commentary by Taylor Corley, Campus Carrier arts and living editor
I’m not usually one to skip the season of Thanksgiving and talk about Christmas right after Halloween, but I must say that Christmas came early this year seeing as two of the greatest artists in the music industry, Kanye West and Selena Gomez, released new music last month.
West released his ninth solo album on Oct. 25 after teasing fans with the promise of new music since late August. The rapper continued to delay the release date in order to perfect his masterpiece.
The artist has produced songs in the past that have gospel aspects to them, but his newest project, “Jesus is King,” is West’s personal testimony told through art.
In 11 songs, West portrays his growth as a follower of Christ in detail. He has grown from once insisting that fans call him “Yeezus,” a self-proclaimed, Christ-like persona, to releasing “Life of Pablo,” which the rapper describe as “a gospel album with lots of cursing,” to now publicly stating that he is trying to cut back on swearing and that he requested unmarried collaborators refrain from sex while working on this album.
What I appreciated most was the musical aspect of this album. Besides Chance the Rapper, West is the second best at merging gospel music with rap lyrics and beats. “Jesus is King” is no different. Songs like “Closed on Sunday” have smooth transitions and offer two drastically different sounds in one song.
Although the rapper maintains his message of Christianity throughout the tracks, he lacks lyrical depth, which I was waiting for throughout my first listen of the album. West’s clever word play is displayed in some of the lyrics, such as “back when I though the book of Job was a job,” but he falls victim to the pressure of pop culture today by including the reference to Chick-fil-a in “Closed on Sunday.” The reference to the fast food restaurant seemed cliche and unnecessary because the song could have been successful without it.
Overall, “Jesus is King” is an album that I can listen to several times through before feeling like it’s overplayed. I appreciate the songs and they exceeded my expectations.
A few days before West, Gomez released two singles back-to-back on Oct. 23 and 24. Much to fans’ disappointment, the singer has been taking a hiatus from the public eye. October marked four years since the release of her last full-length music project, and Gomez did not disappoint with her monumental return.
The first song released by the singer, called “Lose You to Love Me,” is a passionate, soulful piece about letting go of a partner who seemed to care more about themselves than the relationship or their significant other. Gomez sets the somber tone with her opening line, “You promised the world and I fell for it.” Listeners know this is not meant to be an upbeat song, but rather one that exposes the tribulations of the singer behind the mic.
The lyrics continue to emphasize Gomez’s pain, saying “set fires to my forests” and “sang off-key to my chorus, cause it wasn’t yours.” The singer has never shied away from expressing her raw emotions through music. The soft, minimally instrumental music in the background allows listeners to focus on the story she is telling.
As the song progresses to its loudest part, the chorus, Gomez is joined by a choir comprised of her own voice. She echoes herself in the second and final chorus with overlapping harmonies. Between the simple black and white music video that came with the song and the lack of instruments and sounds, it is evident that this song was for Gomez. She needed to express through music the growth and pain she has experienced the past four years, including the end of her very public relationship with Justin Bieber, which fans immediately assumed the song is about.
I found the song to be empowering with its bare honesty that is displayed lyrically, musically and visually. As an artist, Gomez has evolved through several stages of self-discovery and her growth translates into her tone and messages to her listeners.
Following her emotional ballad, Gomez released another single, “Look at Her Now,” the next day. This single dropped with no previous promotion and was a special gift to fans, as a thank you for pushing her to be the best, as the singer posted on her Instagram.
“Look at Her Now” is more similar to Gomez’s original pop sound. It has an underlying electronic beat and repetitive lyrical structure. It makes listeners feel the urge to get up and dance rather than cry in their car on a long drive to Mountain Campus.
I thoroughly enjoyed both songs and I patiently await to hear more from the singer who has suggested that she is planning to expand on the new singles with the release of a third solo studio album soon.
“Lose You to Love Me” currently sits at number one on Billboard’s top 100 and “Follow God” from West’s album holds the number seven spot.