By Charlie Gstalder | Staff Writer
Whether snatching trophies during the VMA’s or proudly donning a red baseball hat, Kanye West has never been afraid to state his beliefs. It is the very principle that prompts some to spend hundreds on his various products- offerings to their God, Yeezus. It is the same principle that prompts others to express their disgust towards one they call a narcissistic egomaniac. It is the principal that makes his art so interesting and so well understood. Except for Ye, West’s 2018 release.
Following a tumultuous few years of backlash for his support of Trump, a brief hospitalization, an admission of his struggles with Bipolar Disorder and a single with the lyrics “Poopy-di-scoop,” West released Ye. Fitting with his previous works, Ye’s theme of mental illness is obvious. And yet unlike his other works, Ye is not understood, and Ye is hated. I am not a Kanye West super fan, I do not normally write album reviews, but I do have a mental illness. So allow me to try to explain Ye, Kanye West’s only perfect project.
Ye is an enigma. By my definitions of good albums, this is not a good album. It is hastily created, poorly executed, choppy and uncertain in itself. And yet, I could not imagine it any other way. Despite its flaws, or perhaps directly because of them, Ye is a powerful statement regarding mental health. The ugly and jarring backtracks are the only way one can describe the sound of a sick mind, they are auditory anxiety. The lyrics reference the struggle between wanting to be healthy and not wanting to lose the “benefits” of the illness, what West refers to as his superpower. The juxtaposition of mania and depression are surprisingly the perfect response to the artist’s recent, seemingly inexplicable, controversial outbursts.
At the risk of sounding like a preteen fan of a mediocre emo band, you have to have been hurt to understand Ye. You have to have been through the inferno and emerged with Beatrice. Ye is to the mentally ill what Kendrick Lamar’s Good kid M.A.D.D. City was to the youth in Compton. It describes the indescribable, it gives a voice to the voiceless. Listening to Ye is listening to the mentally ill mind. One takes Mr. West by the hand and travels with him through the mountainous highs and cavernous lows of his psyche. You can’t help but shed tears listening to him lament on the pain his illness has caused, and the strength and inspiration is has given him.
It’s not a perfect album. It’s far from it. But in its imperfections lie its perfection. Art is anything that elicits emotion, that puts you in a different place, a different world. In that way this is a perfect album. I hope that one day the world will look back and understand how lucky we were to be given a firsthand tour of a tortured artist’s brain, in a way Piccaso, Van Gogh and Foster Wallace never could.
Photo courtesy of Billboard.com