December 27, 2019
The newly devout Christian takes you into his house of prayer in an album with some languid highs, but, ultimately this is one for believers only
Kanye West’s Sunday Service Choir: Jesus Is Born review – gospel venture tests the faith
As 2 billion Christians the world over commemorated the birth of Jesus Christ on Wednesday, they might have missed a minor miracle – Kanye West met a deadline. Having spent the last few years botching album rollouts, cancelling projects and indulging in post-release alterations, West delivered on the planned Christmas Day release of Jesus Is Born, his second strongly Christian record of recent months and first to be credited to his Sunday Service Choir project. Jesus Is Born fully realises the ambitious Sunday Service shows the collective has been performing in churches and other venues for months now. Whatever fans make of West’s transformation into a paragon of religious devotion, they can’t accuse him of failing to put in the time.
While Jesus Is King saw West absorb a heavy Christian influence into his singular hip-hop style, its follow-up trades solely in traditional gospel. Fans uninterested in his religious rebirth will find little to love here (most of the Sunday Service Choir’s vocals are a variant on this bar from More Than Anything: “I love you, Jesus / I worship and adore you / Just want to tell you / Lord, I love you more than anything.”) but the album certainly fulfils its prayerful remit. Though West’s fingerprints are harder to detect than ever before, Jesus Is Born is more full-bodied than its predecessor, which often felt like a collection of unfinished sketches. Sometimes it can sound less like a studio album than audio snatched from a publicly funded evangelical TV station, but the power of the choir is captured in these recordings and the live feel of the compositions place the listener in Kanye’s own house of prayer.
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