It’s understandable. At just 27 minutes, the album seems half-formed – especially for an artist who once recorded 75 different versions of 2007 mega-hit Stronger before deciding on the final one, and who was still tweaking 2016’s The Life of Pablo weeks after its official release.
Still, imagine being so upset that Kanye released a new album? The pop charts are topped by human sedatives such as Post Malone and Ed Sheeran and people are complaining we’ve got a new Kanye album to listen to? It’s enough to make you turn to Jesus.
Shouldn’t we be rejoicing that “unquestionably, undoubtedly, the greatest human artist of all time” (his words, but accurate enough) is still making music amid setting up his Hillsong-rivalling megachurch and dome-heavy cult community? I think so.
And so, here’s a brief celebration of Jesus is King, Kanye Evernever’s (hey Riverdale fans) weird church thing, but a Kanye thing nevertheless.
The soaring choirs:
As any cineaste can tell you, Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit is the greatest movie of all time. If you could see me right now, I’m chanting “joyful, joyful, Lord we adore thee!” and doing MC Hammer bursts with my hands – and, like most childhood Catholics, I don’t even like church. That’s how good Sister Act 2 is.
Jesus is King is full of the sort of soul-opening gospel numbers that helped St Francis Academy win the All-State Choir Championship, forcing the local diocese to keep the school’s doors open, thus making Las Vegas showgirl-turned-fake nun Sister Mary Clarence (Whoopi Goldberg) a legend. Do I need to say “spoilers” for a 26-year-old film?
“I ain’t mean, I’m just focused”:
This is just a line from the song Selah where Kanye defends screaming at his chauffeur. Such is the spiritual struggle of a reformed hedonist.
The bit reminding holier-than-thou types to chill a bit:
There’s a lot of “culture wars” in the response to Jesus is King, something that’s met Kanye’s output ever since he infamously wore that MAGA hat last year. It’s why you now get guys like Donald Trump Jr, someone who looks like he still listens to Huey Lewis and the News daily, praising Kanye for “cracking the culture code” (whatever that means) with his new album. The song Hands On offers a little rebuke to such opportunistic types.
“What you been hearing from the Christians? They be the first ones to judge me. Make it seem like nobody loves me,” raps Kanye, a useful dig at one-time antagonists now conveniently singing his praises.
I’m also transported to 14-year-old me sitting on the bus listening to 2Pac’s Only God Can Judge Me with a scowl aimed at whatever teacher gave me a C-minus on my homework. This is a great song for all those reasons.
The Kenny G soprano sax solo:
You might remember a few years back when Kanye got wife Kim the greatest Valentine’s gift ever: a room filled with hundreds of roses and Kenny G. Proving he has the greatest sense of humour in pop music, Kanye’s revisited that moment – recruiting Kenny for a fiery solo on album cut Use This Gospel. When the beat kicks in, you’ll turn towards heaven (or hell) and say: “Can’t believe I’m knocking my head to a Kenny G solo…”
“That’s why I charge the prices that I charge, I can’t be out here Dancing with the Stars, no I cannot let my family starve”:
This is Kanye on the song On God, hilariously defending why he overcharges on his merch. Considering his family includes at least one billionaire (Kylie Jenner) and other multimillionaires besides himself, starvation seems an unnecessary concern. But then this song also includes the line “I bleached my hair for every time I could’ve died” which is a proper gut-punch. Like I said, imagine being upset that Kanye released a new album?
For anyone who’s still not convinced, just remember Bob Dylan’s Christian-phase only lasted about three years. Plus, like he said himself, Kanye should be the US president by 2024, so you’ll get over it.
Robert Moran is a culture reporter at The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age