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Low Lights

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"Low Lights"
Song by Kanye West
from the album The Life of Pablo
ReleasedFebruary 14, 2016
GenreGospel
Length2:11
Label
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)

"Low Lights" (also stylized as "Lowlights") is a song by American recording artist Kanye West from his seventh studio album, The Life of Pablo (2016). It was produced by West, DJDS and Mike Dean, while the lyrics were written by West, Dean, Jerome Potter, Samuel Griesemer and Sandy Rivera. DJDS worked on the album for three consecutive weeks after meeting West, with the latter sharing a snippet of the song on Saturday Night Live the day before release in February 2016.

The vocals used in "Low Lights" are sampled from the a cappella version of "Save Me" by Kings of Tomorrow, with the sample being performed by a woman; they run over piano chords and bass production. A gospel track that looks at spirituality and references God throughout, it is the sixth track on The Life of Pablo and leads into "Highlights". The song received positive reviews from music critics, with them mostly commending its religious nature, though some critics commented on the song's position on the album. Alicia Keys sampled the song in her 2017 track "That's What's Up". "Low Lights" charted at number 22 on the US Billboard Bubbling Under Hot 100 in 2016.

Background[edit]

"Low Lights" was co-produced by DJDS, a production duo consisting of Jerome LOL and Samo Sound Boy.[1] They co-wrote the song along with West, Mike Dean and Sandy Rivera.[1] DJDS also co-produced The Life of Pablo tracks "Ultralight Beam", "Father Stretch My Hands, Pt. 1", "Freestyle 4" and "Fade". In an interview with Billboard, Samo Sound Boy explained how they became involved with West: "A bunch of different people from his team just reached out on Facebook, Twitter DM, and it basically said Kanye West requests your presence tomorrow."[2] After meeting West, DJDS worked on his then-upcoming album for three consecutive weeks. West explained "the gospel nature of it" to the duo, with the gospel elements of their work making sense out of West wanting to collaborate.[2] Samo Sound Boy revealed that every song was being worked on at the same time and that the recording process "wasn't a really systematic way." Jerome LOL named West as one of DJDS' biggest inspirations and claimed for their sampling style to be "directly influenced by his old production."[2] The rapper discovered the duo in January 2016.[3] West had previously used the word "light" in the titles of his tracks "Flashing Lights", "Street Lights" and "All of the Lights". It further makes appearance on The Life of Pablo tracks "Ultralight Beam" and "Highlights" as well as "Low Lights".[4]

Composition and production[edit]

Kanye West performing at the The SWU Music & Arts Festival in 2011
West (pictured in 2011) co-wrote and co-produced "Low Lights", but does not provide vocals on the track.

"Low Lights" is a gospel track that includes similar elements to the album's opener "Ultralight Beam".[5][6] It contains a sample of the a cappella version of "So Alive" by American dance duo Kings of Tomorrow for the entirety of it, which is layered over piano chords and synth bass production.[7][8][9] West does not contribute with vocals on the song, with them being solely delivered by an unknown woman sampling Rivera of the duo.[8] Throughout "Low Lights", the woman preaches about God and his connection to spirituality.[5] Lyrically, a descriptive picture is painted of faith in God by her and the miracles that will one day be created for her in life by the lord.[5] This message is related to the spirituality that West's mother Donda taught him, as well as to the religious themes found throughout his career. Such themes are also included on The Life of Pablo, and the message speaks to the spirituality which helps people stay strong during their lives.[5] The song concludes with a final dedication to Jesus by Rivera.[5]

"Low Lights" precedes "Highlights" on The Life of Pablo, serving as an intro to the track.[9] The transition from the track's Bible references to those in "Highlights" suggests that West attributes his success to his spirituality.[5]

Release and promotion[edit]

"Low Lights" was released on February 14, 2016, as the sixth track on West's seventh studio album, The Life of Pablo through GOOD Music and Def Jam Recordings.[10] The day before the album's release, during his appearance on Saturday Night Live, West played a snippet of the song while he stood onstage by himself.[11] West segued from the snippet into a performance of "Highlights" joined by Young Thug, El DeBarge, Kelly Price and The-Dream.[11] The song was one of five that West added to The Life of Pablo's tracklist on the day of release.[6] During a Twitter rant in February 2016, West sent out various tweets related to the album.[12] He explained the song's presence, tweeting: "I put Lowlights [sic] on my album just thinking about all the moms driving they kids [sic] to school then going to work…"[12] On November 1, 2016, West performed it live at The Forum in Inglewood, California as part of the Saint Pablo Tour.[13]

