Is the world ready for a kinder, gentler Kanye West?
To toast the new year, one of the world’s most aggressive rappers has released a brand new song that couldn’t be more tender.
“Only One” dropped on iTunes at the midnight hour on New Year’s Eve, with a sound that entirely inverts the industrial approach of Kanye’s last album, 2013’s “Yeezus.”
That’s not the only surprise about the song. It’s also, apparently, a collaboration with Paul McCartney, though the ex-Beatle doesn’t sing on the track. Instead he accompanies Kayne on electric piano, the sole instrument in the song.
McCartney had been rumored to be working with Kanye for some time.
Over Sir Paul’s spare and measured chords, Kanye sings from the point of view of his late mother Donda, who died during a liposuction operation in 2007.
“I know you’re happy, cause I can see it,” Kanye sings. “I talked to God about you/he said he sent you an angel/look at all that he gave you/You asked for one and you got two.”
That last line clearly refers to wife Kim Kardashian and the couple’s baby North. At the end of the 4:42 minute single, Kanye imagines his mom saying over and over “tell Nori about me.”
In fact, the line appears nearly as often as the “na na na na” chorus in “Hey Jude,” but with much more numbing results.
“Only One” may be one of Kanye’s most personal songs, but it’s also his most indulgent and sappy. More, it pushes his use of Auto-tune beyond the pale. While Kanye has often relied on the effect in the past, the raw nature of the musical accompaniment in “Only One” throws all the focus on Kanye’s singing, which required major audio-surgery to bring off.
The result makes the song sound particularly robotic, a problem for a piece that’s supposed to come straight from the heart.
In theory, it’s exciting that Kanye would put out music that takes such a sharp turn from his thrillingly harsh last work. And it’s both promising and fun that he’s working with McCartney. Let’s just hope when Kanye’s rumored full album comes this year, it has more rigor and bite.