What it was like to watch the debut of Kanye West's strange, soulful new album -- with a lot of celebrities

The premiere of Kanye West’s new album on Thursday afternoon got off to a rocky start.

The rapper hosted a listening party and performance piece at Madison Square Garden in which he played “The Life of Pablo,” his latest record, and showed off his fashion line’s new season. The event was live-streamed for free via Tidal, but it kept freezing.

“Pablo” is definitely an evolution from “Yeezus,” his last album, which had a harder edge. The beats are still minimal and there is still some Kanye screaming, but he’s layered in soulful vocals, including by Rihanna. There’s also one Taylor Swift reference that’s definitely not safe for the whole family.

Kanye wrestles with a lot of personal themes on “Pablo”: where he came from, his mega-celebrity, his family, and his relationship to his fans. He had promised gospel, and in his own way, he delivered.

The debut itself saw everyone from Pusha T and Naomi Campbell to Kim Kardashian and Lamar Odom joining for the occasion.

See what happened when Kanye debuted his new album below:

The premiere of 'The Life of Pablo' at Madison Square Garden was sold out, but anyone could watch the live stream through Tidal -- even non-Tidal members.

Tidal

The problem is as soon as things kicked off at 4 pm, the stream started freezing. It was soon up again and you could watch on a low resolution.

Tidal

Kanye West entered, along with family and friends, while speakers played the new album from beginning to end. Kanye grinned a lot, and danced and mouthed along to some lyrics, but he did not do any actual performing.

Tidal

Instead there was a whole cavalcade of models there to help him out and show off his new clothes. This was called a 'performance' by the artist Vanessa Beecrof.

Tidal

The opening song is 'Ultra Light Beams,' with a nifty synth sound and a guest rap from Chance the Rapper, who excels here.

Tidal

'Father Stretch My Hands,' about West's father, has some of his most personal lyrics. Meanwhile, his family watched in the arena.

Tidal

The Kanye West known for his 'rants' shows up on 'Freestyle 4,' in which he boasts, 'Name one genius who ain't crazy.'

Tidal

The legendary model Naomi Campbell showed up in the middle of everything, looking like she owned the place. It was a pleasant surprise.

Tidal

'Famous' will immediately start conversation for an insulting mention of Taylor Swift. 'I made that b--- famous,' Kanye says of his notorious crashing of her VMA acceptance speech years ago.

Tidal

There were a number of other new songs -- 'Highlights,' 'Feedback,' 'Fade,' 'FML' -- though it was hard to hear anything that might be a radio hit.

Tidal

Kanye made it clear this was not a return to the 'old Kanye' with a very funny song in which he rhymed his name repeatedly and said, 'I invented Kanye!'

Tidal

The two already-released songs, 'Real Friends' and 'Wolves,' came at the very end, which is an unusual choice. 'Wolves' seemed to be much longer and altered from the previous cut, with some high-pitched backup vocals and what seem like animal noises.

Tidal

At the end, Kanye thanked New York City for supporting him and made it clear that pulling off something like this is not 'easy to do.'

Tidal

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