Last night while the rest of the world danced in confetti and cheered the end of 2014, Kanye West quietly dropped an emotional new song called "Only One." Not only is new music from Kanye West an event in itself, but this song also features the legendary Paul McCartney, and is only the first of a series of collaborations between the two musicians.
Their relationship is described as prolific: "It will be the first publicly available recording from what has become a prolific musical collaboration between these two legendary artists," according to a press release.
Ummmm, wow. Okay, I'm going to need some time process that.
But back to "Only One" itself, remember that adorable photo of North sitting on Kanye's lap in the studio? Yeah, of course you do. Well, that photo was probably taken the day that Ye and Paul first started working out the rough sketch of "Only One."
From Kanye's camp, here's the story how the song initially came together:
"In early 2014, Paul McCartney and Kanye West first began working together in a small bungalow in Los Angeles. The process that would result in 'Only One' began with a simple brainstorming session between the two: With McCartney improvising on the keyboards and Kanye vocally sketching and shaping ideas in a stream-of-consciousness riff."
What I wouldn't give to be a fly on the wall in the studio while Paul and Kanye are improvising together! You can feel that in the song though, it feels like it's unspooling naturally without any strict sense of order. But then, things got even more spiritual:
"When they played back the recording afterward, something remarkable happened. Kanye sat there with his family, holding his daughter North on his lap, and listened to his vocals, singing, "Hello, my only one . . . " And in that moment, not only could he not recall having sung those words, but he realized that perhaps the words had never really come from him. The process of artistic creation is one that does not involve thinking, but often channeling. And he understood in that moment that his late mother, Dr. Donda West, who was also his mentor, confidante, and best friend, had spoken through him that day.
'My mom was singing to me, and through me to my daughter,' he said, astonished."
If that doesn't give you chills, then the next part will:
"To some, Kanye's insight didn't immediately register. But then he explained: The name Kanye, which his mother had chosen, means 'only one.' And then it dawned on everyone there: Something powerful and undeniable had occurred through the power of music and of letting go. A message had been passed down through generations."
That has to be pretty much the best omen for the start of a year, right? Even if you're not a fan of Kanye or disagree with his politics, this is a special song. You can hear Paul McCartney's influence too in the way that the song alludes to "Let It Be," and there's a peacefulness here that we rarely hear in Ye's music.
And in another twist, Ty Dolla Sign also tweeted today that he's singing background vocals on the track:
This hasn't been confirmed by Kanye's camp yet, but seems likely!
Kanye has spoken at length about his love for his mother and how deeply her passing affected him, and this is the kind of tribute that sums up his love, loss and hope for the future. After the darkness of Yeezus, this song suggests Kanye's new album will be a hopeful, uplifting one—and after the upheaval of 2014 that's exactly what we all need. I can think of few things more perfect for a parent to say to their child—or to anyone for that matter—than "you're not perfect but you're not your mistakes."
I just can't wait until North is old enough to understand this song and what it means. What an incredible legacy to have! Kim also chimed in on Instagram yesterday, commenting that this is officially her favorite Kanye song:
"Everyone asks me what my favorite Kanye song is. It's Only One. Kanye felt like his mom was singing thru him to our daughter. This song makes me cry every time I hear it. He releases it at midnight tonight on iTunes. "Only One" by Kanye West Featuring Paul McCartney," she captioned the post.
You can also read Kanye's full, handwritten lyrics below, which he shared via his website:
"Only One" is available on iTunes here.