Last month, Kanye introduced the concept of changing an already-released album when he altered a number of the tracks on The Life of Pablo. He described the album as a “living breathing changing creative expression,” and we all solemnly nodded our heads, assumed Kanye was done after having fixed “Wolves,” and then carried on living our lives.
But apparently, it’s not just TLOP that was in need of fixing. Today, as some fans originally pointed out to SPIN, Kanye altered the Apple Music version of “Send It Up,” a track from 2013’s Yeezus. It’s a subtle change—a verse formerly underlaid by a beat has now been stripped to a capella—but it’s a change nonetheless. “Black Skinhead” also received a few minor touch-ups. The most interesting thing about this: the changes appear only on the Apple Music versions of the songs. The Spotify and Tidal versions remain as they were.
The idea that published pieces can be changed retroactively is a concept that’s become pretty normal in the web journalism world—just a few weeks ago, the New York Times got busted for reversing the tone of a piece on Bernie Sanders—but Kanye seems to be pioneering this idea in the world of music, and it has the potential to forever destroy the idea of the “album” as a completed, concrete work of art. For instance, which version of Yeezus should we consider to be the definitive work: the altered Apple Music version or the unchanged Spotify/Tidal/physical one? Leave it to Kanye to subvert a decades-old construct.
It remains to be seen whether other artists will follow Kanye into this wild new frontier of streaming music. Many purists, we imagine, will respect the sanctity of the album and leave their works intact and permanent. But others will likely recognize the excitement made possible by the ability to forever tweak their works, which, some would say, results in a new work of art each time.
The biggest takeaway from this whole thing might just be that Kanye has found a new way to keep himself at the forefront of the American consciousness.