"you are now watching the throne…"
I begin by stating this review will come from a strictly objective point of view and my admiration and appreciation for Jay Z and his talent will not cloud my ability to analyze the album at face value. After my first "Watch the Throne" listening session at 12:01 I gathered one initial thought. This highly anticipated and acclaimed album would be a classic in it's own right and go on to break many records. Without a shadow of a doubt whether containing "Thriller" like classic singles or less than stellar performances this album would be a success monetarily. There are many things that must be taken into consideration when it comes to the analysis of an album on this caliber. After hearing many different comments and criticisms regarding the content of this album I have taken in these interpretations with a grain of salt as they are often based on emotional knee jerk reactions. Over the course of the next seven days I have been able to enjoy the ups and seldom downs that the album has to offer.
Before I jump into a track by track analysis I will first tackle the main disproving consensus that I have heard from many critics across the board. "These two did not do the best that they could have done", "They are talking about the same thing everyone else is talking about" "They have turned their backs on their hood" "All they are talking about is being rich and successful". As a personal follower of Jay Z's career more so than Kanye West, and a person who greatly understands the business of the music industry this album is serving as a revival to a dying art form. It is a sad and true realization but the days of over night platinum status albums have dwindled and we are left with the bitter taste of "Racks on Racks" as good music. While I have been apart of the digital demise of the music industry it was a refreshing and surprising well thought out and played out move on the part of both business men. "Watch The Throne" released August 8th digitally on Itunes, with minimal if any released leaks or bootlegging issues, thus breaking their first record: most digital Itunes sales.
For those that are less than impressed with content and relativity to the artists I pose a question: What exactly were you expecting that wasn't delivered? Personally I realize that relating to an artists' struggle is easier than relating to their success but I can not pigeon hold an artist into one category when they have grown far beyond where they began. I am a firm believer in writing or talking about experience and what I know, but anticipating an album solely about piss in the hallways, and commuting to work was a far stretch of the imagination in regards to two of the worlds most successful musicians of our time. With just about 16 studio albums between both artists the redundancy of rhymes based on their past struggles would seem like a prophetic slap in the face, as both artists have far surpassed these harsh times. Instead "Watch the Throne" delivers an artistic snapshot of the present and the future rather than rehashing the "College Dropout" with "Reasonable Doubt" blends. Do not get me wrong "Watch The Throne" does have its low moments and false steps but the production and follow through from track to track unleashes a remarkably catchy story line that people can relate to and learn from.
"Watch the Throne" begins where many wars have begun: discussion/interpretation of religion. Thus we begin watching the throne with the melodic crooning of Frank Ocean over an infectious beat: "No Church in the Wild". Though many will sing right along without any form of analysis it is the true interpretation of how many different people see the rules and restrictions of religion that makes this song the perfect introduction this story. Our next stop is the soon to be catchy single "Lift Off" featuring Mrs. Jay Z on the hook a sure fire way to a successful hit. With many opposing opinions about the necessity of this track on the album, I personally listened to the song three times before even realizing Jay Z's four bars was on the track. With that said I am more than likely to skip this track more often than not but I am certain it will be on the radio incessantly within the next month. Keeping the money all in the family I can't be mad at that.
I am beyond thrilled at the Otis Redding sample bringing to life such a great often times under appreciated musician. The younger generation is given the opportunity to hear what real music sounded like before Auto Tune replaced actual instruments. Once we get to Paris we receive more of what we all were anticipating and criticizing. The back and forth relationship flows effortlessly on this track as we first experienced and enjoyed on Otis. However catchy the chorus this song is still one of the top recipients of the most dislike due to their cocky whimsical discussions about their wealth. And while subjectively I love every moment of this song, objectively it does not possess a high amount of "real world" situations that us common folk will face. In Jay Z's defense… he does state early on: "If you escaped what I escaped you'd be in Paris getting f****d up too…" Fair warning. "Gotta have it" one of my favorite tracks pokes fun at plenty of common day society issues while still managing to have the whole world singing right along to lyrics they don't even understand. Probably likely to be one of the most misunderstood and under rated tracks on the album I urge and encourage you to take a second listen.
"New Day", a song that I must admit I initially slept on possesses a relaxed mellow outlet to sit back and just think. What it lacks in catchy beats it greatly makes up for with nostalgic lyrical content in preparation for their futures. Moving directly forward from nostalgic relaxation right back into fast paced lyrical flow and party anthems we are bombarded with "That's my bitch", "Welcome to the Jungle" and the already highly over tweeted rise above the struggle trend #whogonstopme. It is important to note that Jay Z's final verse on "Who Gon' Stop Me" is an impeccable demonstration of just how effortlessly talented of an artist he is. As we approach the final five tracks of the album it is clear the story has become about the ailments of life and society. While I thoroughly enjoyed the album in it's entirety it is the conclusion of the album that I enjoyed the most. I undoubtedly could have done without the three minute silent intro to "Illest Motherf****r Alive" but flaws are to be expected.
Overall I highly recommend watching the throne with a keen eye. It is not every day our generation knowingly gets to witness history in the making...