As lackluster as The Life of Pablo is, “Ultralight Beam” is exceptional. Many of the qualities that are a detriment to other songs on the album—too many guests, haphazard and seemingly unfinished songwriting, poor editing, sparse and uneven performances from Kanye himself—work in favor of “Ultralight Beam” and make it the clear standout amidst the most inconsistent release of Kanye West’s career.
Now that Kanye takes the writers room approach to his lyrics, it’s amazing bars like “Now if I fuck this model and she just bleached her asshole and I get bleach on my T-shirt, I’ma feel like an asshole” still appear so frequently. Wisely, he gets the hell out of the way on “Ultralight Beam” and cedes the one rap verse to Chance the Rapper, who absolutely kills his feature. His verse was considered my many to be the best of the year and was spoken of in the same ways critics hailed Kendrick’s famous “Control” verse. Though The Recording Academy denies it, after being called out by Chance they changed the eligibility rules for streaming albums, allowing him to “snatch the Grammy.”
I’m not religious in any way, but was raised Christian and tend to find praise music unintentionally hilarious at best and irredeemably grating at worst. It’s amazing to me that some of the greatest music in history is sacred, yet the worship music of the last fifty years is almost universally terrible. Seems like there’s a better way to honor god, if that’s your thing. Or perhaps he didn’t bestow these writers with the gifts they believe they possess. Nevertheless, inasmuch as “Ultralight Beam” is worship music and to the extent that my opinion matters, I find it to be a successful song. It’s a shame Kanye opens the very next song with that line about anal bleach.