When Kanye West first tweeted a handwritten 10-song track list for his seventh album, “The Life of Pablo,” late last month, the photo was captioned, “So happy to be finished with the best album of all time.”
Best? Could happen. Finished? Not even close.
Instead, the rollout of “Pablo” has been an unprecedented public marathon, with Mr. West, the Grammy-winning rap artist, adding songs, revising lyrics on quick notice, adding and dropping contributors, changing the album’s title and release date several times, and gabbing about it all on Twitter. The process has also included televised live performances, public squabbles, unauthorized leaks of demo recordings — the sort of stuff Dylan archivists typically wait decades to hear — and a fashion show with 1,000 models.
The result is an exemplar of modern celebrity musicmaking: a dramatic, rococo, continuous (and possibly still continuing) narrative that spans music, fashion, theater and politics. Mr. West has turned the album release process — historically a predictably structured event, and lately rewritten by stars like Beyoncé as precise, sudden assault — into a public conversation, one taking place on Twitter, YouTube, Periscope and in Madison Square Garden as much as in the studio. With flux embedded in its DNA, “Pablo” is crisply alive, like water that’s still boiling even though the flame is off. Pay close attention to the multiple iterations and you hear an artist at work, as well as a celebrity tending his image. It’s everything bared — process as art.