Kanye West’s album launch was surreal, stuttering – and typically divisive
kanye album launch

The world was invited to Kanye West‘s Garden Party last night, to get a first listen to his new album Swish Waves The Life of Pablo and check out his latest collection of threads.

Madison Square Gardens in Midtown Manhattan, usually the scene of slam dunks and guitar solos, became Kanye’s own Festival of Kanye, as he used the occasion to launch his latest fashion collection with Adidas – as well as the little matter of his long-awaited seventh studio album.

As such it was a surreal clash of gig and catwalk – although this time the catwalk was replaced by a square podium structure in the middle of the arena where the models stood around looking blank-faced –  Vanessa Beecroft, Kanye’s artist collaborator, had instructed them: “NO SMILE. YOU ARE A PICTURE. NO SEXY POSING.”

Naomi Campbell certainly got the memo.

The erratic nature of the album’s conception (title changes, Twitter rants, up-to-the-wire edits) continued into the launch itself.

Whether it was partly intended as a deconstruction of the usually slick arena show or not, Yeezy Season 3 began in true house party style, with Kanye farting about with his laptop in silence for several minutes before he and his tech crew finally figured out how to plug in the audio jack and press play on Garageband.

At one point everyone could clearly hear the sound of an Apple email alert mid-song. We hope it wasn’t spam.

Kanye album launch
Kanye West gets into the music – Getty Images

Tidal has boasted already that their live stream of the event was watched by 20 million people. That grand figure was presumably inflated by most people hitting refresh 20 times to get it to work; the spinning wheel of buffering hell and frozen screens plagued the broadcast for many.

While the experience was stuttering and more than a bit strange, the one redeeming feature was The Life of Pablo itself. The tracks continue the abrasive, sample-heavy, experimental sound of 2013’s Yeezus, and there was easily enough to add kudos to some of Ye’s pre-release hyperbole.

‘Famous’ featured a sample of Sister Nancy’s ‘Bam Bam’, vocals from Rihanna and crazy production by Swizz Beatz, while Kanye seems to confront his critics on The Weeknd-featuring ‘FML’:

“Even though I always f*** my life up, only I can mention me.”

Whether you think Kanye’s ego-driven worldview is intensely annoying or cleverly subversive, he’s reaching even higher levels of meta on TLOP.

But one lyric that didn’t go down well was a jibe at Taylor Swift – an attempt at humour that sank like a lead balloon. In a reference to his “I’mma let you finish” stage-crashing stunt at the 2009 Grammys, the track ‘Famous’ includes the line:

“I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / Why? I made that bitch famous.”

Swift’s spokesperson revealed after the show that the pop star had declined Kanye’s request to share ‘Famous’ on her Twitter account:

“She declined and cautioned him about releasing a song with such a strong misogynistic message. Taylor was never made aware of the actual lyric, ‘I made that bitch famous.’”

After the show Kanye posted the tracklist for The Life of Pablo, which revealed that his Kendrick Lamar-featuring ‘No More Parties in LA’ didn’t make the final cut.

And we’ll have to wait a little longer before we get to hear it. There’s still no sign of it on any of the usual streaming platforms, despite the previously stated release date of February 10.

Why? Well, amazingly, it could be down to villain of the moment Martin Shkreli.

The man who bought Wu Tang Clan’s one-off $2 million album has apparently sent a letter to Kanye’s team offering $10 million so that he – and only he – can listen to it.

He’s claiming that Kanye’s label are legally required to present the offer to their board of directors.

It’s undoubtedly just more self-publicity from the world’s most hated man, but like anything in the world of Kanye, you couldn’t make it up.

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