It starts off in perhaps a most unsettling manner: not so much a rap but a spontaneous spoken word piece, Kanye West going, “today I seriously thought about killing you”, repeatedly, under sparse instrumentation. That sets the tone for Ye, a record whose reception will wholly depend on what you think of the rapper of late. Kanye’s no stranger to controversy, of course, but in these hyperpartisan times he seems even more so: his recent tweets, particularly him questioning the notion of slavery in America; his support of Donald Trump. Does that make for an album promotion? Maybe not, but that’s the backdrop to Ye, (just!) 23 minutes of his most personal thoughts fed through minimal production (mostly him). The spontaneous nature of the record means it does not feel finished, but what you get can be biting – “Yikes”, addressing drug use; “Violent Crimes”, an arguably disagreeable reassessment of feminism. On one hand, the intensely personal nature shields him, and this record, from criticism. But then those are the times we live in now: we have a right to our own opinions, but not to disagree with it. On the other hand, it could be better, if Kanye just let his thoughts cook further rather than just defend himself. (“I love myself way more than I love you.”) But that dilutes his point, so who am I to judge? [NB] | 3/5
The release of Kanye West’s long-teased new album, The Life of Pablo (formerly Swish, formerly Waves) couldn’t have happened any sooner: his pronouncements on Twitter were getting weird, then frustrating, then sad, then, well, not worth noticing. What’s he on about? Oh, yeah, he’s releasing an album. The Life of Pablo took over two years to come together, and things were still being changed in the weeks leading up to its release last Sunday. It’s slightly surprising he’s still churned out an enjoyable album, with some flashes of brilliance (“No Parties in L.A.”, in particular, elicited a loud laugh from me). The problem is just how random it can get. It starts in one place and ends in another, and in between you have no idea just how Kanye’s getting there. Gospel confessional? Check. Alternative R&B nod? Check. Obligatory Kanye worship? Duh. Considering how his last album, Yeezus, honed on an intense, if not paranoid, sound, The Life of Pablo sounds scattered and distracted by comparison. It’s a bit disappointing, but, you know, it’s still fun, I guess. [NB] | 4/5
If we’re disappointed with the acts coming to the Philippines, then why don’t we make our own music festival? It doesn’t have to really happen – it can all be in our heads. And thus, the earthings! Fantasy Festival was born. Today, Jayvee Sacramento stacks his stage with hip-hop royalty… well, except for a couple of names you would expect on such a list.
In the past few years we’ve seen more relatively out-of-mainstream acts perform in Manila. Gone, it seems, are the times when the only foreign artists who would stop here are 60s and 70s bands targeting baby boomers, or the obviously big pop acts. Now we’ve had visits from Grimes, the xx and Tegan and Sara. We’ve had the Wanderland Festival last April, an attempt at bringing summer festival culture to the Philippines (albeit with half of the line-up being Aussie acts with, likely, a very small following). And, of course, there were the bigger acts, like Joss Stone at Malasimbo (which has been going on for a while and has been, so far, mostly under the radar) and, last month, the Killers.
I’m still trying to figure out how people can call Kanye West’s Yeezus groundbreaking. Well, in a way, it is, but in most ways, it isn’t. Industrial sounds have always been with us – heavy metal, Marilyn Manson, Saul Williams – but perhaps it’s how much of a left-turn this album is for Kanye. Or perhaps it’s how he promoted the album. That said, the results are definitely interesting. Imagine a 40-minute scene in a grim, slightly artsy, still Hollywood-y movie, where the good-yet-limping guy gets chased down by a bunch of humanoids in fedoras. In the end, he will be slashed in the neck and jump cut! The album does start off strong – Kanye and his producers, including a certain French duo names Daft Punk, pummel you with bang after bash after slice. But knowing Kanye, and hearing his seeming intent to be angry in those first few tracks, it’s disappointing how the latter two-thirds of the record mellows out. Or we’ve gotten used to it. Maybe I was wrong to expect Kanye to shock me, and shock me hard, throughout Yeezus‘ 40-minute run, but hey, he, uhh, tried? | 3/5