Reception[edit]

"Low Lights" was met with positive reviews from music critics, who generally praised the religious nature. Alexis Petridis of The Guardian described the song, along with fellow album tracks "Ultralight Beam" and "Highlights", as not feeling "episodic so much as fractured."[14] Ej Moreno of Monkeys Fighting Robots labelled it as being a "gospel-heavy song" and a "powerful track."[15] Iyana Robertson of Vibe wrote that "a passionate testimony of deliverance is shared with West's congregation."[16] Zach Schonfield of Newsweek viewed the song as what "comes in the form of a spoken testimony to Christ."[17] When Premier Gospel looked into The Life of Pablo possibly being the gospel album of 2016, Jamie of the site voiced the belief that if "Low Lights", "Jesus Walks" or fellow album track "Ultralight Beam" had been put out by anyone else, then "we'd be hailing them as the new hero of gospel music."[18] Jamie claimed that the song "is basically just a prayer."[18] When reviewing the eponymous album by Kids See Ghosts, the duo of West and Kid Cudi, in June 2018, Kiana Fitzgerald of Complex looked back on the presence of "Low Lights" on The Life of Pablo as "the closest the entire album comes to gospel."[19]

In the same week that the album was released, "Low Lights" debuted at number 22 on the US Billboard Bubbling Under Hot 100 and lasted for one week.[20] Alongside its debut on the Bubbling Under Hot 100, the track peaked at number 1 on the US Bubbling Under R&B/Hip-Hop Singles chart and spent a total of two weeks on it.[21] The track further opened at number 134 on the UK Singles Chart.[22]

Other usage[edit]

American singer-songwriter Alicia Keys sampled the track's monologue in her 2017 song "That's What's Up", from her album Here (2018).[23] An accompanying music video for the song was shared by Keys on January 25, 2017, which includes her lounging and dipping in a bathtub.[24][25]

Credits and personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from West's official website.[1]

  • Production – Kanye West & DJDS
  • Additional production – Mike Dean #MWA for Dean's List Productions
  • Engineering – Noah Goldstein, Andrew Dawson, Anthony Kilhoffer & Mike Dean
  • Mix – Manny Marroquin at Larrabee Studios, North Hollywood, CA
  • Mix assisted – Chris Galland, Ike Schultz & Jeff Jackson

Charts[edit]

Chart (2016) Peak
position
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[22] 134
UK R&B (Official Charts Company)[26] 40
US Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles (Billboard)[27] 22
US Bubbling Under R&B/Hip-Hop Singles (Billboard)[28] 1
US On-Demand Songs (Billboard)[29] 49

