The Listener

Repetitive, spiritless, god-bothering music: Kanye West's Donda reviewed

4 September 2021

9:00 AM

4 September 2021

9:00 AM

Grade: C–

The nicest thing one can say is that this is a marginally better album than we would have got from either of the other two presidential candidates. Just about. But sheesh, it’s still nearly two hours of the most repetitive, spiritless, god-bothering music you will ever hear, full of portentousness and self-pity and utterly devoid of any insight or humour. Rap, trap, snap, all the tiresome bases covered. Decent tunes and memorable rhythms are few and far between.

I like West, the man, for his stoic refusal to kowtow to the stupid liberal orthodoxies demanded by the music business. But his self-importance is now so bloated he resembles Mr Creosote from Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, in those terrible few seconds before he eats a final wafer-thin mint.

For Donda — a paean to his dead mum — West has employed almost everybody who has ever worked in the music industry. That suggests to me a lack of faith in his songwriting. The album begins with Syleena Johnson saying the word ‘Donda’ 58 times, to no accompaniment — and this sets the tone for the autotuned album. Sure, repetition can be effective, but here it grates and bores. There are one or two moments worth savouring — the cute Lauryn Hill sample on ‘Believe What I Say’, the rather strange and pretty ‘Moon’ and the gospelish ‘No Child Left Behind’.

Most of the time the music is stuck in the dullest monotone rap frequency and one is lost as to who Kanye is singing about — Jesus Christ, his ex Kim Kardashian, his late momma or, more likely, himself. If you ever wondered what rap might be like without all the bragging, here you go. You’re welcome.

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