The Failed Redemption of Kanye West: How ‘Donda’ Has Aged a Month After It’s Release [Album Review]

Audrey Brandes

I wanted to like Donda. I really did. As I’m sure millions of fans did as well. But amidst this unnecessarily long and lackluster project, there exist few gems. And even those good tracks don’t qualify West for redemption.

West’s 10th studio album, Donda, feels self-indulgent and rambling at its worst, and remotely catchy at its best. The 27-track-long album touches on themes of family, motherhood, divorce, and faith while beating around the bush of Kanye’s evidently declining mental state. Amidst his bromance with Donald Trump, his divorce from Kardashian, and numerous controversies, Kanye has dug himself into a hole few artists can escape from. America’s favorite rapper has virulently swam against the grain this year, convinced that his musical genius would leave him untouchable. Obviously it didn’t.

Almost a month after its release, I find myself skipping each track as it comes on my most recent playlist. It has aged like a nice loaf of bread that got left on the counter-- you were excited to buy it, to indulge in it, yet it got left out, growing more and more stale by the day. Just a few weeks later, Donda does not stand the test of time.

Listening to Donda is like a cruel edging experience. Just when you think the track that comes on is about to climax into a hit, it falls flat. On its face. Hard. The album, frankly, feels immature and underdeveloped-- a painting with potential that was past it’s deadline, wherein the artist threw splatters of paint onto a canvas and hoped their prestige would garner them some kind of credibility. Instead, his lines lack his signature clever flair, and we spend the entirety of the track waiting for some semblance of a punch line. As Azealia Banks so eloquently put it, “This Donda shit is wild garbage… Music for hedge fund bros.”

Kanye West Performing 'Donda' At Mercedes Benz Stadium

Now I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I completely agree with that-- tracks like “Jail,” “No Child Left Behind,” “Remote Control,” “Moon,” and “Hurricane,” emerge as strokes of genius-- the authentic Kanye that fans so voraciously defended and adored. But the stand out tracks on West’s album seem to be the ones where he is the least present.

“No Child Left Behind” stands out for its enchanting simplicity, VORY’s angelic vocals, and hauntingly repetitive instrumental. The same applies for his Kid Cudi collaboration, “Moon” and his track with The Weeknd, “Hurricane--” though nothing groundbreaking, they are comforting in their flowery soft-spokenness. 

“Tell The Vision” is only notable due to its featuring the late Pop Smoke. And even then, it’s a hard skip after listening to it more than a couple times. “Jail” and “Jail part 2” are heightened by guest appearances, with DaBaby’s bars outshining any verse West spits on the entire album. 

Yet perhaps West’s “absence” on his own album was intentional. It feels like an expansive, sprawling show-- chaotic and messy-- that it was orchestrated by a man behind a curtain. It’s impossible to deny the rapper/producer’s utmost talent, but his true ingenuity appears scarce on what was touted as his supposed masterpiece. I like Kanye, or more-so, I want to like Kanye. And while his past projects and knowing all that he is capable of still allow me to call myself a fan, Donda is a work that falls to the bottom of his discography. A month later, it is easily forgotten.

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