Kanye West ft Paul McCartney: Only One cover artworkWritten by: Kanye West, Paul McCartney, Kirby Lauryen
Recorded: Early 2014
Producers: Kanye West, Mike Dean, Paul McCartney

Released: 31 December 2014

Kanye West: vocals
Paul McCartney: keyboards, vocals
Ty Dolla Sign: vocals (uncredited)

Credited to Kanye West ft Paul McCartney, Only One was an unexpected release on the iTunes Store at the close of 2014.

The song was West’s first release since his sixth studio album Yeezus, and is the first of several tracks recorded with McCartney.

It was recorded in early 2014 in a Los Angeles bungalow. The pair brainstormed musical ideas, with McCartney playing keyboards and West on vocals.

A further collaboration took place over a two-day period in Mexico in September 2014, during which West, McCartney and several other artists are believed to have recorded around nine other songs.

Kanye West and Paul McCartney

Only One is a tribute to West’s daughter North, and is sung from the perspective of his late mother Donda.

A press release detailed some of the composing and recording process:

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.

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.

The small group in the room kept listening: “Hello my Only One… just like the morning sun… you’ll keep on rising till the sky knows your name.”

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.

On the day of the song’s release West’s wife Kim Kardashian West revealed it was her favourite of his songs.

The release

Only One was released on 31 December 2014. It was exclusive to the iTunes Store for the first week, during which 125,000 downloads were sold.

On 4 January 2015 the song debuted on the UK singles chart at number 35. In the US it also reached 35 on the Billboard Hot 100, giving McCartney his first top 40 hit since 1989’s My Brave Face.

Only One topped the UK R&B chart, and reached number 11 on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs chart. It was also a top 10 hit in Australia, Belgium and New Zealand.