A lone figure clad in reddish-orange walked slowly across the ground of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the words “We gonna be OK, we gonna be OK” intoning repeatedly over swelling organ chords during a sonic blast. A haze of smoke pumped from machines stationed around the stadium floor, making the small figure even harder to discern. As the venue lights dropped, a dim white light shone on Kanye West – who sometimes paced during a circle, sometimes trotted a couple of steps – as songs unfurled around him, the sunshine contracting and expanding in various shapes.
And about 48 minutes later, he was gone. On Thursday night in downtown Atlanta, West presented the official unveiling of “Donda,” his long-awaited, oft-delayed 10th album, to a crowd of about 42,000 – a sellout for the event’s configuration. The album arrives Friday. Some of the large names who attended the album’s premiere included Rick Ross, 2Chainz, Khloe Kardashian, and therefore the “The lifetime of Pablo” rapper’s estranged wife Kim Kardashian West, who showed up during a red jumpsuit with their kids. West was, expectedly, late to his own party, finally appearing at 9:50 p.m. (start time was billed for 8 p.m.); the listening party was also streamed survive Apple Music.
Fans, who paid $20-$100 to attend, may need expected some semblance of pleasure . Or perhaps a couple of words from West. Or…something…anything to form tonight feel special? But instead, they were presented with the new material, played fortissimo over stadium speakers because the light on the venue floor gradually expanded to a full rectangle that briefly flickered with a mysterious image. the gang appeared surprised to listen to when Jay-Z began rapping on the ultimate song of the listening session. On social media, the song was lauded for Jay-Z’s verse that included “This could be the return of the throne,” a nod toward the tandem’s 2011 album “Watch the Throne,” which earned a Grammy nomination.
The album is known after West’s mother, Donda, who died in 2007 at age 58 and is present on the album during a recorded speech introducing a song. West’s last release, 2019’s “Jesus is King,” marked a stylistic shift for the mercurial rapper, who stocked it with church organs and choirs and lyrics that interpolated Bible verses and Christian hymns. A few songs from “Donda” indicated West may need returned thereto motif with lyrics about “snakes and money pits” and “the holy fountain, water .”
The song, “God Breathed on This,” which West released earlier within the week, repeated the title in between verses obscured by Auto-Tune before shifting into choral sounds. And, during a callback to his September claim that he’s “the new Moses,” one thumping song continually referenced his preferred title.
But any religious bent was occasional, as most of the songs blended into a pastiche of distorted sound with no true delineation where one stopped and another started. Heavy piano chords banged repeatedly over one track, while fuzzy guitar clamored on another. Several tunes included vocable segues, including one from poet Gwendolyn Brooks’ “Speech to the Young: Speech to the Progress-Toward (Among Them Nora and Henry III).” (“Even if you’re not ready for the day, it cannot always be night.”) Through it all, West occasionally stopped to boost his hands overhead or pitch forward during a kneeling stance. It appeared that his roaming the stadium floor had no purpose.