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Kanye West's Donda: A Tiny Essay on Cynicism

29th of January, 2021

Critical reception to Donda has been mixed, but reading fan reactions is (as usual) the most interesting way to engage with the giddy circus of “hype”. One hardcore fan writes: “probably a masterpiece. begs obsession.” Another less hardcore fan asks: “what meaningful artistic statement does over an hour of the most insincere religious sermon ever produced make, exactly?”

Even if we assume that Donda is insincere, that doesn't preclude its power. We might read into this music that Kanye's increasingly volatile cocktail of persecution and jealousy, hatred and love, force the man to hide behind the certainties and eternities of Christianity. An insincere religious gesture is a frightened religious gesture. When one reads art, one should imagine the things left unsaid. Use the negative space left by the artist's omissions to inform your reading of what he does say. It is without question a cynical move to accuse the artist of Bad Faith, even if it's likely that that is what is going on. Bad Faith is a mode of communication that comes with its own queasy meanings.