Three Bethel professors, Jessica Henderson (Graphic Design), Jason Harms (Music) and Joel Frederickson (Psychology), share their thoughts on Kanye West’s newest album.
By Jessica Henderson, Jason Harms and Joel Frederickson
1) What is your tweet-length review of the album?
Jessica: This project is honest and personal and risky and layered and complex. Not my favorite album, but respect to anyone making art that way.
Jason: Man, this is one record that I would LOVE to be able to sit down with Kanye and hear him unpack all the backstory!
Joel: I never would have predicted an album like this from Kanye West. Is this for real? No. 1 album on the charts and EVERY song debuted on the top 100? No swearing? God honoring? Jesus is King!
2) Favorite song? Why?
Jessica: “Everything we Need”: I find myself humming this in my sleep. Ha. It’s so catchy.
Jason: Right now, “GOD IS” has been stuck on repeat quite a bit. It feels to me like a point of climax for the arc of the record where Kanye brings it all together with clarity, chill, humility, a winsome feel and an honest enjoyment of what God has done for him through Jesus.
Joel: “Follow God.” Song I’ve heard the most. It’s got a good beat and you can dance to it.
3) Least favorite song? Why?
Jessica: Probably “Water”—it’s just a little too one-dimensional for me. Not as layered.
Jason: Don’t have one. I listen to records not as singles but as a full story. Each song has its place in the telling of the whole work, so I hear them as such. I may spin some songs more than others at times, but it is not for reasons of rejecting them as least favorite.
Joel: “Jesus is Lord.” Too Short.
4) Most surprising moment of the album?
Jessica: Kenny. G. Solo. (in “Use This Gospel”) But, I mean, IS this surprising?
Jason: The album itself is the surprise! It’s not a surprise to me that God has shown up with a load of mercy and fellowship for Kanye; this is what God does. And it’s definitely not a surprise to me that Kanye has been overwhelmed by God, as he makes clear throughout his lyrics. The pleasure of surprise for me was the moment my ears first heard a man who has everything but lacked peace of mind confess and make abrupt changes in direction and then make all the effort to work through and communicate these things in an album that he will likely take a lot of hits for. This is courage, not bravado.
Joel: Everything. I just didn’t ever expect this kind of album from Kanye.
5) Do you believe in Kanye’s turn to Jesus?
Jessica: It doesn’t matter what I think. Kanye preemptively responds to this question in Hands On, “What have you been hearing from the Christians? They’ll be the first one to judge me. Make it feel like nobody loves me.” The album feels vulnerable and earnest, see: God Is.
Jason: Listen to his lyrics. Listen to his interviews. Listen to his demeanor. Listen to his wife speak of the changes she has seen in him. Listen to him marvel at Jesus’ call for repentance in Mark 1:15. I do believe Kanye’s confession of Christ is genuine because I see evidence of Jesus working in him. I love it! It is so beautiful! It is a work of God, as is my own conversion. Let’s let Kanye himself ask us to be patient with him as he says “somebody pray for me” from the track “HANDS ON”.
Joel: I think it’s dangerous to question someone else’s faith beliefs. I have a friend at church who talks about her bipolar disorder and her spirituality. I see a lot of the same patterns in Kanye.
6) Should this album be played in Chapel?
Jessica: Sure. Why not? Not everything played in chapel has to look, sound and feel the same.
Jason: I can listen to Kanye’s record “Jesus Is King” and hear and enjoy God’s great mercy to him. But there may be others who do not yet hear and enjoy these things given Kanye’s history, and so it may take some time before listening together to Kanye’s tracks in a chapel setting result in a unifying fellowship in the Gospel. I believe such a fellowship can happen, but when should it happen, in my opinion, is a matter of discerning love towards one another in the same line of argument that Paul uses regarding eating food together in Romans 14:13-20. At the right time, there are songs that could very well lead the people in a Bethel Chapel context towards enjoying the great power of Jesus together. When that time comes, I hope I can be there to participate with everyone!
Joel: Why not?