It’s officially been three weeks since Kanye West’s new album, Donda, debuted and multiple tracks have already hit the Billboard charts. West also took the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Artist 100 chart on Sept. 11 with 423 million streams in eight days — only to be topped by Drake’s album, Certified Lover Boy, with more than 430 million streams in just one day after its debut.
The war between Yeezy and Drizzy is never-ending, but whether you favour one over the other, both albums slap (to me, personally).
And after more than one listen of the Donda album (or more like a constant repeat since its drop), I have some thoughts. So buckle in for my review of the album that literally no one asked for.
The album is, in short, theatrical. From the opening act of the Donda chant to “No Child Left Behind”, I find the succession of the tracks really plays out a story — or maybe it’s just the journalist in me that’s constantly looking for a story.
But from what I interpret, ‘Ye produced an album to highlight a place in time where he felt lost, to regaining a purpose in life with God.
It’s no secret that West is problematic — not only was that plastered over the internet, but it was also addressed in his previous albums like Ye and Jesus is King. I don’t know if it’s his particular circumstances in life or just his dark twisted fantasy that led him to say and do very questionable things, but it seems that he found forgiveness with God despite public scrutiny.
In Donda, the songs leading up to “Heaven and Hell”, I find, are songs that illustrate how alone and hopeless West felt prior to finding a relationship with God. Then comes a certain point in “Heaven and Hell” that almost feels like a climax of the whole album where the lyrics “This that level, make devils pray now” meet a chorus of singing.
The tracks after this point talk more about how God completely altered his life, with tracks like “New Again” and “Jesus Lord”.
Before that climactic point of the album, some of his tracks talk about marriage and family challenges, sobriety issues, and the overrated life of a celebrity. The song “Remote Control” talks about the downfalls that come with being constantly in the limelight. The lines “I was in my hovercraft, had another laugh” probably best draws a picture of how fame and fortune got to his ego before “God just grabbed his hand, had a bigger plan” and led him down another path.
Young Thug’s feature on the track also alludes to a point that being a rich celebrity isn’t all just a glorified trip down the road in a new Rolls Royce, with “paparazzi sleeping at his door.” Of course, with God on the remote control, Kanye West’s life switched to a better channel — maybe like a Disney Channel from the early 2000s when good shows like “Hannah Montana '' and “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody” still existed.
Other songs show feelings of defeat, like his track “Jonah” — a reference to a biblical tale where a character named Jonah gets stuck inside the stomach of a giant fish. With lyrics like “who’s here when I need a shoulder to lean on” and “I hope you're here when I need the demons to be gone and it's not fair that I had to fight 'em all on my own,” maybe speaks to his mental health issues and his battle with sobriety.
The feelings of loss and hopelessness in these lyrics mirrors the state the character Jonah was in the bible when he was stuck inside the giant fish — the uncertainty of ever leaving and feeling caged-in. Spencer Kornhaber’s review of Donda in The Atlantic wrote about West’s listening parties at the Mecerdes-Benz stadium in Atlanta with his all-black apparel and harness giving the artist an air of being defensive, caged and trapped.
Kornhaber also mentioned the album finally delivered fans’ demands of the old Kanye. Borrowing themes of wistfulness from 808s & Heartbreak with the Donda track “Moon” and the goofiness of The College Dropout in “Keep My Spirit Alive”.
Although, I found that sounds from The College Dropout can also be found in the free-spirited vibes of “New Again” and the roaring electric guitar in “Jail” mimics that of the Yeezus album.
And (this might be the biggest stretch) with the Donda track “24”, bringing homage to West’s “We Don’t Care” in College Dropout “because he wasn’t supposed to make it past 25".
The latter half of the album seems to be more lifted. This can be interpreted quite literally as Kanye West delivers visuals of levitating in the air during the second Donda listening party. The performance was a part of a finishing act during the song “No Child Left Behind” after a chorus of the lyrics “he’s done miracles on me” finally concluding that his journey to where he is today is due to the miracle works of God.
Personally, I can’t tell what’s more of a miracle, the fact that his album dropped after multiple delays or that he left the stadium without going completely broke. It was reported the rental stay at the stadium cost West allegedly $1 million per day to live in. Whether that’s true or not, I’m not sure, but it probably wasn’t a cheap stay either way.
After listening to the album from start to finish, I can truly say that I have thoroughly enjoyed this album. And while his music (or just him as a person) isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, Donda is most certainly a conversational topic. I’d love to know your thoughts, though, good or bad. Do you hate him? Love him? Let me know in the comments below.
Eden Suh is a new media reporter (and a Kanye West fan) at Sudbury.com.