Unlike Lil Wayne’s Dedication 4, which elicited the immediate ire of fans and critics alike, Kanye West/G.O.O.D. Music’s Cruel Summer has affected a genre-wide split of opinion. This isn’t unprecedented for a AAA pop album, but for the oft-game-changing Mr. West, mediocrity is every bit as unprecedented as spontaneous combustion. In fact, had Yeezy straight up whiffed on this one, it might have been easier to process. As it stands, the soupy mixture of praise and derision trailing Cruel Summer fails to settle much of anything.
In case your opinion wasn’t conflicted enough, here are a few choice samples from opposing sides of the critical chasm. And, to further complicate matters, I present the following background music to help soundtrack your perusal:
Cruel Summer is a posse album struck in West’s image, full of the same idiosyncratic bombast that has fueled his biggest hits. Grade: A-
In place of the stuff that makes West’s solo albums so great—little things like cohesion, excitement and creativity—there’s ridiculous grandiose arena rap…Kanye West indulges his worst instincts on Cruel Summer, throwing more and more and more at every song. Being provocative doesn’t always get the people going.
Mr. West still has a complex about being underappreciated, but he’s also not one to mind the house when he’s distracted. His G.O.O.D. Music crew — Kanye’s Bad News Bears — is a mixed bag.
…consider Cruel Summer the first real creative vacation West has taken in his illustrious career – an occasionally exhilarating, ultimately underwhelming showcase for Kanye and his friends (many of whom are signed to his G.O.O.D. music label) to have a little fun together, shooting hoops in the backyard without anyone confusing the pickup game for the Olympics.
Cruel Summer has more highlights than most long-gestated efforts, from Kels’s “To the World” and its operatic chorus, to Jay Z’s verse on “Clique” or Kid Cudi’s plaintive emo R&B on “Creepers.” Star rating: 4/5
…maybe fatigue is a factor on Cruel Summer, a thin and largely unfocused effort that gathers his G.O.O.D. Music signees onto one album. While Kanye isn’t solely to blame for this dismal endeavour, he’s in charge, so shoulders most of the responsibility.
The album is impressive, sure. Six of the songs are as good as any other six good Kanye West songs from any era, but seriously, fuck Cruel Summer. F*ck it all over the place. F*ck it in space. F*ck it underwater. F*ck it next to a plate of green eggs and ham. Do not worry about the logistics of f*cking a collection of songs that you may not own a physical copy of. F*ck it anyway.