10 Takeaways From Kanye West’s ‘The Life Of Pablo’ Mass Listening Party
Kanye West just finished up debuting his new album, The Life Of Pablo, with a mass listening event that took place at Madison Square Garden, was broadcast live into theaters worldwide and, according to his label, streamed by some 20 million people via Tidal. I was one of those Tidal streamers, and it was a happening. As our contributor Patrick Bowman said to me over Gchat during the proceedings, “I’ve never felt more at one with the internet.” For an hour on a Thursday afternoon, it was the pop music singularity, and it was a surreal way to experience an album; it was like the old days of the album as singular experienced event, but also the new days, with Wikipedia being updated in real time and Twitter going off about T.L.O.P. features.
More:: Your obligatory Kanye thinkpiece
It’s nearly impossible to digest an album after one listen, let alone after a glitchy, buffer-plagued stream in the middle of a workday. So instead of offering some profound insights, here are 10 takeaways from the Kanye listening event, which you can re-watch right here.
1. It is not the garbage fire we all expected
The production is grandiose on some tracks, minimal on others, there are gospel choirs, major stars, Auto-Tune mewls, freestyles, meta Kanye jokes, spit-take lines and social commentary. It feels alive, not the stale brick everyone had feared it would be. Ebro was right, there’s something for every Kanye fan: It’s MBDTF ‘s widescreen approach with bits of Yeezus and College Dropout tossed in.
2. The Features
Rihanna sings on “Famous,” The Weeknd on “FML,” Young Thug briefly shows up on “Highlights” and The-Dream and Chance The Rapper show up on opening track “Ultra Light Beams.” DJ Dodger Stadium had a hand in five tracks. And the biggest shocker was Frank Ocean at the end of “Wolves.” This is Ocean’s second consecutive Kanye album cameo (third if you count Watch The Throne). And for the first time since 808s, we have a Kanye album with no Bon Iver feature.
3. The Taylor Swift diss
Kanye drops a scorching-hot Taylor diss on “Famous,” which will be received as a truth bomb or blasphemous trash depending on where you stand in the great pop wars: “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex/ Why? I made that bitch famous.” This same song features Rihanna and a Nina Simone sample.
4. We still have no idea when the album will be released
As of this writing, it isn’t available on streaming services or listed in iTunes.
5. Old heads will love it
Kanye fans who hated Yeezus and 808s, welcome back to the fold.
6. He skipped “Fade”
Even though it was slated as track seven on the latest tracklist, West skipped it at the event, only playing it after a brief speech following the LP playthrough. What does this mean?
7. “Wolves” CDQ…2.0
Finally, the “Wolves” CDQ the world had been searching for all these months. The beat was slightly updated, and Sia and Vic Mensa were excised for a closing refrain from Ocean.
8. A cappella Ye
At one point, I think on “Feed Back,” Kanye spits a self-aware a cappella verse about people who miss the old Kanye and hate the new Kanye.
9. Kanye West doesn’t care about blog people
He calls out “no pussy-getting bloggers” on “Freestyle 4.” Phew, so he’s definitely ~not~ talking about me.
10. He’s making an “Only One” video gameBefore you laugh…realize that it’s about his mom traveling through the gates of heaven, and it features a really cool remix/cover of the title song that sounds like the work of Caroline Shaw (who also may appear on “Father Stretch My Hands”).
What are your first impressions of T.L.O.P.? Let us know in the comments.