Between the incongruity of holding intimate "listening parties" in places like the American Museum of Natural History's Hayden Planetarium, a web-first release strategy that prevented leaks and alienated brick-and-mortar retailers, and reports of creative strife that seem both manufactured and totally plausible, it's worth remembering that Kanye West and Jay-Z's actually got together and made a record. Watch the Throne is a super-group collaboration, but it better also be super.
It is, writes the Washington Post's Chris Richards. "It’s also a relief," he adds. "Those expecting a disastrous ego clash will have to wait for Congress to reconvene — or until Jay-Z and West hit the road together this autumn. Here, the duo volley between the contemplative and the petulant...Rebellion is consistently tempered with gluttony — the two dissonant spirits that make this country great."
The New Yorker's Reeves Wiedeman points out the partnership isn't exactly equal. On the whole, he writes, the album is "[p]retty good, after two listens...[but] Jay-Z gives the whole endeavor more forward momentum. Sasha Frere-Jones wrote of West that 'he makes the most of his and his collaborators’ talents,' and he’s done that here." Which is a nice way of saying, he stays out of the way.