Last Thursday at Madison Square Garden, Kanye West unveiled his latest fashion offerings for YEEZY Season 3 along with a first listen of his anticipated studio album The Life of Pablo. West carries a less-than shining rapport among certain traditional critics, and following the debut of YEEZY Season 2, one of fashion’s most intimidating voices noted that West simply should not be taken seriously.
But for the third installation of West’s ongoing foray into YEEZY Season, the divisive polymath took over New York’s best-known venue, offering up his latest musings in fashion and music, which proved to be a show unique to any fashion week in the world.
Here are a selection of impressions from around the web. Stay posted as we update you with more reactions and stream the album now via TIDAL.
Jayson Greene, Pitchfork
His ability to package hundreds of stray threads into a whole that feels not just thrilling, but inevitable—at this, he is better than everyone, and he throws all of his best tricks into The Life of Pablo to remind us.
Jon Caramanica, The New York Times
Like many West albums, “Pablo” is a group effort. It’s also a hybrid of approaches.
Alexis Petridis, The Guardian
The Life of Pablo is an album that’s been faffed about with over a long period of time: it sounds like it. In place of the stylistic coherence of Yeezus, with its distorted electronics and overriding air of screw-you fury, there’s a record that’s audibly undergone endless revisions.
Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic
Though the acoustics were harsh, the content of the album seemed super-delectable: gospel-tinged like Kanye advertised, but with crunchy dance beats, an epic Rihanna hook, and one track that managed Yeezus-style spookiness without Yeezus-style noise.
Bianca Gracie, SPIN
The Chicago rapper more than delivered on his promise of creating a solid, dizzying album. The Life of Pablo is mind-numbingly all over the place.
Kia Makarechi, Vanity Fair
Ultimately, The Life of Pablo is where it makes the most sense for West, an artist who never does the same thing twice, to go. It is not as balanced as Watch the Throne, his collection of duets with Jay Z. It is not as polished as My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, or as industrial and ugly-beautiful as Yeezus. It’s not as big a package as the 21-track Late Registration, and it might lack some of the radio-friendly vibes found on Graduation. It doesn’t come across as purely emotional as 808s and Heartbreak, nor as wide-eyed as West’s debut, The College Dropout.
Peter Tabakis, Pretty Much Amazing
The Life of Pablo makes the wonderful Yeezus appear minor by comparison. It also marks a dead end for Kanye West’s breathless run as an album artist. He’s synthesized a phenomenal career on a single record.
Patrick Ryan, USA Today
If Pablo stumbles, it’s in West’s tone-deaf digs at others: knocking Rob Kardashian for his weight; his wife’s ex-boyfriend, Ray J, for his wealth (or lack thereof); and Taylor Swift, whom he suggests should have sex with him.
Leila Brillson, NYLON
So, let’s look at the glaring issues of Pablo. It indeed has the staggering, expansive sonic breadth and messianic vision its creator advertised. West harnesses religious imagery, evoking prayer in the gorgeous opener “Ultralight Beam” (as he did in “Jesus Walks” so long ago). And yet, Pablo is horribly hampered by being, well, petty and frivolous.
[UPDATE] February 17, 2016
Anthony Fantano, The Needle Drop
If Yeezus didn’t challenge you, this album will, or it will at least confuse you for a little bit. This record will essentially rush you from one idea, one sound, one tune to the next, and I can’t help but feel that the creative process behind this album was the same way. It feels like Kanye didn’t really give himself a lot of time with this project…
Rob Sheffield, Rolling Stone
Pablo is an album he kept tinkering with, even after he gave it an official debut at Madison Square Garden – in the most stunning track here, “30 Hours,” Ye congratulates himself on how well the Garden premiere went. It’s designed to sound like a work in progress.
Maura Johnston, TIME
It’s sprawling and unpredictable, immersed in celebrity culture while at times being stubbornly withdrawn from it. It trafficks in myths taken from both the Bible and The Book of Kanye. Its guest list features old hands like El DeBarge, up-and-comers like Chance The Rapper and Desiigner, and chart stalwarts like Rihanna and The Weeknd. Its instrumentals teem with flourishes that are as informed by crate-diggers’ boundless discographical knowledge of acts like the gloomy post-punk act Section 25 as they are by pop savants’ familiarity with the power of the hook. In short: It’s a lot.
Jamieson Cox, The Verge
The Life of Pablo is his first album that sounds thrown together for the sake of satisfying the eager public. For all of his allusions to gospel music and religious history on songs like “Ultralight Beam” and “Low Lights,” there’s no larger point being made here; if you’re feeling charitable, you can say he’s summing up his discography to date. Its pace is frenetic, and despite multiple drafts of tracklists, its sequencing is thoughtless.
- Photographer: Thomas Welch / Highsnobiety.com