Kanye West’s "Donda": Ranked Track-by-Track
Donda’s album cover
Kanye West’s 10th solo studio album, Donda, was recently released on August 29th. Kanye tries to embark on different musical aesthetics throughout the project, with some pretty low lows and very high highs. Kanye, medically diagnosed with bipolarity, shows his ability to both make excellent and horrible choices within this album. With that being said, welcome to a ranking of Donda, excluding Donda Chant and the “pt 2” tracks.
#22: Tell The Vision
Why? Just why? Imagine releasing a song which is already on Pop Smoke’s posthumous album Faith, but instead of having your own and Pusha-T’s verses as well on the song, you just cut them off, and only re-release only Pop Smoke’s part in a horrible audio quality which sounds like it is being recorded through a telephone booth. Well, you do not need to imagine, because that is what Kanye West thought would be good to have in an album, which also is supposed to relate to his mother who has passed away... Also the piano sounds horrible. Ridiculously pointless and arguably even unethical...
This song had potential to be very good, however, in its experimentalism, it ended up shooting itself on the foot. The bass sounds pretty bad, hi hats sound like they are missing and it is quite repetitive. Playboi Carti’s verse still offers some fun and the track is quite different, so for that I give it merit. Still, much to be desired.
#20: Remote Control
The drum beat for this track does not really work for me, however, its biggest sin is the chorus. It ends up being very repetitive and monotone, which is the last thing we want for a chorus. Young Thug’s verse is slightly better than Kanye’s however, none of them do particularly well. The inclusion of the Globglogabgalab snippet at the end, while entertaining, comes off as very weird and questionable.
#19: Lord I Need You
Two words for this track? Unnecessary and bland. It embarks on the same type of themes and musical aesthetics as the rest of the album but it just sounds quite boring and indifferent. The only saving grace are the church choir vocals towards the end, which bring the track at least some form of life.
Two minute interlude/snippet moment. Pretty good overall, nothing really extra. Good for the continuity and coherence of the album. Interesting vocals. Nothing much else about this one…
#17: God Breathed
I respect God Breathed because it is very unconventional and at moments sounds very good (basically whenever Vory is singing or when the beat changes). On the other hand, Kanye West’s lyrics and flow gets repetitive easily, and a near 2:30 instrumental outro was not needed. If the ideas of the track were condensed and refined, it could have easily been within the top 10 tracks of the album, maybe even top 5.
Vory pours his heart out within this track, but, unfortunately, I cannot get behind the beat during the verses of Jonah. Lil Durk, Kanye and Vory all deliver very good verses, but the high beeping sound behind them just sounds like a slightly pitched down supermarket cashier scanner, which is really off putting. Very unfortunate.
Kanye sings actually very well in this track, however, to me it does not really sound like anything out of the ordinary. It is clear that it is a very significant track to Kanye, and it is good, however, it did not really click with me on the next level.
#14: New Again
To me this was the most disappointing track of the album for one simple reason: it could have been so much better. The instrumental is reminiscent of Kanye’s cut from his 2008 album Graduation, Flashing Lights, which is one of my favorites of all his songs. Unfortunately, New Again does not add up to the same level, but it is still an enjoyable track.
#13: Ok Ok
Ok Ok was a very interesting track. Lil Yachty’s whispered delivery is the best I’ve heard him in a long while. While the chorus may seem a little bit repetitive, I believe it adds to the evil energy of the track. I thought Rooga’s verse was okay, but nothing mind blowing. This track is a good track however, nothing on that “next level”.
#12: Jesus Lord
While this placement may surprise many people, I believe Jesus Lord, while having very good storytelling and lyricism, falls short in the area of instrumentation. To me, the beat felt one-dimensional and after listening to nearly 9 minutes of it, it felt repetitive. Still, the track is good, just a little bit redundant.
#11: No Child Left Behind
The outro of the record, No Child Left Behind, is a very beautiful gospel inspired track. It may seem a little bit one dimensional at times, however, it still has good instrumentation and lyrics. While another track might have served better as the outro to the record, this one still does a good job.
Jail is a very entertaining track. The instrumentation is very punchy and can be considered iconic simply by how interesting and unconventional it is. “Guess who’s going to jail tonight” is a very memorable line. Jay-Z’s verse was very exciting to listen to. I only wish that Kanye took this track in other directions and included drums and more variation.
#9: Keep My Spirit Alive
This song is very interesting. It contains an organ melody, which Westside Gunn and Conway the Machine fit in surprisingly well. Kanye’s verse is also very good, and everything is glued together by KayCyy’s chorus. I wish Kanye took this song to other places, but it still manages to be a very good track.
#8: Praise God
Praise God is an extremely fun track, it sees both Travis Scott and Baby Keem experimenting with new vocals and flows. It has a decidedly dark atmosphere, but also manages to not take itself too seriously. The chorus sounds like you are ascending to heaven. While Baby Keem’s delivery might rub some the wrong way, I believe that his experimentation and multiple flows allow for a unique and different listening experience. Very interesting track!
#7: Pure Souls
Pure Souls is a great example of a song with nothing wrong about it. The instrumental is good, it did not blow me away, however, Roddy Ricch’s chorus and verse as well as Kanye West’s verse are very good melodically. Shenseea delivers a breathtakingly beautiful outro to the track, ending it in a very high note!
#6: Heaven and Hell
This track starts off very dark, progressing up until all the instruments are cut, and come back in a drop which creates a wall of sound and a larger-than-life type of energy. The electronic elements on the back end of the track fit in well and end the song off with this manic disturbed energy.
#5: Believe What I Say
Believe What I Say is a very upbeat and joyful cut from the record. It samples Lauryn Hill’s Doo Wop (That Thing), which brings a more R&B and soulful characteristic to the track. “Don’t let the lifestyle drag you down” is such a nice chorus, and really encapsulates a Kanye West type of energy. Excellent!
The Weeknd’s glimmering vocals shine on top of the darker instrumentation of this track. Lil Baby and Kanye both provide very good verses, and the church choir present in the chorus is a great way to back The Weeknd’s singing, which creates a glorious atmosphere for a great song.
#3: Come to Life
This track sounds like a constant build-up with a beautiful, glistening piano section which lasts for nearly 3 minutes, played by none other than Tyler, The Creator. The gospel influences throughout the track are very apparent, and executed in a perfect manner. This track is extremely beautiful and certainly deserves a spot in the hotly contested top 3 tracks of Donda. This track, personally, should have been the outro to the record.
#2: Off The Grid
Off The Grid sees Kanye West, Playboi Carti, and, especially Fivio Foreign at their best. The manic energy of the chorus plus the transition of a trap style into a drill style creates one of the most energetic and moving songs of the album. Fivio Foreign’s verse seems to last forever, however, no one is complaining! To finish off the song, Kanye West delivers comically iconic bars such as “I talk to God everyday, that's my bestie, They playin' soccer in my backyard, I think I see Messi”. Amazing track.
The beautiful yet simple instrumentation present in Moon paired with Kanye West, Kid Cudi and Don Toliver’s intertwined vocals creates one of the most beautiful pieces of music in recent memory. It is an extremely calming and comforting track, which figuratively feels like a warm hug. The chorus is one of the most iconic and instantly memorable melodies I have ever heard, and it will get everyone singing “I wanna go to the moon” when it comes on. This song deserves all the attention and love it can get. Perfect song.