DONDA…DONDA…DONDA…Kanye’s new album wasn’t ready for release

Sara Popken, Entertainment Writer

Kanye West finally released his tenth studio album August 29, 2021. After months of speculated release dates and cancellations I was extremely excited to listen to his latest work, which is why it pains me to say I was underwhelmed.  

Although the album is nowhere near bad, I cannot say that it even met my expectations. Certain parts feel rushed and gritty but Kanye does have tremendous amounts of growth within this project. He has some of the best vocals singing-wise that I have ever heard from him, especially on “Moon.”  

He also did an amazing job introducing concepts he originally attempted in “Jesus is King.” Mixing in the elements of Gospel with different beats ranging from trap to pop and trill really made it possible for the songs to be more “listenable.” Most people won’t just turn on “church music” in everyday circumstances. When considering the rest of Kanye’s discography, this choice was crucial in the success of the album and honestly, I’m extremely glad he didn’t just drop this idea after receiving low approval ratings with his last attempt. The creativity and dedication are extremely admirable.  

Kanye also did an amazing job with his features. He was able to work with 31 other artists. He pieced together artists I would have never pictured together and included many less well-known artists as well. Kanye almost works as his own producer throughout this album as he put together features. They provided a lot more diversity and combined multiple styles overall. 

Of course, the features are not seamless. On multiple songs it felt as if the featured artists were outshining Kanye. Normally I think it’s great to allow an album to become a collaborative space but it almost felt like Kanye was slacking and I just didn’t enjoy his verses as much as the features in some songs. Considering its his album I expected him to at least be breaking even with the combined artistry.  

There are also multiple features from extremely controversial artists. Including Chris Brown who was recently accused of battery again. Marilyn Manson has been accused by multiple women of abuse and domestic violence and DaBaby made homophobic comments during his Rolling Loud Miami set in late-July. I’m against cancel culture but I find that working with artists like this just happens to be a bad look. Kanye shouldn’t actively become associated with known abusers.  

There was plenty of fan speculation that Kanye actually included these features to tie in with the album themes of forgiveness but I don’t think this makes sense. The features are just thrown in with no commentary and no ties to one another. Honestly it seems like a cheap marketing tactic and Kanye is no stranger to those.  

Along with the theme of forgiveness there are notes to religion, self-discovery and creation, family, and perseverance. These incorporate extremely well into one another and this album actually made me grateful for my connection to religion. 

The album runs a total of 108.49 minutes which is roughly 2 hours. If the album felt more finished with some better editing this would actually be a positive but I can’t help but to feel the album would have been better if it were shorter with some basic revising. There are extremely long intros and outros to songs that didn’t need them as well as repetitive choruses and beats. All he needed to do was spend some more time thinking about the album from the listeners perspective. I feel the same way about multiple Pt.2’s on the album. If they were removed not much about the album would change and it over-milks concepts to the point where they cannot to be enjoyed to the same extent.  

The album almost ruins itself with this. It really insists upon itself in the worst ways. Once a song surpasses 5 minutes listening to it tends to become more tedious. It is great as art. There is emotion provoked and concepts are better expanded on, but Kanye’s albums are not just art. They are produced with the intention of commodification and for this purpose Kanye must think of his work beyond his artistic abilities and acknowledge the listener.  

There isn’t a single song on the album with worse mixing than “Tell The Vision”. The remastering is just awful. The old beat is auditable the whole time and the replacement beat isn’t even well made. Its repetitive and diminishes Pop Smoke’s work. The song seems so rushed it becomes less of a tribute and more of an insult. This is one of the songs I wouldn’t have minded being left out at all. Even with the potential it had, the final product is enough for me to prefer its absence.  

Along with the mixing there’s some questionable lyricism that is so corny it almost distracts from the song. My favorite instance of this is from “Off The Grid’ where Kanye says “I talk to God every day / that’s my bestie.” Of course, he has some other good examples of this like “We used to do the freak like seven days a week/ it’s the best collab since Taco Bell and KFC” off of “Lord I Need You.” I remember needing to take a moment to pause my music after hearing these the first time. I had to laugh. In all honesty I enjoy some corny lyrics but these might be pushing it.  

I can’t get myself to pick a single favorite song but I have a top three in no specific order. It consists of Remote Control, Moon and Pure Souls. The bass on Pure Souls reminds me of some of the music I grew up with so there might be some sentimental value to that as well. I already mentioned Kanye’s vocals on “Moon” but I also happen to enjoy a majority of Kid Cudi’s  work and this song is no exception. Junya would have been in my list but I feel like Kanye has experimented with music styles similar to Playboi Carti’s enough and should take on his own work. He could have used the feature with Carti to work on something really different rather than following what has been overplayed.  

I would give the album a solid 7 out of 10. I don’t think it’s bad by any means, I really enjoy it. It needed more revising and could have taken more opportunities to introduce new concepts. The themes are great and I will definitely be replaying multiple tracks.