By Meghan Jenkins and Mark Aldrich
[Editor’s Note: The following is a review of Kanye West’s tenth album, “Donda” (album cover pictured above), written by Meghan Jenkins live while she listened to “Donda.”
At some point in the experience, Ms. Jenkins decided to tap Mr. Aldrich in and assist her with the listening party. Thus, this is a “Donda” listening party with Meghan Jenkins’ live review, with commentary by Mark Aldrich as he listened to the same album. And Panda and AldraMark, whom none of the readers of “MeghaZine know yet, were a part of the listening party, too. Meghan writes that AldraMark likes “Donda” and has started to wear full black outfits such as were seen at this week’s Met Gala.
Since Mr. West staged three large-scale “listening events” to introduce versions of the album while he worked out its final form, this seemed to be an excellent way to experience the finished album: to include our MeghaZine readers in Meghan and Mark’s first experience of “Donda.”
Mark’s comments are in parentheses. AldraMark’s are silent.]
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Who’s doing this? Who’s voice is that. Sounds familiar, maybe I’m crazy tho’.
This was scarier sounding at the listening party … I don’t want to sage my house this time.
I like this song. Yeaaaah. I thought this was gonna be bad, why are people making fun of this? “Jail” is pretty good.
Oh no, he’s starting to rap. Now ok now, it’s getting a little … meh, hang on hang on, give it a chance.
(Meghan, he rhymes “beverages” with “Selfridges” in a song later on, called “Off the Grid,” which is a cheap rhyme, so cheap that Selfridges would refuse to sell it: “I got this God power, that’s my leverages / I got this Holy Water, that’s my beverages / I gotta help myself out of selfishness / I just bought a floor out of Selfridges.” Of course the irony that one cannot be off any grid and also shop at Selfridges is consciously hilarious. At least, I hope it is.—Mark)
Why is he always talking about Jay-Z?
(Meghan, “Donda” credits twenty-three official producers for its twenty-seven tracks, and somehow neither you, nor I, nor Jay-Z are included among them. A glance at the album’s lyrics leads me to think that “Donda” is as much Kanye West lyrically listing the people he knows, the places he has visited, and the things he knows about and nothing more than that list. Jay-Z counts for two of those three things, so why not?—Mark)
Is there gonna be a mass suicide of celebs? This is weird.
I think I like this song tho’, for real.
Oooh drums hitting … yes what is thiiiis. Ok. Come on people, this album is ok, you’re all insane.
Drum drums drums, oooooh yes.
I like the screaming interlaced with beats.
This one is cool, too. Ok y’all too critical of Kayne, you’re just gonna hate on anything he does. Oh, “Sunday Service” sounds neat.
(I am unsure which track Meghan refers to here. There is no track with that title, but so many of the tracks are church-oriented in both title and lyric: “Praise God,” “Jonah,” “Heaven and Hell,” “Jesus Lord,” that the album may very well be a version of a church service. This would place Kanye West in a long tradition of writers. George Herbert’s posthumously published book from 1641, “The Temple,” literally walks the reader through a church and even has a poem about the altar at the center of the church that is shaped like an altar.—Mark)
(Can we just go back to listening to “Donda?”)
(Of course, Panda. Back to Meghan and Kanye West:)
The rapping sounds exactly like early 2000s: timing, pacing, still I mean but like whatever he’s got a style. That’s fine. The music around it all tho’ changes … he def does something diff every time, which I like.
Ooo, devil on my shoulder too, Kayne, I feel that line.
Scream beats song I want to listen to at night in the dark, but it’s kinda cheesy, not scary. Pretty tho’. Sorta. It’s ok. I want to see Kayne go real dark.
Ok church, let’s go to next song please! This is going on too long.
Ugh. This one is stupid, I kiss the church one off, now I regret asking for next song. “Blah blah blah blah blah offf the grid grid grid IM OFF THE GRID!” This one is hella stupid. I’m waiting for the next one, I have nothing nice to say about this one at all why is it on here …
“I got a new ceiling with a chim a nee” and …
(“24” reminds me of the opening track, “Acknowledgment” on John Coltrane’s album, “A Love Supreme,” at least in the simple fact of chanting. West and company chant, “God’s not finished.” Coltrane chanted “a love supreme” and multi-tracked his own voice eighteen more times and spoke the words through his saxophone.—Mark)
I think I need to go to the grocery store today, I don’t know if I have enough chicken for Cooper’s dinner.
This song is still on, huh? He really heard this and said, “Yeah put that one on ‘Donda.’ He heard it multiple times, was there recording it doing it, and actually said, ‘Yeah this song is fire'” … what kind of distractions was going on in the background during this decision?
Like I get the feeling I think … O M G HE JUST ROBOT VOICED to close the song, I’m LOL.
This next one is ok but I can’t tell if it’s just relief that the last song is over.
This one reminds me of the 1980s. Did he cheat on Kim with Kylie? Do you think??? … Nahhhhh. Maybe? I don’t know.
“Mmmm mmm mmm mmm mmm I was up for sale but I couldn’t tell. Dropped outta schoool going down town town town.”
