It was a year ago that rapper Kanye West delivered a festive gift to fans with the release of ‘Jesus Is Born’, an album that saw West collaborate with the Sunday Service Choir, sending listening to the celestial heights with sprightly keys and soulful vocals. Many labelled the album as yet another creative tangent from Kanye, a temporary escapade from the stark realities of fame, a desperate attempt to regain his then fragile fanbase.
Amongst a round of delays, tweaks, soundbites, and controversies, he shocked us all – the album was a real success, both creatively and commercially. The gospel rap record was accompanied with Kanye’s Sunday Service which debuted at Coachella, welcoming globally renowned musicians to pay homage to gospel music. It certainly wasn’t the old Kanye coming out to play, but for the first time in years his artistic direction was clear.
A year after the release he is back with a five-song EP titled ‘Emmanuel’, executively produced by West himself. The EP is ancient and Latin inspired, once again acting as a musical “celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ”. Upon listening to the opening track ‘Requiem Aeternem’ it’s immediately clear the EP is far less accessible predecessor, with a choral theme that doesn’t submit throughout the body of work.
The shrill soprana qualities of the choir dominate a minimal body of work that is crying out for instrumentation. The shining quality of ‘Jesus Is Born’ was it’s wonderful ability to act as an introduction to those interested in the world of gospel, whereas ‘Emmanuel’ feels wholly inaccessible to those who aren’t devout.
You have to admire the artists determination to subvert from pop culture, but this perhaps feels a step too far, an effort that will make even the most loyal of fans feel disillusioned.
Words: Josh Crowe
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