Coincidentally or not, Kanye West’s livestream and theatrical simulcast of his “Donda Experience” event on Tuesday night appeared to make use of a showmanship conceit Adele had recently turned down for her taped Las Vegas residency. This latter singer reportedly balked at a design that appeared to be or float in the middle of a large swimming pool. But for West, walking on (or in) water was just one solution.
The “Donda 2” event at Miami’s LoanDepot Park – which eventually aired (and remains available) on YouTube, despite West’s earlier assurances that it wouldn’t – had the artist surveying a life-size replica of his childhood home of Chicago, had the last night of listening to his previous album “Donda” last year. But this time, it was surrounded by a two or three inch lake laid out on the grounds of LoanDepot, which required not only West’s waders, but also guest artists like Jack Harlow, Playboi Carti, Pusha T, Migos, Baby Keem, Fivio Foreign, the Game, the Sunday Service Choir and (notoriously returning from last “Donda” listening party) Marilyn Manson and DaBaby. Alicia Keys, who played piano and sang on one of the final numbers, managed to keep her feet dry.
The “Donda 2” album itself wasn’t released on Tuesday night, though only those who’ve ever purchased and received a $200+ Stem Player from West’s online store can know for sure, since the hip-hop titan has sworn that only those who own one of his new portable listening/mixing devices will be able to hear the recording. It might not turn out to be so exclusive after all, since West expanded the audience for Tuesday’s “Donda Experience” virtually at the last minute. Initially, it announced it had turned down an Apple Music deal to stream the event, and it emerged it would only be viewable beyond Miami Stadium on IMAX theaters in 15 cities, at a cost of $20-30. Then, on Tuesday afternoon, a message was sent that it could only be seen live “on stemplayer.com”. Ultimately, it was also released for free via YouTube and Amazon’s Twitch service, though West hit out at those tech giants last week when he sent the message, “Donda 2 will only be available on my own platform, the Stem Player. Not on Apple Amazon Spotify or YouTube… It’s time to free music from this oppressive system.
Tuesday night’s show started at 10:45 p.m. ET, an hour and 45 minutes after the advertised time, leading to plenty of extra popcorn sales at IMAX theaters nationwide where ticket buyers were cooling off in looking at a screen saver and listening to a heartbeat. endlessly. The 80-minute set that followed was eventually split into two parts, split by a moment in the show when the building in the center of the paddling pool split in two, literally becoming a split house, seen by fans as a likely reference to the impending divorce that has caught West’s attention lately.
Prior to this literal split, there was a 16-song set consisting mostly of songs that were promised for the “Donda 2” album, but not in the order in which they appeared on the track listings West released. on Instagram. Among the debutants were also a more familiar pair of songs: the Game collab “Eazy” and the Pusha T collab “Diet Coke.”
After the hiatus, so to speak, another 10 tracks were played, including half of last year’s “Donda” album, plus bonuses like the Sunday Service song “Jesus Is King” and the collaboration Fivio/Alicia Keys “City”. gods. The show ended with West joined again by Fivio as well as Playboi Carti for the “Donda” track “Off the Grid”, before a sudden plume of light blazing towards the rafters signaled the end of the experience.
As with previous “Donda” shows in 2021, this one skirted the line between concert, listening party and interpretive dance event, with West and guests pantomime mostly to the music — or, in the case of an almost still life Manson and DaBaby during “Jail”, just hanging out – or having what was considered the march of the Sunday Service Choir or standing in formation in dark, militaristic helmets and uniforms as motorbikes circled the perimeter. While there was little pretentiousness of lip-syncing for most of the show, at least two performers seemed to be particularly live in their vocals – Keys, as she began “City of Gods” alone on the piano before moving on. to be joined by his. vocals and multi-track collaborators, and Playboi Carti, whose blazing vocals sparked admiring laughs among the delighted audience during a screening Variety attended the Chinese Theater in Hollywood.
Not all of the guests scheduled to appear on the “Donda 2” album were there to act out or dance to their parts in person. Obviously, that would include the late XXXtentacion, heard near the very beginning of the performance. Also heard on the tracks from the new album were a few other guests who for some reason didn’t make the trip to Miami, including Future, Travis Scott and Soulja Boy, whose apparent reconciliation with West after a public jam would have made a memorable moment. visual.
But the apparent “guest” on “Donda 2” whose lack of a live appearance was most foreordained was ex-wife Kim Kardashian. A snippet of her monologue from her 2021 ‘Saturday Night Live’ hosting gig, before she filed for divorce, was played aloud at the start of the ‘Sci-Fi’ short story, as Kardashian was heard aloud exclaiming, “I married the best rapper ever. Not only that, he is the richest black man in America. A talented and legitimate genius who gave me four incredible children.
Considering how much time West has spent on social media lately imploring Kardashian to get back together with him, and/or focus on family disputes and his romance with Pete Davidson, there has been less time openly spent on these questions than it could have been. expected. But there were still plenty. “Never take the family picture out of the fridge / Never stand between a man and his kids / You ain’t got enough security for that,” read the chorus of a new song, “Security.”
Full ratings of “Donda 2” will have to wait until the album is released – or if it was released in anything close to the form heard on Tuesday, as West premiered several iterations of the previous album in events of arena before the final version. Many viewers complained about the audio, although it would seem that any lyrical interpretation issues may have been a deliberate part of the sound design for a new album that’s very different from “Donda 1.” The whole sonic approach to the new album feels distinct enough that it’s not necessarily clear why he’s presenting it as a sequel, beyond the proximity of the release. While the last “Donda” was more of a stylistic tour de force, what was revealed of “Donda 2” on Tuesday night feels much more like a mood piece, with long, hypnotic passages replacing pop hooks or gospel moments. found on the last album. When several songs at the start of the performance heavily emphasized West’s sung rather than rapped AutoTuned vocals — particularly “Too Easy” — a listener might even have wondered if the album should be called “808s & Heartbreak.” 2” instead of “Donda 2.”
Audio aside, few would likely dispute the series’ cinematic success, in or out of the theatrical setting, with West – as is his recent habit – no doubt urging director Aus Taylor to favor long, uninterrupted takes. which allowed every ripple in the pool to span across the screen. The lighting was dim, causing a chilling effect as West sat alone on the steps of his nearly burnt-out house, almost in darkness (with concession signs for the venue still brightly lit in the distance). While West loves his constant smoke or fog effects, luckily he didn’t spend much of the show engulfed in completely impenetrable fog, like he did in the recent livestream of his co-headline gig. poster with Drake at the LA Coliseum.
Not all of the beef West invoked on Tuesday involved the family. The Harlow collaboration that debuted, “Louis Bags,” was a kind of anti-commercial that had West expressing an apparent preference for Gucci as he led in the chorus: “I stopped buying Louis bags after the death of Virgil” (a reference to the death of his friend Virgil Abloh, artistic director of the styling house).
Kardashian’s speech snippet was the most obviously laughable moment of a show that was actually relatively rather light on outright provocation, embedded lyrics about Kim-and-Pete aside. The big rebel moment was a replay, with Manson (or, as Rolling Stone repeatedly calls him, “accused rapist Marilyn Manson”) and alleged homophobe DaBaby simply repeating their highly controversial rides from the “Donda from last year, as if West just meant he’s not one to back down. But we knew it.
The full event can be seen here: