Liverpool’s FACT is to host a special evening with Kanye West as he launches his new album Waves, Getintothis’ Michael Fowler prepares us for this global music happening.
On Thursday February 11, Kanye West will launch, in his words (unsurprisingly), “the best album ever made” and the typical low-key launch will see it played in full at Madison Square Garden and streamed live in cinemas worldwide, including Liverpool’s Picturehouse at FACT.
The album’s tracklist has already been released, omitting any of last year’s singles like All Day, Only One or FourFive Seconds, and the twice-changed title, Waves, (formerly SWISH, formerly So Help Me God) was confirmed with the help of a quite remarkable twitter rant. According to Hudson Mohawke, the final change was appatently something to do with his input.
The album will be split into three acts and features Wolves, the track he recently performed with Vic Mensa and Sia on Saturday Night Live and a collaboration with Kendrick Lamar called, No More Parties in LA, but not much is known about the live performance awaiting us. The only information we have is that it will feature Yeezy Season 3, Ye’s latest clothing line, and an artistic performance with his regular collaborator, Italian artist, Vanessa Beecroft, who Yeezy described in his 2015 Oxford Lecture as being “very focused, she’s like my eyes, she’s a piece of my brain.”
Speculating about any kind of Kanye West release is pretty futile, who could have expected any of what we’ve been presented by him in the last decade, so we won’t bother making any guesses. Instead, we’re going to take a look back at some of West’s album launches over the years, and how he’s made to each one a genuine spectacle.
Graduation – Kanye vs. 50 Cent (2007)
Back in 2007 Kanye and 50 Cent were due to release their respective third albums a week apart, Kanye with his Akira and 2001: A Space Odyssey inspired Graduation and 50 with Curtis, an album inspired by his life before his debut album, Get Rich or Die Tryin’.
In a savvy move, perhaps inspired by the Blur/Oasis Brit pop feud, Ye moved his album release date to the same as Fiddy’s, 11th September 2007. The G-Unit frontman famously put his money where his mouth was when he stated, “Let’s raise the stakes, if Kanye West sells more records than 50 Cent on September 11, I’ll no longer write music. I’ll write music and work with my other artists, but I won’t put out anymore solo albums.”
In the first week Kanye sold 957,000 while 50 sold 691,000, and true to his word 50 Cent quit music forever. Sadly, that’s not true. Though 50 Cent lost his bet he has gone one to make three more forgettable albums.
There was no ill feeling between the two artists, both did pretty well with the ‘feud’ and Kanye even joined 50 Cent on stage for a surprise performance at Madison Square Garden.
808s and Heartbreak – First collaboration with Vanessa Beecroft (2008)
After the passing of his mother and splitting from his then fiancée, Alexis Phifer, Kanye was in a very dark place and he made some sudden changes to his career. He was due to release a new hip-hop album called Good Ass Job, but he decided to scrap those plans and take his music in a whole new direction, which he called ‘Pop Art’.
A month before the release of 808s and Heartbreak Kanye got in touch with Italian performance artist, Vanessa Beecroft, who has worked on several of his projects since and is billed to perform on the forthcoming Waves launch. Beecroft who is known for often working with nude female models, produced a piece to work alongside a listening party for Kanye’s fourth album.
Seven hundred invited guests made up of press, friends and celebrities came to hear the album in full while 40 women in masks and wigs, choreographed by Beecroft, moved slowly around between songs accompanied by a light show.
Many dismissed West’s auto-tuned singing on 808s and Heartbreak and thought he had alienated his fans by not giving them a characteristic rap album, but Kanye didn’t care, telling Rolling Stone, “It’s from my heart. I don’t give a fuck if someone rates it ‘hot’ or ‘not.’ I’m here to bring positivity that cannot be judged. It’s like judging a grandmother’s love, and someone says ‘Your grandmother gets two and a half mics.’ Or, ‘You grandmother didn’t sell a million the first week.’”
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – Runaway Short Film & GOOD Fridays (2010)
To coincide with the release of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy Kanye wanted to make a film that helped tell the story of eight of the album’s tracks and “the overall representation” of his own dreams. With a script co-written by his music video director, Hype Williams, he set off to Prague and made the film in four days along with Beecroft in the role of art director and Yemi A.D., who choreographed the ballet dancers in the astonishing and exceptional, Runaway segment.
West toured the film around the world a month before the release of MBDTF. Introducing the feature at a screening in London, he told the audience, “Purple Rain, The Wall, Michael Jackson’s Thriller – I wanted to do a modern version of that.”
Having seen the film far too many times, we can say there are points that touch greatness in Runaway but it’s by no means a perfect film. It doesn’t need to be though, it has a 30 foot Michael Jackson bust paraded with fireworks and a marching band. More films need this.
MBDTF also saw the start of GOOD Fridays where Kanye would release a new track every Friday up to its release. Many of the tracks were demos of tracks you would later find on the album like Power and Monster, or collaborations with artists signed to his label GOOD Music. In the upcoming weeks to Waves, Kanye has repeated the GOOD Fridays weekly releases on his Soundcloud, but don’t be surprised if album tracks like No More Parties in LA sound significantly different upon the launch.
Yeezus – New Slaves projections and American Psycho and Controversy (2013)
In the launching of Yeezus, delays in the finished product may have been the reason for the lack of a marketing campaign. Famously Kanye handed over the album to Rick Rubin fifteen days before its release to create the finished minimalist sound, and marketing the album was none of his concern. “Honestly at this point, I could give a fuck about selling a million records as long as I put out an album for the summer that y’all can rock to for all fuckin’ summer,” he said to an audience at New York’s Governors Ball Music Festival.
Although, one month before the release, Kanye did manage to organise this awesome film for Yeezus’ fourth track, New Slaves, to be projected in 66 locations around the world including NewYork, Toronto, London, Paris, Berlin and his home town of Chicago.
There was also this weird American Psycho-inspired promo video, which was kind of spot on, it just needed Christian Bale to pick up the Patrick Bateman role and not this fella.
Waves – Yeezy Season 3 with performance by Vanessa Beecroft
Kanye West has proven time and time again that he is one of the most innovative artists when it comes to launching a product and the release of Waves looks like it’ll be bigger and better than ever. Let’s not forget that this is the best album of all time being launched here.
2. Father Stretch My Hands (Pt I & Pt II)
4. High Lights
5. 30 Hours
6. No More Parties in LA ft Kendrick Lamar
7. Fade fear Ty Dolla $ign and Post Malone
9. Real Friends feat Ty Dolla $ign
10. Wolves feat Sia and Vic Mensa
11. Ultra Light Beam
Kanye West / Yeezy Season 3 / Waves screens at Picturehouse at FACT, Thursday February 11.