Succintly summarizing the Chicago listening event held by the artist formerly known as Kanye West is no mean feat. Yes, as reiterated by his Instagram bio, Kanye changed his name to "Ye" ahead of the extravaganza on August 26, signaling the weight of the sea change that is DONDA.
Before even taking our seats, it was clear that this was no mere concert. Swarming crowds clustered the Chicago streets so densely that most showgoers wound up walking to Soldier Field, slipping out the doors of their Ubers to save time. Outside the venue, cycle rickshaws sped past merchants hawking bootleg DONDA tees and cases of Cacti.
The backstage section that lead to the suites was airless and packed, sweating attendees rubbing elbows with hustling PR reps and, briefly, Pusha T.
Once seated, the crowd soaked in the atmosphere. Yep, Ye actually built his childhood home inside a giant stadium — rust-spattered slats and all — atop a candle-studded hill of dirt. The air was choked with humidity and rumors of celebrities in attendance — A$AP Rocky! Travis Scott! Kim herself! As if to cement the whispers as truth, Dave Chappelle showed up in the suite next door.
Over half an hour after the event was scheduled to begin, the lights dimmed and figures strode to West's replica house. A brief, whispery DONDA tribute foretold cars and bulletproof vest-clad dancers slowly flooding the venue, enveloping the home like satellites in Interstellar.
PR reps explained that "protection" is a big theme in Ye's recent output, manifesting physically in the DONDA-laden vest and spiky Balenciaga bear-repelling jacket he's been wearing recently (Demna Gvasalia once again offered creative direction to this event), but also parlaying into Ye's uncomplicated metaphors.
His skyward journey at the second listening party? A symbolic reunion with Donda, his deceased mother, whom the still-unreleased — and now, again delayed — album is named for and whom provided Ye with a loving home and guiding hand.
Also, apparently, motifs of rebirth are an intended takeaway. Here, they were symbolized by the reconstruction of Ye's childhood home and its metaphorical destruction by faux fire (Ye was also engulfed in real flames at one point).
Perhaps, this event was Ye's way of offering (misguided) protection or second chances to Manson and DaBaby, the latter of whom even replaced JAY-Z's DONDA verse in a song debuted at this event.
That's the thing: who says these guys deserve second chances?
Fans are already far too eager to embrace Ye in spite of his own laundry list of misgivings — it's truly detestable that this unfounded goodwill now extends to Manson and DaBaby's tarnished reputations.
You'd think a spiritual person would balk at offering mercy to men who couldn't care less about finding forgiveness; Manson has barely acknowledged his many accusers and DaBaby offered only a couple empty apologies.
Later, after the flames that torched Ye were extinguished, another surprise: Ye strode from his house to meet a woman shrouded in white, her face hidden by a bridal veil. Ye and the woman then appeared to renew wedding vows. Pretty plaintive given his recently rocky relationship.
However, plenty of speculators thought that the woman was a figurative representation of heaven-sent Donda, returning to Earth as an angel to reunite with her son. The bridal gown challenges this theory but, even if the woman was Kim, it opens up a strange realm of Oedipal interpretation.
Not only is it telling to conflate marriage with an album steeped in childhood memories and motherly love, but the burning of the house and of the masculine self further read into this take. It's certainly not intentional, of course, but the stageplay between Ye's set and his dancing Greek chorus fueled the feeling of watching a theatrical production.
Still, the ample bible references — including Romans 8:13 — that appeared on the stadium monitors reiterated religious suppression that parlays into pent-up emotions, the kind spoken to by DONDA's moody lyrics.
According to Ye himself, the entire DONDA rollout is all about "love" as a healing force, an overwhelming energy that unites all. Given the open-ended interpretation of the event's ending and his regrettable co-signs, Ye ought to seriously reconsider how he's channeling that power.