After years of build up, a sold-out show at Madison Square Garden, and a set of recorded material which delivers on a significant portion of its musical promise, it feels odd that the latest album from one of the biggest names in pop music may go down as the worst-executed major-label release of a generation.
But that doesn’t make it any less true.
The Life of Pablo — which had its name changed publically four times — has always had hardcore Kanye fans moving Heaven and Earth to hear it.
They stared at a pixelated live stream mid-weekday, waited late into the night for a legitimate means of purchasing or streaming it (which at several points involved waiting for the musician to actually finish the thing), and dealt with refunds from Kanye’s own website, which pulled the album after mistakenly selling it to fans in the first place.
By the time the dust settled, the Spotify generation was handed the modern musical equivalency of abandonment: West arbitrarily decided the only legal way to hear The Life of Pablo was to sign up for a subscription to Jay Z’s glitterati streaming service, Tidal — who had botched Rihanna’s album release just weeks prior.
Fans with no apparent choice found a choice after all; In just its first day, estimates say The Life of Pablo was illegally downloaded over 500,000 times.
To really understand how one of today’s most influential artists could have bungled such a big release so badly, we have to take a look back at the bizarre series of events that led to this moment.
Here is the story of a strange musical birth, The Life of Pablo.