How Kanye West’s Sunday Services Changed Modern Music, American Society, and Himself


Dankwa Nnoma-Addison, Staff Writer

In the past few years, music has acquired an increased importance in today’s society, and has taken on deeper meanings. It has become a more personal experience with everyone involved, from the artists who craft it to the fans who stream it. It is the soundtrack to our lives and helps create individual memories that stay with us and shape our identity. 

Yet these songs are just as important to the artists who create them. Musicians do not only aim to sell copies, but strive to communicate a message and speak to people. Many times, those people include themselves. 

Kanye West is the greatest model of a musician who makes self-therapeutic music. Following a massive mental breakdown in 2016, West settled down and committed to live a quiet life. He has since then kept himself active with Sunday Services, an originally invite-only weekly worship festival where West and his group perform gospel songs and sample secular music, replacing the lyrics with Christian themes.

Sunday Services started in January 2019, as an “invite-only event” at Kanye’s home in Calabasas, California, according to Jon Caramanica from The New York Times. The first public Sunday Service concert was held on Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019, at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. According to sources from The New York Times , Variety, and Deadline, Kanye and his group sang, rapped, and sampled songs like Otis Redding’s “Try A Little Tenderness,” Stevie Wonder’s “As,” Soul II Soul’s 1990 “Back To Life,” Teyana Taylor’s “Never Would Have Made It”, and Kanye’s own hits 2010’s “Power”  and 2016’s “Ultralight Beam”. Gospel anthems like “How Excellent” and “This Is The Day” by Fred Hammond were also performed. West even debuted a new song entitled “Water”, which would later be revealed as a track on West’s newest album, Jesus Is King. The event contained a slew of guests, like Kid Cudi, Chance the Rapper and DMX .Easter Sunday Service was praised by critics; The Times called it “a formidable and lustrous presentation” and “immersive and diffuse,” and Deadline billed it a “joyous celebration…filled with music and excitement”.

Kanye continued to promote Sunday Services. On September 1, 2019, he continued his habit of singing, rapping and sampling. The Fader reports he and his band created more renditions of contemporary music, like Travis Scott and Drake’s “SICKO MODE” off of Scott’s 2018 smash album “ASTROWORLD”. West showed an affinity for genre-mixing, as he also remixed “Come As You Are” and “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by legendary rock band Nirvana, Genius News reports. West also used “Don’t Speak” and changed it to “Lord Speaks,” which drew praise from the band No Doubt’s lead singer Gwen Stefani, as stated in the video.

As Kanye continued to hold Sunday Services, he was highly commended by various voices in the music world. Mariah Carey, upon hearing a sampled version of her song “My All,” Tweeted, “This choir is killing the arrangement and song! I need to speak to whoever put the arrangement together and rewrote the lyrics… Beautiful. Thank you.” Australian singer Sia voluntarily joined Kanye for a gospel rendition of “Elastic Heart,” as she was thrilled with the rearrangement. Actor Brad Pitt recently commended the gospel gathering: “I think he’s doing something really special there. It’s just a pure celebration of life and people, and it’s really delightful.” Pastor Rich Wilkerson, Jr., who officiated Kanye and wife Kim Kardashian’s wedding, spoke at a Service: “You should probably know that this is not a concert, this is not a performance, but rather an old-fashioned worship service of Jesus Christ… This is the coolest church service I’ve ever been to, and I’ve been to a lot..” Celebrities and fans alike have been wowed by the contemporary Christian services. In Chicago, fans lined up for the 7 a.m. event; with some who had been waiting since midnight. In Utah, a crowd of about 7,000 to 10,000 attendants packed an outdoor shopping center. These flocks of people have congregated to Sunday Services because of the positive, somewhat healing impact is has on them.

The most enthusiastic devotee of Kanye’s Sunday Service is most notably himself. In an interview with Beats 1’s Zane Lowe, Kanye has described his Sunday Services as “a place that people know they can go to and they don’t have to hop on a flight and chase it down… .” Kanye is in a more grounded place, absorbing peace and wisdom from the teachings of Jesus. He recently brought his Service to Washington, D.C., where he read passages from Scripture and explained them to the audience. He is ushering in a movement of faith, where artists are bringing the message of God to a massive secular audience and packaging it in an appealing manner. Kanye is additionally reaching his fans and giving them new perspective and inspiration. Many of them, critics, celebrities, and civilians alike, have shown the positive impact it has on them. Through Kanye, the message of God is becoming more accepted, welcomed, common, and cool to talk about.

After numerous hit singles, albums, and collaborative projects, Kanye West is embracing a new musical path. The 21-time Grammy winner’s career has lasted since 1996, starting with his debut single “Through The Wire.” Now, he is embracing and spreading his spirituality with Jesus Is King, his ninth consecutive number one debut album on the Billboard 200. With Kanye being one of the greatest artists of all time, he only continues to ascend to new heights as he takes his spiritual journey on a musical path.