(Rock Hill, S.C.) — Kanye West’s ninth studio album — his first gospel record — “Jesus is King” has gone to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, which has drawn attention to the connection between music and religion.
It’s the ninth consecutive time in his career that his work has debuted at the top of the charts.
The release Oct. 25 comes after the rise in popularity of his Sunday Service performances, where he has put his own spin on gospel music.
While West has drawn a fair amount of criticism and backlash for embracing spiritual music — with many accusing him a hypocrisy — the mix of religion and music is nothing new.
Dr. Omotayo Banjo, associate professor of communications at the University of Cincinnati who has conducted research on media, religion and racial identity, was a guest on the Palmetto Report to discuss the relationship between religion and music.
Banjo said there is generally a tension between “the sacred and the secular,” when it comes to music.
Thus, it isn’t surprising that West’s crossover to religious music has polarized audiences, which Banjo said likely has a lot to do with his behavior.
“His messaging, the things he says on Twitter, the people he affiliates himself with, his erratic behavior, I think that’s important to think about when we think about what makes Kanye West association with gospel music so interesting,” she said.
“In the past at least, there was this criticism that ‘you can’t do that, you’re bringing the devil’s music into Christianity’ and this is part of the reason that Kanye West is polarizing. It’s about the kinds of things that he used to rap about and now what he’s talking about.”
Banjo said people who are more flexible about what defines gospel music, will likely be more accepting of West’s new album.