Recent History Suggests You Should Not Believe Kanye’s Claim That ‘SWISH’/’WAVES’ Is The Best Album Of All Time
UPDATE: SWISH is now called WAVES idk.
Kanye West kicked off this week by sharing the tracklist to SWISH. And to go along with the scrawled roster of songs, he added that he’s “so happy to be finished with the best album of all time.”
So happy to be finished with the best album of all time pic.twitter.com/JBWa8OWvqw
— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) January 25, 2016
SWISH is not the best album of all time. It is probably not even the best Kanye West album of all time. We know this because when you look at the recent history of artists making similarly outrageous claims about their forthcoming albums, you see that it’s followed by a letdown that hardly stands out in the artist’s own discography, let alone in the canon of classic albums.
The funniest and most self-aware (and thus Kanye-like) recent example is French Montana discussing delays surrounding his debut album in 2013: “You can’t rush something that’s gonna last forever. So I felt like a few more weeks is worth something that’s gonna last for 300 years.” Excuse My French debuted with a paltry 56,000 sales and wasn’t even remembered six months later for year-end list season.
Later that same year, Lady Gaga had equally high praise for her fourth album, ARTPOP.
THIS IS THE ALBUM OF THE MILLENNIUM!!!!!!!!!!!! :)
— xoxo, Gaga (@ladygaga) October 15, 2013
FIXED: THIS IS AN ALBUM OF THIS MILLENNIUM. Alas, the project that spawned the too-easy nickname ARTFLOP is widely seen as Gaga’s worst offering and its commercial underperformance was so great that Gaga was eventually forced to address rumors about it bankrupting her label.
A year before that, in 2012, Kanye protege Kid Cudi aimed for GOAT status with his album Indicud.
mark my words, INDICUD will be the greatest album ever made. Know that I'm not lying.
— The Chosen One (@KidCudi) October 2, 2012
He was lying. It has a nine-minute Michael Bolton collaboration.
Lil B had slightly more reasonable visions when he made the most based claim that Rain In England would merely be one of the best hip-hop albums “to ever come out.” It was most certainly not that! However, the second half of his quote was totally accurate: He described it as “one of the most unique albums to ever come out in hip-hop,” which is the correct way to describe an ambient-rap album that was primarily free of percussion in the year 2010. The Based God was utilizing beatless beats five years before SOPHIE and Ka would tread similar territory, but influential does not equal GOAT.
Now let’s reach back a full decade to 2006. Back then, The Killers‘ Brandon Flowers was the “indie” rock world’s Kanye equivalent in terms of shit-stirring confidence and outlandish soundbites. A few months before the release of his band’s second album, Sam’s Town, Flowers said it was “one of the best albums in the past 20 years.” For reference: OK Computer, Kid A, Funeral, White Blood Cells, Apologies To The Queen Mary and Turn On The Bright Lights were just a handful of the all-timer rock albums released during that window. Far from being a generation’s defining album, Sam’s Town doesn’t even definitively have the title of Best Killers Album. But it’s at least in the discussion.
Which of course leaves us with SWISH. It’s entirely possible — probable, even! — that Kanye is about to release another gem. It isn’t even a stretch to think it will be his best album, since you could very easily argue that he has improved with each release, starting with 2004’s The College Dropout. And he has eclipsed staggering expectations each time, since he started with what is considered one of the greatest debut albums of all time. So his own track record actually makes the “best of all time” comment seem less outlandish. But SWISH would have to better than West’s own holy trinity of Dropout, MBDTF and Yeezus, which all hold serious weight in the “Best Kanye album” discussion. Even 808s on a good day is thrown into the mix for its progressiveness and vast influence. Can SWISH top all that? When you factor in the seemingly scattershot way this album has been put together, the disappointing releases prior to “Real Friends” and “No More Parties In L.A.” and the way similar claims by musicians have panned out in the recent past, the answer is an emphatic “no.”
That doesn’t mean SWISH is destined to be a brick. But it could mean these new expectations Kanye saddled it with will make anything less than a swish feel more like an airball.