(Donda West, Kanye West’s late mother, died in 2007. Several moments in the album that bears her name feature her voice from a speech or speeches in which she defended and praised her son. An album that may have been born of a desire to honor his mother instead at several points reverses course and uses her to stand up for him.—Mark)
I have a lot of questions. How did Kayne get the record label to … who did he meet first, I forget, I’m gonna have to Google this. ‘Cause this, and like so much of so many things, is making me think he kinda stumbled into celebrity. I sorta know a little bit about how that can happen so I’m just … this is interesting. I’ve always liked Kayne. This all probably sounds like I don’t but I do. I do. He’s a unique human. Maybe not as much as I thought, and I was projecting myself onto him all these years, and I have really liked myself.
Oh my god, how much longer is this album, I’m ready to throw the headphones across the room this is annoying me now!
Oh my god, I don’t think I can do it. This is gonna kill me. I thought I could sit here and listen to this album but I can’t. I’m sorry, Mark, this is as far as the MeghaZine review of “Donda” by Kayne West goes. I am going to go bang my head against the wall right now to restart my brain. This next song that just started kinda ok but I don’t trust it, I can’t do it, maybe one day I’ll hear this whole album. This is making me want to punch faces tho’. Goodnight, “Donda,” goodnight Kayne, this has been a time. Thank you all for reading MeghaZine, love, Meghan xoxo
(And so Meghan’s review of “Donda” comes to an end.
Mark’s last thought: Lyrically, either Kanye West only writes from his own experiences almost in real-time with no self-reflection [at one point in “Pure Souls,” he raps: “They said I was angry at the Grammy’s, / but I’m lookin’ at my Grammy right now,” which is a not-bad Dad joke] or he writes about characters that are always named “Kanye” and who only share his real-life experiences. Any chance at self-reflection is buried under either pleas for sympathy or demands for respect, and then lost in an atmosphere of church organ or gospel choir. It is as if the gospel keeps tugging at his sleeve for attention, but his attention can not make much space for matters outside the lived experiences of one Kanye West alongside the vast and ever-growing mythology of one “Kanye West, Cultural Icon.”
That is a crowded mind at work, and it will not budge to allow for more than one or two catchy hooks to capture a pop music listener’s heart and mind. That can make a one-hour-forty-eight-minute-long album feel like a chore. The tracks “Jail,” “Jail, Pt. 2” [co-written with Brian Warner, also known as Marilyn Manson], “Jesus Lord,” and “Jesus Lord, Pt. 2” are constructed around a couple of hooks strong enough to carry multiple lyrical ideas and voices. Those are memorable songs.
The life and mind of a forty-four-year-old black man in America in 2021 is as crowded and complicated as a fifty-two-year-old white man like me can imagine. We must all do more to make this be otherwise. “Donda” is in a way a double documentary: one of that life, and one of the troubled inner life of one Kanye West. Those two themes overlap so thoroughly, though, that the music gets squeezed flat in many places. It is fascinating in every available sense of that word, but I may not listen to it again.—Mark)
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“A ‘Donda’ Listening Party with Meghan and Mark” starred Meghan Jenkins, Mark Aldrich, and Kanye West, and featured Panda as herself. It was produced by Meghan Jenkins, Mark Aldrich, Panda, AldraMark, Pizza Alien, Scoutmaster Goldie, “The The Ding Wrong Show,” Pineapple Clothing, My True 10, Perez Hilton, Kinnikinnick Gluten Free Foods, the “Mark Aldrich and Panda” Show, “The Adventures of Pizza Alien,” Camp Panda, the Magnificent Glass Pelican, “Safety Date” (coming soon), Bonfire (“the easiest way to design, sell and order premium custom shirts”), “Panda’s Dance Party, Vols. 1 and 2,” and Wing Commander X.
Mark Aldrich is a journalist, award-winning humor columnist, publisher/editor of The Gad About Town, and writer/performer with the Magnificent Glass Pelican radio comedy improv group, now in its thirtieth season:
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Meghan Jenkins is an actor, comedian, radio personality, artist, author, musician, model.
Meghan is a brand ambassador for Pineapple Clothing. Use the code “MegJen” for a 20% discount!
Meghan’s brand new internet comedy show, “Mark Aldrich and Panda,” debuted in August 2021:
The Adventures of Pizza Alien, a novel of interlocking short stories by Meghan Jenkins, is out now and is available through Lulu.com and the online book retailers Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The Adventures of Pizza Alien is available for $18.
Panda’s Dance Party, Meghan’s first music album, was released in December 2020. It is available to purchase, download, and stream on every music platform: Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes Store, Amazon Music, deezer, Tidal, Pandora, Juno Download.
A social media influencer, in the spring of 2020 her photos of life in quarantine led to an invitation from Maxim magazine to participate in a cover model contest for which readers could submit votes. Her grassroots campaign against professional models brought her to a third-place finish.
Meghan is the founder and host of the live comedy improv show The The Ding Wrong Show, recorded on Zoom and seen on YouTube:
In 2018-’19, she was one of the feature performers in the longest running improv comedy show at The World Famous Comedy Store in Hollywood, California, The Ding Dong Show.
Follow Meghan on Instagram!
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.