Review: Kanye West’s new album ‘Donda’ is worth one listen, but not another
September 9, 2021
Releasing his 10th studio album, Kanye West tributes his mother Donda West, who passed away on Nov. 10, 2007. “Donda,” the official album title, came available for digital streaming Saturday, Aug. 29.
Featuring 27 tracks, and despite being delayed for a month, fans alike pushed the album to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 200. Upon its release, West took to Twitter and Instagram to allege that Def Jam Recording, which is owned by Universal Music Group, released the album without his approval. Even with all considered, “Donda” debuted as underwhelming and inconsistent to my expectations.
“Donda Chant” is the official introduction of the album, and it gives a quick, 53 second insight into what the album is about. “Donda” can be heard repeating multiple times throughout the intro, signifying his mother’s heartbeat before her death. While average listeners won’t pick this up on their first listen, many fans quickly pointed out the fact.
“Guess who’s going to jail tonight / God going to post my bail tonight” is a line that can be hard throughout the song. While it’s not my personal favorite song on the album, this track felt like an extended introduction to the album. The production remained the same throughout the majority of the song, which was a little annoying, but the verses and the features made up for the disappointment. Many speculate that the lyrics tell the story of Jesus’s incarceration before the crucifixion.
Starting off with a hard baseline, “God Breathed” jumps the listener right into a hard setting of the album. Quick verses by West, such as “I know God breathed on this / I know he got his hands on this,” align with the bass to provide a satisfactory listen. The song then transforms to a choir-based background, with vocal runs and verses by Vory, the featured artist. The song is a great track to listen to and deserves its spot on the album, along with a listen or two.
The fourth track, “Off The Gird,” started off very weak. Playboi Carti ruined the track, and would’ve been better complimented by another featured artist. With that being said, Fivio Foreign’s verses carried the song in my first listen, but didn’t win over the track. Overall, I don’t see myself listening to this track.
“Hurricane” has gotten a lot of attention from fans of Lil Baby, The Weeknd and West, seeming as the best track found in the album. Upon my first listen, I would have to agree. The sampled choir that backs Abel, who is the lead singer in The Weekend, ties the track nicely together. One of my favorite lines from Kayne is “God made it rain / the devil made it hail / dropped out of school / but I’m the one at Yale” and it ties together the general overview of the song.
Starting off with a sample of a scripture reading, “Praise God” starts off intriguing. Quickly switching to vocals by Baby Keem over a strong bass, the transitions throughout the song between West, Travis Scott and Baby Keem are very fluid. “We are going to praise our way out of the dark” is one of the many verses that talk about the power of praising God. Overall, I thought the song was very high quality, and was definitely re-listenable.
With a weak start, track No. 6 is one that I would normally skip. The autotune did not match the beat well, and the beat was a lousy excuse to extend a track. This is one of my least favorite songs on the album, and it becomes almost impossible to hear the lyrics over the distracting overlay of unsatisfactory vocals.
“Ok Ok” marks track No. 7 on the album, and the song started off pretty strong. After hearing the bass line and the first couple of verses, I was expecting a trap rundown of the beat. Unfortunately, almost no percussion production was heard in the entire song, but the jumpy bass and the verses tied together nicely.
With an organ-style synth beginning, the track sounds a lot like a track that would be found on West’s previous album. Quickly transitioning to seemingly never-ending West verses, “Junya” is filled with a repeating synth loop, with some bass riffs thrown in here-and-there. Overall, I never felt compelled to skip this track, and would rate it about 7/10. One thing I wish that this track held though was percussion production, but instead, all the listener is left with is lousy claps.
Taking on a pop-like beat, “Believe What I Say” has a lot of potential to be a radio hit. While there’s no music video, there’s a lot of vocal samples and effects that can be heard throughout the background of the track, with very catchy lyrics. One thing I will say about the song is that the length is pretty long, however, when the song was finished, I found myself debating if it was really the end. Marking track No. 9 on the album, this is one of my favorite West songs.
“Dear God make it all right / Only you can make it all right” is a verse that is heard in the beginning of the track with an organ-styled synth in the back of the track. To me, this song sounded like something you would hear from the well-known R&B singer, SZA. Overall, I would rate the song a 9/10, but, like many other tracks, I wish there was more percussion production.
