Religion, and by extension, Christianity, has become a prop and publicity tool in media. Public officials utilize it as a bargaining chip with their citizens. Anti-abortionists use Christianity to promote their cause. Let’s not forget the slightly blasphemous theme of the 2017 Met Gala, “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination.” Adding to a very long list, rapper Kanye West has now released a gospel-inspired album.
How does one man change from calling himself God in 2013 to releasing an album titled “Jesus Is King” in 2019?
Some may answer that West did, in fact, find comfort and self-growth in religion. However, considering the celebrity’s history, it is much more likely that the album is another stunt. This character transformation is more about West himself than idolizing any religious figure.
Along with the album release and announcement of a documentary by the same name, West has also been conducting so-called Sunday Services. These elusive performances are never televised, although the celebrity guest list is extensive. Stars such as Katy Perry, Brad Pitt and Tyler the Creator are just a few. What better time to promote an album than during the biggest musical festival—Coachella?
It is also convenient that West released the album after his many divisive comments, such as the time that he said slavery was a choice and defended President Trump while wearing a Make America Great Again baseball cap. Christianity, the largest religion in the world with an impressive global total of 2.2 billion, rules as a common ground in the United States. It is also a channel for unity. Perhaps West’s spiritual transformation is, in part, a hopeful one-fell attempt at putting himself in the public’s good graces.
West’s misstep, however, is that Christianity thrives on tradition, especially in gospel music. West’s “Jesus is King” album, with its short songs and rap paired with a choir, is definitely nontraditional. Regardless of West’s motives, the album is ahead of its time in the church. The Christian church is already divided between the young and the older adherents—West’s album is another nail in the coffin.
Another fact that disproves West’s claims of spiritual growth is the album’s merch and its outrageous prices. Christian motifs, such as Jesus’s face and crosses, are printed on hoodies, t-shirts, shorts and jogger sweatpants. Anyone raised in a church will most likely feel a twinge in their gut—something feels wrong about the merchandise, and the fact that a hoodie costs $240. Similar to the 2017 Met Gala, the clothes are in bad taste, if not outright blasphemous.
Moving forward following the album’s release, the best way for West to move the public opinion in his favor is to prove his authenticity as a reborn man. Perhaps he should donate a portion of the album and merch proceeds to a religious foundation or nonprofit.
In conclusion, the album itself isn’t terrible. Maybe the most eye-rolling track is “Closed on Sunday,” where West sings about Chick-fil-A. However, Kanye West’s reasons are much more questionable, and that is where the problem lies.