Views, the new album by Drake, is like a Toronto winter: cold, monotonous and overly long, but with occasional bright spots hinting at better days.
Drake and his long-time producer Noah “40” Shebib deliberately cultivated the album’s overcast mood, so the chilly effect is intentional. It’s a fitting tone for the lyrics of the album, which describes how life looks to Drake from atop the rap game and at the center of the cultural zeitgeist—burdensome positions which have left him bitter and paranoid. The songs reveal a pathological distrust of romantic interests and business partners and the Sword of Damocles always dangling above his head. As Drake tells it, the top is a lonely place to be.
More meme than man, Drake combats his very public persona with intimate details from his own life. Much of the album takes place within the confines of his decadent home, which is populated by the ghosts of former flings and Drake’s inner circle of loyal confidants. Only this story, and the accompanying dream-like production that frames it, sounds too familiar to 2013’s Nothing Was The Same and other Drake projects.
The introspective reflections and crooning blend of rap and R&B makes this a curious choice to release at the start of summer ′16, and it is a lackluster successor to the energetic and confident EP If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late released last year. Few and far between are the pool party bangers Drake is best known for, singles like “Back to Back” and “0 to 100.”
Instead, we get moody bars—“lately I just feel so out of character/ the paranoia can start to turn into arrogance”—,minimalist snares, and melancholic outros that create an atmosphere better for bus rides on chilly November nights than for a nuit blanche in June. A sample of rain pattering against a window sets the tone of “U With Me,” while “Feel No Ways” has ′80s synths and warbly R&B samples.
Ultimately, this is an album for Drake, not his fans.
The problem is that Drake doesn’t portray his neurotic recollections of romance and his public image in a very interesting way. He relies on too many weak lyrics (“you toying with it like happy meal” and “since Take Care/ I’ve been caretakin’”) and includes too many tracks that sound identical. As he launches into yet another exploration of a romance that failed due to unrealistic expectations, we’re left wondering “so what?”
There are a few welcome detours into energetic Drake. Atlanta rap star and frequent collaborator Future makes an appearance for “Grammy,” and the two strike a more cohesive and polished product than they delivered on What A Time To Be Alive. “Hype” is a real stand-out on the album, reminding us that Drake is a master artisan of the pump-up song.
Drake also tours into dancehall, delivering upbeat singles like “Controlla” and “One Dance,” which break up the monotony of the early album introspection with steel drums and chopped up female vocals.
Ultimately, this is an album for Drake, not his fans. Gone is the “lit” raucous bravado of If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, replaced with themes and flows already explored on his last three albums. It isn’t a bad project, and it has more trap and world influence than previous full-length productions, but at 80 minutes it is filled with too many bars and tracks that do not justify their presence on such a high profile album.
After a triumphant 2015, VIEWS won’t halt Drake’s momentum, but it won’t elevate it to higher ground.
6,345 out of 10,00 Rawckus Fung Fu Throwing Stars