I was there for the spectacle that was Kanye West’s Yeezy Season 3 debut … by proxy at least. I was there at one of the theaters where it was being streamed. The clothes were post-apocalyptic, the models emotionless, but what I, and probably most people, were there for was the music. A new Kanye album is always an event, but the fact that he sold out Madison Square Garden in 10 minutes to premiere it along with his fashion show seems like a new beast entirely.
“30 Hours” by Kanye West
The rollout for West’s seventh solo record, whatever it has been called, has been equal parts entertaining and excruciating, especially for fans who followed every update West gave during the two-plus years in which he teased the follow-up to “Yeezus.”
Even the album’s premiere at Madison Square Garden on Thursday was not the end of West’s wild ride. Since the event, the number of tracks increased from 10 to 18, and the final version was dropped but then pulled after his performance on Saturday Night Live. As of this writing, “The Life of Pablo” is available to stream on Tidal, but not for sale.
The shenanigans didn’t stop West from rebooting G.O.O.D. Fridays, which last Friday brought the release of “30 Hours.” It harkens back to West’s lyrically strong, soulful days, reminiscent of songs like “White Dress,” a modern take on the style from early albums, particularly “Late Registration.”
Production comes courtesy of Karriem Riggins, while West leaves behind the themes of anger from “Yeezus” for hardened resiliency in the face of his recent success outside of music.
However much actual rapping West does nowadays, it’s not enough. Tracks like “30 Hours” make you forget about the cringe-worthy lines on some of his more production-focused songs. “The Life of Pablo” features a healthy mix of both the experimental and lyrical sides of his work.
“Consideration” by Rihanna featuring SZA
Rihanna’s “Anti” was another eagerly-anticipated, extremely-delayed album. In the era of surprise releases, plenty of attempts are bungled, and this one dropped with a whimper because of a Tidal system malfunction. But even with the annoyances that come with album delays, once the music is out, it’s out, and usually all is forgiven.
“Consideration” is the album opener with minimal production and layers of vocals between Rihanna and SZA. It might not be the best song on the album, but it is a refreshing step away from pop maximalism. It is beautiful, catchy and a songwriting achievement to take such few ingredients — a couple vocalists, a bass and drum machine — and make so much.
“Modern Soul” by James Blake
Blake was one of the pioneers of the warped, electronic R&B sound that blew up a few years back. He has been teasing a new album, “Radio Silence,” his third, for a while, as well as collaborations with West and Bon Iver.
“Modern Soul” is that first single, a song where it’s just nice to see Blake’s name in the new music section. It’s layered, emotional and most definitely music for the dead of winter. Hopefully the new album is out soon, because before long it will be too warm to fully appreciate him.