Kanye West’s Life of Pablo may not even be finished — the artist may keep working on the record until he dies like Robert Lowell did with his poems. But Lucas Fagen at Hyperallergic considers the meandering 19-track drop as is, cut by cut, and the deep dive turns out to be a good intro to West’s madness and method — especially on this big album that has clearly meant so much to West. “Easily the messiest project he’s ever put his name on,” Fagen writes, perhaps ignoring the Kardashians.
But if you want to start your Pablo exploration, Fagen’s take is an excellent, exhaustive place to begin. Fagen credits West’s humor and ambition but isn’t shy about taking West to task when he doesn’t measure up — measure up to his own standard, that is, like in “Freestyle 4” and “Father Stretch My Hands Pt 1.” And Fagen is appropriately tired of, though forgiving about, West’s tales of the difficulty of celebrity (“Real Friends”). Calling the overall effort “warm, sincere, and relaxed,” Fagen also notes it features West’s “obsession over” the sacred vs profane. Fagen says the sacred wins. That will be very hard for some listeners to understand. But Fagen makes a good case.