Watch the Throne – The Listening Party
I just attended the listening party for the album at the Rose Center Planetarium in NYC. Below are some quick observations, as well as some clips from an interview Jay-Z did with Angie Martinez earlier.
1. They brought out the heavy-hitters: It was a who’s who of music and media execs , and some major artists also came out. Aside from Jay and Ye, Q-Tip, Pusha T, and Busta Rhymes also showed love.
2. The set up: There was enough wattage in the speaker system to fill up Madison Square Garden, but the planetarium probably only seated about 300 people.
3. The experience: Unlike most listening parties, they wanted to make sure you focused on the music. It was loud enough to make sure no one would even TRY to talk over it, so you had no choice but to sit back watch the space visuals above and take in the sonic force.
4. The music: Here are my takeaways (without tainting your first listening experience):
a. Otis is NOT indicative of what this album sounds like…Neither is HAM. It’s more somewhere in the middle.
b. Jay-Z and Kanye West were not out to prove something with this album. Instead, they set out to make an album that reflected their tastes of the moment and something they, themselves, enjoyed. Love it or leave it, they get props for following their own muses instead of pursuing the flavor du jour.
c. This album was a MAJOR come up for Frank Ocean. His features are poignant and his vocals on the first track set the tone for the rest of the album.
d. This is a listening album. It is not meant to have you up on the dance floor. It’s a turn down the lights and put on the headphones type of experience.
e. The verdict: in all honesty, it’s going to take a few listens to fairly evaluate this one. There were some songs I liked immediately (No Church, N*ggas in Paris and Gotta Have It come to mind) and others that were cool but not instantly mind-blowing. There was nothing that was outright wack and, in all honesty, the volume was so overpowering, it was hard to fully appreciate the nuances of the tracks and the lyrics. All in all though, my sense is that this is going to play out much like Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy did: it will be seen as a dense work of art that commands respect, both for it’s quality and for its guts. Jay and Kanye could have done a fully accessible, commercially-friendly record. Instead, they made something to challenge themselves and the listeners…and that is exactly what makes people Watch the Throne.