A month ago, just a few weeks removed from the release of Kanye West's "The Life of Pablo" exclusively on Tidal, I wrote why it's West's worst and least listenable album yet.
Now I'm making the opposite case. I'm not doing it to be confounding, nor to add another binary to the long list of them that have come to define West and his music.
I'm doing it because, lately, I've just found myself more absorbed by "The Life of Pablo" than most albums.
There's a simple reason for that. From its Tidal exclusivity window to its release on Spotify and other music services, the album has continuously molted. What began with West tweeting "Ima fix wolves" spilled into tweaks to just about every other song on the album of 18 — and then, with "Frank's Track," the product of "Wolves'" fixing, 19.
Having listened to "The Life of Pablo" since its Feb. 14 release, those tweaks are now what I find myself listening for. Reintroducing Sia and Vic Mensa to "Wolves" was obvious, as was changing “She Puerto Rican Day Parade waving" to "she in school to be a real estate agent" on "Famous."
Since "808s & Heartbreak," it's been hard to react to a Kanye West album without sitting…
But I've also found myself squinting my ears at the slightest suggestion of the less obvious changes. West's verse on "Highlights" somehow sounds more ferocious — did he re-record it? Something's different about the outro of "Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1," but what is it?
Some of these might be changes, and some might have been there all along. Without a categorical index of how West has tweaked "The Life of Pablo" — like when video game developers publish changelogs to let players know what new patches do — I'll never know.
All I do know is that West has been tweaking, and that knowledge alone has made me a more interrogative listener of "The Life of Pablo" — and thus a more attentive one.
And, with every additional listen, the off-putting misogyny that marred the first few becomes less and less of an obstacle to enjoying the album. Numbing effects aside, the Taylor Swift and GoPro lines command less and less attention as the new lines and mixes command more and more. West's neuroses and tunnel-visioned lust become familiar, fascinating.
West has said, "I'm going to work on something til the last minute they give me.” Well, without a physical release of "The Life of Pablo," there's no last minute. I don't know how the album will sound in a year, but I do know I'll be listening to find out.