Finally adding in production components, in terms of procession with kicks, snares and claps, “Remote Control” is a song that’s worth listening to. With sampled whistles, different basses and catchy lyrics, “Remote Control” is a great addition to the album that deserves a listen or two.
Track No. 12 is titled “Moon,” and features vocals from Don Toliver and Kid Cudi. Instantly on the first listen, the track reminded me something from Labrinth’s current releases. With soft guitar riffs, vocal effects and riverbed vocals, “Moon” is a track like no other on the album. Perfect for listening to while reading, doing homework or doing any activity, “Moon” is a healing track, and became one of my favorite songs on the first listen.
The beginning of “Heaven and Hell” consists of high vocal notes with basic claps and kicks. Since the beginning of the track, I already felt an urge to skip the track. Unfortunately, that urge continued to grow throughout the track until the middle. The high and off-beat vocals that became overwhelming were silenced by a mid-production break, with high bass and a drop. While I enjoyed the drop and the rest of the song, the beginning was a pain to sit through.
“Donda” is track No. 14 on the album, and while I had high expectations, they were not met. Once again using many samples, West tells a story through the track, which was named after his mother. On my first listen, I didn’t enjoy the track, but it grew on me after multiple listens.
Something about “Keep My Spirit Alive” drew me in to listen to the whole track. The flow of vocals over the hip-hop production tied nicely together, and I felt compelled to listen to it again after it ended. Overall, I would rate the track a 9/10. While it was lyrically sound, the production felt overly repeated, and I would’ve liked a switch up, or at least a larger variety of sounds in the chorus.
Starting off big, “Jesus Lord” is probably the best-sounding track on the album on the first listen. At the start, I was suspecting that Euphoria-producer and songwriter Labrinth was behind the synths that were heard throughout the track, I was upset to learn that it was not the case. However, the track gets a 10/10 rating from me.
While track No. 17 has strong lyrics, the production reminded me of 2000’s Nicki Minaj. Not to mean any disrespect to either artist, but the synths that were heard throughout the entire song did not seem to fit the idea of the track, and I was disappointed. In fact, the title “New Again,” did not feel “new” to me. If I had to rate the track, it would get a 5/10 from me.
Previously leaked on TikTok, “Tell The Vision” has strong piano chords that are heard throughout the entire track. Even so, the chords got boring after a couple of seconds, and I felt bored and compelled to click the “next” button that was on my screen. While still worthy of a listen, as the lyrics contribute to the story of the album, I did not enjoy the experience that the track offered.
With amazing vocals coming from the choir in the beginning of the track, “Lord I Need You” continued to impress me with full productional values and an amazing flow from West. Instantly one of my favorite songs on the album, this track is a must-listen. “God got us / God got the children / the Devil run the playground / but God on the building” is one of the repeated verses found on the track.
Track No. 20 titled “Pure Souls,” is a decent track that deserves a listen. While telling an important story, West’s vocals sound great with the production of the song, and features organ-styled synths throughout the track. Overall, the track would get a 8/10 rating from me, as I did get a little bored towards the end of the track, but nonetheless did not feel annoyed.
“Ever wish you had another life?” is a question that is asked repeatedly throughout the song. The song is based on a self reflection, seemingly, and is accompanied nicely by the soft production throughout the song. Overall, I thought the song was well-done, but I don’t see myself coming back to re-listen to it. Overall, I’d rate the track a 7/10.
Probably the most-anticipated track on the album, “No Child Left Behind” was previously trending on TikTok before its official release. Many listeners were quick to point out that the track sounds like something from a Euphoria soundtrack, one in which Labrinth seemed to have production influence in, but, nonetheless, the track is a great closing. The production is what makes the track as good as it is, and West’s vocals pair over it nicely.
Overall, I thought the album was decently done, and the production quality and verses under-matched my expectations. All in all, the album had a mix between healing songs, memorable songs about his mother, featured great samples, other artists and the album told a story that was full of different emotions. I definitely see myself listening to some of the songs on a daily basis, but on the other hand I see myself forgetting the majority of tracks that seemed to fill in a timeline.