“Views” disappoints as its limited scope reveals nothing new
THE SANTA CLARA
May 12, 2016
Drake dropped his newest album after a run of unprecedented dominance. In the run-up to “Views,” he let loose a raw, revenge mixtape, a modern joint album with Future and two gigantic, neo-dancehall singles, “Hotline Bling” and “One Dance.” Plus, he featured on “Work,” mollywhopped Meek Mill, wide-grinned through a Super Bowl commercial and basically morphed into a human meme.
His legwork guaranteed absurd success. Currently, the album sits at the top of the Billboard charts and shattered the week-old streaming record set by Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” with a gargantuan 245 million listens. “Views” seemed to promise the long-term importance of the Canadian.
Commercially, Drake reigns supreme. Artistically, he’s a distant third. Running for an exhausting 82 minutes, “Views” doesn’t venture far from Drake’s well-treaded path of lamenting lost loves. And, excepting the Jamaican influences, it’s all stuff he did in fresher ways years ago. For an album that could have been anything, it isn’t much.
The opener, “Keep The Family Close,” is the most unexpected track. Its throwback, slow-build composition crescendos with organ swells and vengeful horn blasts. In the first of the album’s hypocritical reflections, Drake whines about ex-girlfriends that didn’t put their “pride aside and ride” for him.
On “Redemption,” he tells a lady he gave her nickname to someone else, then—literally three lines later—pleads that he doesn’t want to “do this with no one else.” In the same song, he declares if a girl isn’t “with it, then just forget it,” then hedges any reciprocity by saying he’s not in a position for commitment.
On “Faithful,” he makes a pledge to not have affairs seem like a Shakespearean romantic gesture. On “Child’s Play,” he delves into gross classism as he threatens to send a gal “back to the hood” if she doesn’t act right at the Cheesecake Factory.
And on “Too Good,” his illusions reach an astonishing peak. He croons a hook about treating a woman too well and lamenting that she takes him for granted. He pairs with Rihanna on the breezily tropical duet, and the track craves a ripping by the take-no-crap Barbadian—a rebuffing from these women that Drake leads on, then bangs, then dumps, then begs back, then bangs again, then dumps again, then calls years later to leave drunk voicemails.
I wanted Rihanna to flame broil Drake’s ass and shatter his delusional self-conception. But she doesn’t. And their crackling chemistry produces a cozy beachside bonfire instead of a scorched earth nuclear showdown.
What’s missing is his usually impeccable self-aware self-deprecation. The cover of “Views” invites photoshoppers to place tiny Drake next to lunch-breaking skyscraper builders or on top of Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda” butt. In the past, he opened himself up to parody by shimmying cornily in bubblegum rooms or brushing himself with a lint-roller courtside at a Raptors game.
By offering up roastable moments and handling the response with a smirk, he cultivated a natural comfort at the top. But like Kim Kardashian and Donald Trump, Drake disappeared into a character with tailored personality traits and audience expectations. Pushing himself to further extremes, Drake catapultes past believability and parachutes into caricature.
And this isn’t necessarily bad. “Views” features multiple moments of sonic brilliance that only Drake could achieve—such as the super-novel key change on “U With Me?” or the glistening hooks on “Faithful” and “Redemption.”
But it’s still a bloated project. PARTYNEXTDOOR, Dvsn and Future all outshine him on their featured tracks. “Pop Style” suffers without Kanye. And “Faithful” features an absolutely nonsensical sample of the late Pimp C.
At the beginning of his career, Drake seemed destined for depth. He emerged as a hybrid rapper with a crisp sound that cradled auto-tuned warbles about unguarded emotions. After releasing an album that backed-to-backed “Take Care” and “Marvin’s Room,” he secured his place and blew open what qualified as hip-hop.
But the pining that made those two songs fascinating has rotted. Until he critically examines his faults rather than those of his carousel of lovers, his work doesn’t deserve the length of “Views.”
Yet, Drake doesn’t need to make another album. As evidenced by “Back To Back,” “Hotline Bling” and “One Dance,” he’s perhaps at his strongest as the always-viral artist.
Frankly, most songs on Drake’s albums feel like packing peanuts for bangers. If he pivoted to releasing smaller projects, he’d cut back on filler. Film, news media and television have adjusted to the accelerated pace of cultural consumption. But other than ditching tangibility, albums have remained the same—and the most internet-savvy rapper ever could change that.
By dropping snack-sized surprise projects, Drake would stay in the national conversation with a steady stream of slappers. He’d achieve perpetual relevance and reinvent the way a top artist gives music to the public. His cached cred, disgusting wealth and deal with Apple Music affords him this flexibility. And after “Views,” he could afford to think different.
Contact John Flynn at email@example.com or call (408) 554-4852.