Kanye’s “Donda” falls flat of despite high expectations

Music Review


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The massive hype built around “Donda” may be its downfall. One of Kanye’s special gifts is his ability to sell his products.

To say that Kanye West has a flair for the dramatics may be an understatement. While many recognize “Yeezus” as the man who revolutionized rap from a violent art, heavily influenced by gangs and drugs, to a more soulful and heavy-hearted genre, others know the infamous rapper for his ability to captivate the public’s eye with his polarizing personality.

Fans of music may remember when he stormed the stage during Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech for Best Female Artist at the VMA’s in 2009 to say that Beyoncé deserved the award more. Consecutive hit albums Graduation, 808s & Heartbreaks, and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy gave Kanye leeway to make mistakes though. The public was willing to overlook his outbursts because he gave them a large quantity of great music.

As time progresses, “Ye” continues to find himself in the middle of controversies. Whether these problems stem from tweeting out “Bill Cosby is innocent”, questioning if 400 years of slavery was a choice, or criticizing Harriet Tubman by saying that she “never actually freed slaves, she just had them work for other white people,” Kanye is not seeing the same forgiveness that he saw in the late 2000s and early 2010s.

This is due to the fact that Kanye has not put out a great album since The Life of Pablo in 2016. While there are hit songs on recent albums, these records do not meet the high standards that Kanye is held to. His recent album, Donda, is no different as high expectations seem to be let down.

The massive hype built around Donda may be its downfall. One of Kanye’s special gifts is his ability to sell his products. His entrepreneurial senses certainly kicked in during the marketing of Donda. Before the album was even released, Kanye raked in an estimated $12 million from three listening parties, selling out Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta twice and Soldier Field in Chicago once.

These listening parties seemed more like a marketing scheme than an actual performance though. Thousands of in-person viewers and millions more online watched as Kanye, donning a mask and a puffy red jacket, pranced around to his unfinished songs. Things only got weirder when Donda was put onto streaming services on August 29, 2021 as Kanye took to Twitter to say that the album was put out without his approval.

This means that the 27 track album is barely finished which is perplexing given the fact that the original release date was set for the 24th of July. The biggest flaw caused by the incomplete album is the fact that the project’s namesake, Dr. Donda C. West, is missing from most of it. Her voice is used like a guiding light on a couple of songs, but Kanye misses an opportunity to have  maternal wisdom as one of the themes of Donda.

While Kanye missed a chance to give his mother a bigger role in Donda, he certainly made his relationship with God clear. Religion has been a strong part of Kanye’s music ever since he put out “Jesus Walks” on his first studio album The College Dropout. Donda’s tracklist is jam packed with religion with songs titled “God Breathed,” “Praise God,” “Jonah,” “Jesus Lord,” and “Lord I Need You.”

The album also has various religious references such as the ending of “Off The Grid” when, Ye says, “I gotta stay with God where the blessings is / I ain’t deliverin’ Heavenly messages just for the hell of it.” Christianity’s important role in Kanye’s life shines through on Donda

Tracks like “Jonah,” “Pure Souls,” and “Moon” bring back glimpses of vintage Kanye, but behind all the mixing and guests, Donda leaves listeners wishing for a more complete product. Although religion is a theme that shines through while listening, the ideas that Kanye brings up are elementary and do not go below the surface level. Altogether, the album falls well short of the massive hype.