of the album.
Freestyle 4 – Terrible! This seriously make me question him as a writer/lyricist. Like Feedback, I feel like he is a good producer (which is clear from some songs on the album) but he doesn’t have shit for lyrics.
I love Kanye – It’s a waste, he is just using space/time to reinforce some image he wants to portray of being “above it all” as an artist that is “so good” that people don’t get it

Waves – Excellent song but typical of songs featuring Chris Brown, too much instrumental and the main artist (in this case Kanye) is pretty much absent. Nice to listen to, but not much more than that.

FML – This song gets to me because I feel like it is one of the first songs on the album where he actually delivers some content in his lyrics, but then he delivers it in the most uncreative/drawn-out 2 minutes. The first 2 minutes are akin to having a good cocktail delivered in a dixie cup. However, it is excellent from minute 2-3, and I like the LSD-crazed outro. The tone of the outro is in-keeping with the intro lyrics; I like that he closed the loop.
Real Friends – I like it. The lyrics have content and a good beat. I also like that his voice is clear and not overly-manipulated electronically. It’s not one to write home about, but it’s good.
Wolves – Once again way too much vocal manipulation in the first 1 min 45 sec; it would have been good for about 30 seconds, but he overdoes it. I do like the theme of the lyrics, but he could have been more subtle; he doesn’t leave anything for the imagination. After 3 min 30 I love the outro, it connects back with the crisp female voice in the into.
Silver Surfer Intermission – eh, whatever
30 hrs – I really liked it, nice beat and the lyrics were good. I particularly liked the raw sounding drums, it was old school. Based on the lyrics, I expected it to be the last song on the album, but I’m happy that it wasn’t. I also thought it was funny…yeah Kanye we all believe that you have the same ring tone as the phone on Jurassic Park!

No more parties in LA – Great. The contrast between (1) this song, with its distinct SoCal style, and (2) the Atlanta-style of Father Stretch My Hands part 2, shows that he is pretty flexible as an artist. I like that he can have so much variety on a single album, but I was hoping that the pace of the song would switch up a bit, it’s a 6 minute song with the same pace the entire time, that’s a little much.

 Facts – Excellent, this is one the of the best songs on the album. Finally a song that switches up the pace at an appropriate frequency! I thought it was extremely well executed and makes me want to move. The section from min 1:13 to min 3 is one of the best couple minutes on the album.
Fade – Appropriate song to end the album. I like the clapping in the into, but this song is the perfect example of my problem with this album: too much of a good thing. Throughout the album Kanye has really catchy elements—whether it be a line, an instrumental, etc.—but he repeats the element too much and it loses its value. This album would be so much better if he reined it in.