TLDR: AOTY. Kanye's done it again. Not as good as MBDTF or LR, better than 808s & Yeezus. Sweet, very personal project with impeccable production, the tightest lyrical performance since MBDTF and a couple of bangers. Couple of dad jokes too but they're funny & charismatic.
Best Advice? Ignore the reviews. It's a short album, give it 3 or 4 listens and make your own mind up. People are too emotional to be objective. Don't poison the well, think for yourself. I think you'll probably enjoy it.
Note: Interesting to contrast the lukewarm reception by traditional outlets with the incredible commercial performance and effusive, widespread critical acclaim from non-traditional sources (bloggers, youtube reviewers).
I consider Trump a buffoon out of his depth as much as anyone and think Kanye's attempts at MAGA reappropriation & Gandhism are misguided but the reviews from traditional publications just reek of blind political bias and are disconcertingly vulgar, Pitchfork being the most egregious example of it. You can never separate art from artist and I understand the need to contextualise art but they're just hurling childish insults and barely touch on the music itself.
Pitchfork actually published: "seven tracks he farted out" and "he's an unrepentant asshole." This is something the editorial committee is actually standing by as an example of good journalism. Just contrast with Needledrop's review - he also contextualises the album but actually reviews the fucking music.
P4K labelled Kanye's efforts on Daytona as "uniformly excellent" but, suddenly, a week later he's a lazy man in an empty mansion who has "stopped trying." Again, all of this is actually from the published article. It's so intellectually dishonest. The reviews are filled with these cheap jabs - lazy attempts at armchair psychology jammed in between the vulgar abuse. I'm not even going to touch on the god awful prose. Everything about P4K was vulgar. NME not much better.
1st listen: 80 ish. Will revisit & edit after letting it soak in.
5th listen: 95. Definitely grows on you
20+ listens: 92. Have moved it between 90 and 96 all week, I think 92 is where it ends up settling. Will update if opinion change don this in a month's time.
Bangers: Yikes, All Mine - (If you like GOLD DIGGER, HEARTLESS)
Personal: Wouldn't Leave, Violent Crimes - (If you like RUNAWAY, ROSES)
Soulful: No Mistakes, Ghost Town - (If you like GONE, LATE)
Experimental: Killing You - (If you like FREESTYLE 4, I AM A GOD/YEEZUS IN GENERAL)
It's an exploration of duality - in that sense it borrows a lot thematically from TLOP but I think the bipolar revelation and its brilliant destigmatisation make the theme much more compelling on this project. Kanye takes you on a nice journey of self growth and murders the ego. First Kanye project where I'd say humility takes centre stage and ambition takes a back seat.
Sonically, an amalgam of Kanye's discography - impeccable old Kanye soul sampling, impeccable new Kanye industrial beats. Doesn't push too many new boundaries but LR & MBDTF didn't really innovate all that much either. He just does what he knows how to do well.
Instrumentals: College Dropout meets Yeezus
Bars: MBDTF meets TLOP
General Mood: Graduation meets 808s meets Real Friends.
Definitely NOT similar to watch the throne, cruel summer or late registration.