How Does Kanye's 'T.L.O.P. Compare To 'Yeezus'?
In the weeks leading up to the Yeezy Season 3 fashion show and the The Life of Pablo listening party, I, like many other Ye fans, had a lot of questions pertaining to Kanye West’s seventh album: What can we expect from WAV— Wait, what’s the album name now? Oh, OK. Whatever the album’s called, how will he follow up 2013’s Yeezus? Will it pack the same sonic punch? Or will it be a different, albeit still effective type of sonic punch? Will this album pop a wheelie on the zeitgeist, too?
Well, those questions got their answers on Thursday afternoon when West debuted The Life of Pablo at Madison Square Garden. And because we live in ~the future~, literally anyone with a Tidal subscription and a working wifi connection could watch it in the comfort of their own living room/office cubicle/flying car (oops, I take back that last one; it’s not safe to live stream and fly your car at the same time).
Look, I love Yeezus; the 40-minute album takes my ears on a long night’s journey into an even longer night, and I am all about it. On some days, Yeezus is my very favorite of West’s discography (don’t give me that look). But I know that there are many fans of West’s music who could not disagree with me more even if there was a pair of brand new Yeezy Boost 350s on the line; If I had to pick one adjective to sums up Yeezus, it’s “polarizing.”
So, what's the verdict? How does T.L.O.P.compare to Yeezus? Well, like Yeezus, this new album boasts a 40-minute runtime. And like Yeezus, the album boasts plenty of wonderfully weird moments (e.g., the references to Equinox in “High Lights”). And like Yeezus, the album boasts plenty of moving moments (e.g., "Ultra Light Beams”). And like Yeezus, the album boasts plenty of holy-crap-I-gotta-listen-to-this-song-on-repeat moments (e.g., “FML”). And like Yeezus, T.L.O.P. feels like a Kanye West Album. And like Yeezus, T.L.O.P.is tremendous.
But these are two verydifferent albums.
Within the first fifteen seconds of the album, it’s clear that The Life of Pablo is not Yeezus: Reloaded. The first track (“Ultra Light Beams”) is an emotional, pared down, gospel-infused song that could not be further from the frenzied, electronic Yeezus opener (“On Sight”). From that initial laser beam note, the energy of West’s sixth solo album is at an 11. The Life of Pablo, on the other hand, is more reined in; the album’s sound builds to its most Yeezus-ish moment on “Freak Dreams,” but it only barely loosens its grip on its understated, controlled tone.
But this is not to say that T.L.O.P.plays it safe; while this album might be more accessible than its most recent predecessor, we hear West continue to push the envelope with its sound, its verses, and the overall product. When the livestream reached the end of the final track ("Wolves"), I thought, What just happened? And I could not wait to jump back into the weird, evocative, and holy-crap-I-gotta-listen-to-this-on-repeat T.L.O.P.waters once again.
So, I ask the all-important question again: Does T.L.O.P.pop a wheelie on the zeitgeist? Eh, popping wheelies doesn't seem like its style. If anything, it ultra light beams its way on the zeitgeist. (It is ~the future~, after all.)