Take me to church

Kanye's Sunday Service Choir releases gospel album "Jesus is Born"

Chicago rapper Kanye West took strides in the direction of christian music through the release of Jesus is King in October of 2019, and his latest christian album Jesus is Born is a gospel record with insane highs and disappointing lows.

The start of this album is incredibly weak. The opening track “Count Your Blessings” attempted to showcase the talent and majesty of the Sunday Service choir, but it fell flat. 

The length of this intro doesn’t help its case either. The singers tried to hit high notes for a majority of the song, and these yell-y vocalizations made for an unenjoyable beginning to this record.

The quality started to ramp up when the big band joined in to complement the singing. The annoying, loud shouts from the choir disappeared by the song “Revelations 19:1.” 

Based on the first two tracks in the list, I would’ve expected another slow-paced song with the choir expressing their love for Jesus, but my expectations were shattered by the powerful drum beats that popped in halfway through.

Many songs on the album retain this high-energy mood. The choir’s cover of West’s song “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1” is an example of one track that catches its listener’s attention through the lively big band.

Despite the quality of these songs, the momentum gets killed by boring tracks where there isn’t much happening aside from the singers voicing their appreciation for God. 

These tracks seemed to serve as moments of respite from the standout pieces that feature the band. This dynamic doesn’t work in the context of the album because there are already medium tempo songs with light drums and instrumentation that are more interesting than the dull ballad pieces.

Songs like “Follow Me” with bumping funk drums are phenomenal detours from the gospel and orchestral pieces that the album mainly consists of. These medium-energy songs are great, but they aren’t good enough for listeners to overlook the weaker pieces that surround them.

Kanye enjoys sampling other people’s music, and that doesn’t stop with Jesus is Born. The song “Lift Up Your Voices” had the choir sing the chorus melody from Rihanna’s “Elastic Heart.”

The addition of Rihanna’s song was a welcome integration that caught me off guard. I did not think Kanye’s sampling would appear on a gospel album. 

There were a few moments scattered throughout the record where the focus was on one singer, but none of their performances were noteworthy. These solos commonly suffered from the issue of having too many vocal runs, and they all came off as obnoxious ways to showcase the singers’ abilities.

Lyrically, this project is lacking. The surface-level “I love God” lyricism doesn’t land among the most interesting or memorable pieces that Kanye has conceived. 

The songs on this record are written in a way to appeal to the spirituality in a crowd of people rather than discuss personal religious experiences. 

It would have been interesting for West to incorporate some words about his own experiences with god; anything to make up for the lack of quotable or memorable lyrics in Jesus is Born.

Despite the lack of good lyrics, uneventful solo performances, and a few boring songs, Jesus is Born has a decent amount to offer with its big band and well-arranged high energy tracks. 

West is taking an interesting turn in his career by choosing to focus on Christian music, and we have yet to hear a masterpiece of an album come out of this phase in his discography.