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c davidbaker.tv, builtbylane.com ×. "The Life of Pablo". The Life of Pablo – Kanye West. Archived from the original on February 17, 2016. Retrieved January 31, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c Platon, Adelle (February 19, 2016). "DJDS Talks Working on Kanye West's 'The Life of Pablo'". Billboard. Archived from the original on April 10, 2019. Retrieved May 29, 2019.
  3. ^ Haithcoat, Rebecca (November 10, 2017). "DJDS Explain Their Path To A-List Collaborations: Kanye, Khalid & More". Billboard. Archived from the original on June 9, 2019. Retrieved June 10, 2019.
  4. ^ Lewis, Philip (February 23, 2016). "Twitter Shines a "Light" on Something All of Kanye West's Best Songs Have in Common". Mic. Archived from the original on May 12, 2016. Retrieved October 28, 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Riotta, Chris (February 16, 2016). "Kanye West's "Low Lights" Lyrics Feature the Most Biblical Meanings in 'The Life of Pablo'". Mic. Archived from the original on May 12, 2016. Retrieved June 22, 2018.
  6. ^ a b Moore, Sam (February 14, 2016). "Kanye West Added Five Tracks To The Life Of Pablo – Our First Listen Verdict". NME. NME Blogs. Archived from the original on August 27, 2018. Retrieved August 27, 2018.
  7. ^ Reiff, Corbin (February 15, 2016). "Here's Every Sample on Kanye West's New Album, 'The Life of Pablo'". Complex. Archived from the original on June 18, 2018. Retrieved June 22, 2018.
  8. ^ a b Lockett, Dee (May 31, 2016). "A Guide to Understanding Kanye West's The Life of Pablo". Vulture. Archived from the original on April 1, 2019. Retrieved May 28, 2019.
  9. ^ a b Wickman, Forrest (February 14, 2016). "Kanye West's new album The Life of Pablo: A track-by-track breakdown". Slate. Brow Beat. Archived from the original on July 21, 2017. Retrieved July 23, 2018.
  10. ^ Jeffries, David. "The Life of Pablo – Kanye West". AllMusic. Archived from the original on November 7, 2017. Retrieved May 29, 2019.
  11. ^ a b Kreps, Daniel (February 14, 2016). "Watch Kanye West Debut 'Pablo' Tracks, Rap Battle on 'SNL'". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on July 23, 2018. Retrieved May 28, 2019.
  12. ^ a b "The Week Kanye West Went Bats**t On Twitter – It's Not Easy Living Like Pablo!". Capital. Capital FM. February 16, 2016. Archived from the original on August 9, 2016. Retrieved May 29, 2019.
  13. ^ Barlow, Eve (November 2, 2016). "Kanye West Lights it Up, Lets Crowd Do the Talking at Fourth Forum Concert". Billboard. Archived from the original on July 14, 2019. Retrieved September 24, 2019.
  14. ^ Petridis, Alexis (February 14, 2016). "Kanye West: The Life of Pablo review – 'You can see why his immodesty rubs people up the wrong way'". The Guardian. Archived from the original on June 19, 2018. Retrieved June 21, 2018.
  15. ^ Moreno, Ej (February 14, 2016). "Kanye West: "The Life of Pablo" Track-By-Track Review". Monkeys Fighting Robots. Archived from the original on July 12, 2018. Retrieved July 12, 2018.
  16. ^ Robertson, Iyana (February 19, 2016). "Review: The Misogyny Of Kanye West's 'The Life Of Pablo'". Vibe. Archived from the original on February 23, 2018. Retrieved May 29, 2019.
  17. ^ Schonfield, Zach (February 19, 2016). "'The Life of Pablo' Is Kanye West's Scattered, Unfinished Masterpiece (Review)". Newsweek. Newsweek Life/Style. Archived from the original on April 10, 2019. Retrieved May 29, 2019.
  18. ^ a b "The Life of Pablo: Gospel Album of the Year?". Premier Gospel. 2016. Archived from the original on November 16, 2018. Retrieved November 16, 2018.
  19. ^ Fitzgerald, Kiana (June 12, 2018). "'Kids See Ghosts' Is the Gospel Album 'The Life of Pablo' Tried to Be". Complex. Archived from the original on November 16, 2018. Retrieved November 16, 2018.
  20. ^ "Kanye West - Low Lights - Chart History". Billboard. Archived from the original on August 27, 2018. Retrieved August 27, 2018.
  21. ^ "Kanye West - Low Lights - Chart History". Billboard. Archived from the original on November 16, 2018. Retrieved November 16, 2018.
  22. ^ a b "CHART: CLUK Update 9.04.2016 (wk14)". Zobbel.de. Archived from the original on April 23, 2016. Retrieved September 22, 2018.
  23. ^ "Listen to Alicia Keys' New Kanye West-Sampling Song". Noisey. January 26, 2017. Archived from the original on June 16, 2018. Retrieved June 23, 2018.
  24. ^ Josephs, Brian (January 25, 2017). "Here's Alicia Keys Singing in a Bathtub to Kanye West's "Low Lights"". SPIN. Archived from the original on August 28, 2018. Retrieved August 27, 2018.
  25. ^ Kaye, Ben (January 25, 2017). "Alicia Keys samples Kanye West's "Low Lights" on new track "That's What's Up" — listen". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved January 4, 2020.
  26. ^ "Official R&B Singles Chart Top 40". Official Charts Company. Retrieved June 21, 2018.
  27. ^ "Kanye West Chart History (Bubbling Under Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved June 21, 2018.
  28. ^ "Kanye West Chart History (Bubbling Under Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs)". Billboard. Archived from the original on August 27, 2018. Retrieved August 27, 2018.
  29. ^ "Kanye West Chart History (On-Demand Songs)". Billboard. Archived from the original on February 14, 2019. Retrieved February 13, 2019.

External links[edit]