On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenge of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.
My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.
I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.
So long as I post every day (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be… legendary!
Kanye West – Ultralight Beam (2016)
” Ultralight Beam” is a song by American recording artist Kanye West from his seventh studio album The Life of Pablo (2016). The song features vocals by R&B singers The-Dream and Kelly Price, rapper Chance the Rapper, gospel singer Kirk Franklin and a ten-piece choir, with additional vocals by Natalie Green and Samoria Green.
We’re leaving the UK, dear reader, and making our way back to the US and to Atlanta, Georgia. It is a third appearance on our list from Kanye West following appearances as a solo artist and for his collaboration with Rihanna and Paul McCartney. When we join him in 2016 it is with the release of his seventh album, The Life of Pablo, and from there 1001 Songs have gone with the track, Ultralight Beam.
Ultralight Beam is credited to Kanye West but the song is divided between him, Kelly Price and Chance the Rapper. The focus across the three singers is united by the idea of a relationship with one’s faith and, in particular, with god. West seems to have a strong faith that the Lord will be there. Price seems to have reached a state of being agnostic, questioning why god brings misery and suffering to the world rather than blessings. Chance has the longest section of the track but there is some ambiguity to the meaning here. He seems to be highlighting once more the merits of god but also the challenges that one faces with faith.
Now onto a seventh album, Kanye West was maintaining a loyal fanbase and the critics remained generous with his musical output too. Ultralight Beam is a personal and introspective piece from West, exploring his religious faith. The song would hit the Top 100 in both the UK and US but not trouble the higher echelons of the charts. Kanye West’s career continues to this day and one can only speculate as to what we can expect from him next.
Favourite songs so far: