Are you ready for Yeezy season? After years of false starts, buzz singles, and title changes, Kanye West's new album The Life of Pablo is available now. West announced the album's availability after performing album opener "Ultra Light Beams" on Saturday Night Live this evening. The album is streaming exclusively through Tidal, and it's selling exclusively through West's website for one full week before enjoying a wider release. Of course, we couldn't just enjoy new music without one last hurdle: the album's first hour available has been riddled with technical problems, delays, and frustration from fans.
The Life of Pablo is just the latest in a string of major releases tied to Tidal in some way. Rihanna's ANTI enjoyed a similar window of streaming exclusivity, and Beyoncé's new single "Formation" premiered on the service last weekend. West's decision to eschew iTunes is particularly surprising. He'll retain complete control of the album's digital sales until next weekend.
The Life of Pablo is West's seventh solo LP and first major release since 2013's abrasive Yeezus, and it's been known as So Help Me God, SWISH, and Waves at varying points during its production. West premiered the album while unveiling his Yeezy Season 3 fashion line at Madison Square Garden yesterday afternoon. It features the previously released "Real Friends" and high-quality versions of both "Wolves" and "Fade," tracks West premiered at earlier Yeezy Season unveilings throughout 2015.
This is West's seventh solo LP
The road to The Life of Pablo has been bumpy, to say the least. Rumors about his follow-up to Yeezus have circulated regularly since that album's release — at one point, it seemed plausible that he would release a companion record within a few months — and the recording process has been complicated by West's new fatherhood and his plunge into the fashion world. A series of singles released throughout 2014 and 2015 — paternal ditty "Only One," Rihanna collaboration "FourFiveSeconds," the grimy "All Day" — suggested an album was on the horizon, but they came and went without a larger release.
After releasing "Real Friends" and a snippet of non-album track "No More Parties in L.A." on January 8th, West announced that the album still known as SWISH would be released on February 11th. In the month since then, he's changed its title to Waves, picked a fight with Wiz Khalifa on Twitter, booked a date on Saturday Night Live, threw the world's largest listening party, and changed the title again. (He also engaged in a "freestyle battle" with SNL's Kyle Mooney, one that used lyrics from the album's "I Miss the Old Kanye.") The first half-hour of the album's public availability was fraught: it didn't show up on Tidal and West's website until well after his SNL stint had concluded, leading to widespread consternation online.
Update February 14th 1:10AM ET: Is it really a surprise we're not getting The Life of Pablo without one last hiccup? Despite West's Saturday Night Live announcement that the album was available on Tidal and his website, we're still waiting on a functional stream; West's website is still cycling a voicemail message from Yasiin Bey, one that's been there for weeks. We've reached out to Tidal and to West's team for comment, and we'll update as necessary.
Update 1:30AM ET: The album is now available to download at kanyewest.tidal.com, but West's own website is still malfunctioning and a streamable version is pending. According to West's wife Kim Kardashian West, West's website crashed and the album will be available "in the next 10 minutes."
Update 1:35AM ET: The streaming version of the album is now available on Tidal. West's site is still inactive.
Update 1:55AM ET: The album's up and running everywhere save West's website, but there are still problems. The track labeled "Fade" within Tidal is actually a reworked version of "Facts," the track that immediately precedes it on the album. I can't believe it either.
Update: 2:30AM ET: "Fade" has been fixed; West's website is still cycling through the same voicemail.
Who does it best: Tidal, Spotify, or Apple Music