Kanye West’s highly-anticipated ninth studio album, “Jesus is King” drew hundreds to, what is sure to be a one-of-a-kind listening experience for the ages. Following his Sunday Service at the Greater Allen Cathedral in Queens, New York, West invited fans to a free, final listening of his Jesus is King: Kanye West Experience mini-tour at the United Palace Theatre in Washington Heights, New York City. Over the past week, West and his Sunday Service Choir have made tour stops in Detroit and Chicago. The listening experience started promptly at 8:30 PM before fans fully-entered the theatre. West previewed beats before starting the show that could be heard from outside the theatre and immediately animated the fans lined-up outside, eager to get inside. The venue was very high-class and upscale; and at the very beginning, the ambiance was very fancy. Over 3,000 fans shuffled into the floor seats and balcony and secured everyone’s phones for the event.
[Credits: THE NEW YORK TIMES]
Kanye West started the event with an early premiere trailer for his forthcoming documentary and IMAX film. West films his travels across the globe performing his Sunday Service and meeting with visionary artist James Turell; meanwhile, song-tracked by his latest musical project. The film clips beautiful cinematography. West portrayed his adventures so gracefully and heartwarmingly; the film is carried by the soft soothing hymns and choruses of West’s Sunday Service Church Choir, throughout the film. Fans will have to wait until October 25 when the film released in IMAX theatres.
After the film, West rose from the front row of seats and approached his DJ set below the stage. A small group of friends and family, which included Kim Kardashian-West, Chris Rock, and Alexander Wang stood on the sides of the stage to prepare for the beginning of the listening party. West gave a special thanks to his Sunday Church Choir and his friends; then, he smiled as he introduced the album and put the album cover on the screen behind him.
West asked the crowded audience if they were ready and then played the first song for only a few songs and then paused. Immediately there was a huge uproar from the audience. West smiled again and pressed play. Here’s the tracklist in the order West played the album:
1. Up From These Ashes
2. Follow God
3. On God
5. Closed on Sunday
6. LA Monster
8. New Body
9. Hands On
10. Use this Gospel for Protection
For the first song, there was a lot of silence from the crowd; obviously, because it was our first listen. The song had a slow tempo and sounded a little muffled. West compensated for the silence by singing over the song. Immediately the energy lifted in the room. However, for most of the beginning of the listening party, the audience was very stale and crowded as late people were pouring into the theatre.
The sound of the album was not exclusively gospel as anticipated, except for three songs. The album was laced with vigor and promiscuous words; which came as no surprise to anyone in the audience as this is the usual Kanye West persona. However, this album offered a new sound that included popular gospel piano chords and hymns. The remainder of the album was upbeat and was infused with songs from the West’s recently leaked project, “Yandhi”.
My favorite song was “Closed on Sunday”. The song starts very slow and Kanye starts the song with hums and signing. 20 seconds into the song, the song had smooth beat switch to something more upbeat and the crowd shook the room with excitement. West was so astonished by the crowd’s reaction, he yelled: “run it back, run it back”. By the hook of the song, the crowd was screaming “Closed on Sunday, you my Chick-Fil-A”!
For the majority of the show, North West and Saint West, the oldest children of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian-West performed on the stage. Between songs, the crowd cheered on the energetic siblings as they jumped and twirled back and forth. The two remained animated and full of life throughout the whole show.
[Credits: Kim’s Instagram]
West announced the last song and by then, the crowd was vivid, jumping out of their seats. Security could not maintain the crowd. Fans were jumping from the balcony and rushing to be as close to Kanye West without crossing the protective rope. Luckily, there were no reported injuries. West’s friends and family walked backstage and West gave one last big smile to the crowded before running off.
Overall, in my opinion, Kanye West is an amazing artist. Although the album was announced to be released the night of the listening party, it did not drop. Nevertheless, West previewed phenomenal and sensational music with a specular venue to match the feeling of the album. In all honesty, I can speculate why West delayed his album release. There were many times in the night the audience was confused and unenthusiastic and West definitely felt that several times throughout the night. Ultimately, the album has a lot of potential but the New York listening party was stellar.
Review By: Isa Judd