Kanye West: Donda review – misfiring lyricism from a diminished figure

T

Thomas Hobbs

Guest
There is some sustained brilliance here, but unfortunately it comes from the guest stars – and at 108 minutes, this long-awaited album is in need of an edit

Chaotic preview events for Kanye West’s 10th studio album Donda have dominated social media feeds in recent weeks, each one promising a release date that never materialised. The coverage of the events has focused on Kim Kardashian dressed as a Balenciaga-clad sleep paralysis demon, $50 chicken tenders, potential Drake disses, levitation and cameos from alleged rapist Marilyn Manson and the homophobic DaBaby. Fans called West a genius capable of creating exciting theatre that evolves in real time; others saw him as an empty provocateur. Much like kindred spirit Donald Trump, West seems to instinctively know how to weaponise controversy to drive interest in a new project.

With the eventual release of Donda (named after West’s English professor mother, who died in 2007), there is a nagging sense the spectacle has overshadowed the actual music, with this bloated 108-minute album rarely sure of what it is trying to say. The intro, Donda Chant, a sequence of eerie recitations of his mother’s name seemingly designed to send you into a sunken place, is arresting, giving you the impression you’re about to undergo an immersive religious experience. But too often the songs that follow are built on half-baked ideas from a West more concerned with self-pity and martyrdom than confronting his contradictions.

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