Drake – Views Review
1. “Keep The Family Close.”
3. “You With Me?”
4. “Feel No Ways”
6. “Weston Road Flows”
8. “With You”
10. “Still Here”
12. “One Dance”
14. “Child’s Play”
15. “Pop Style”
16. “Too Good”
17. “Summers Over Interlude”
18. “Fire & Desire”
20. “Hotline Bling”
Drake’s implausibly hyped and, at this point, unsinkable fourth album, Views, comes prepositioned as an 81 minute victory cigar. The stately album art finds the Canadian rapper sitting atop the CN Tower, engulfed by sullen grey clouds, looking down on his city: Toronto, the 6. The expectations were clear, the self-proclaimed 6 God would complete an immortal run of hit singles and albums with the definitive reflection on his ascent, from the bottom to what is now the very literal, completely unmistakable top. There’s just one problem: for all the merits of the portentous and deeply morose production – not to mention Drake’s ultra-detached, un-whackable king pin flow – rather delivering an incisive or captivating view, Drake’s landmark album feels like hard work. Less the effortless wisdom of a king perched atop his throne and more the soundtrack to trudging up each and every one of CN Tower’s 2,579 steps.
“I’ve got energy, got a lot of energy”, well if so, where on earth did it go? Fuelled by beef and riding high on the fumes of his critical and commercial smash Nothing Was The Same (2013), Drake appeared to have entered his imperious phase. The 6 God dispensed hits with a slapdash ease that defied all logic. The gorgeous collapsing crawl of NWS’ amorphous beat had been shot through with testosterone as Drake added a bitter sneer to his nice-guy-smile and sorrowful eyes routine. The tempo markedly increased in 2015, in more ways than one; producer 40s’ bpm were up and an easy going Drake was dispensing tapes (If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, What A Time To Be Alive) and stunning singles (“Hotline Bling”, “Back 2 Back”) with frightening regularity. So how, in this light, is the long awaited and leaden Views to be explained?
Perhaps Drizzy simply jettisoned his harder hitting, fleeter footed material to preserve this album’s chilly and definitive air? Or maybe Drake has spent so long gazing at his naval that he’s finally fallen in? The album artwork cuts brutally against its predecessor, suggesting the former. On Nothing Is The Same a close profile was set against a clear blue sky, with fluffy optimistic clouds – Views is sheer grey. Drake is barely perceptible, cast in shadow amongst the concrete and steel, implying a conscious move towards the paranoia, dissatisfaction and sullenness that defines much of Views.
On album opener “Keep The Family Close”, Drake’s shoulders are so resignedly slumped that even as piercing and considered arrangement begins to rally, Drizzy can hardly rise to the occasion. “Everybody I’ve met on the way, tries to get in the way…someone up there must just love testing my patience”, he sings and this sense of deflation proves infectious. The production is thoughtful in the extreme and richly cinematic, filling the considerable void Drizzy leaves, but as “9” rolls into earshot there’s an unmistakable sense that Drake is stuck in second gear.The drum track clicks and pops prominently in the foreground, contrasting the synthetic groans and shimmers that lurk in the back, but Drake fails to mirror their nuance. Compared to Nothing Was The Same’s opening salvo (“Tuscan Leather”, “Furthest Thing”) there’s a distinct lack of variation and danger. At his best Drake can slip into to croons, launch violent bursts, dive to pitiable lows and supply unexpected pop choruses without warning, on “9” he seems determined to simply stay in his lane.
Could Meek Mill’s overt hostility and Kendrick Lamar’s lyrical cold war be driving Drake into an isolated myopia? Views feels like the logical end point for a man who wears the phrase “no new friends” like a badge of honor. The 6’s metropolitan chill has eradicated the warmth that Drake exudes in interviews, courtside at Raptor’s games or in his now legendary “Hotline Bling” video. The Drizzy who remains is a consummate complainer, at his worst he feels like a parody of one of those dreary post-Drake artists who pinched his cold croon and ditched the Canadian’s mournful soul.
High maintenance and both hyper and hypocritical, The 6 God comes across as a living nightmare for the women in his life, who, it’s worth noting, he’s either attempting to control or creep on. It’s a worrying state of affairs when a once notorious party rapper, A$AP Ferg (who released his album 7 days prior to Views), is putting Drake to shame with a series of thoughtful reflections about balancing a loving relationship with the excesses of the rap game (“She questions my lyrics: “I downloaded your mixtape, it sounds so good, but why you gotta say things that make me sound so small? Where’s the respect? I don’t feel it”). Still, if Drake is the whiner-in-chief, then he is, admittedly, very good at it.
“Feel No Ways” fitfully snaps and crashes, contorting itself around a smultzy soft-soul keyline. Drake manages to thrive atop these intriguingly incoherent sonics, sing-rapping one of the album’s standout lines: “I tried with you/there’s more to life than sleeping in and getting high with you”. In this light, Drake, the energetic careerist battling the women who weigh him down (both emotionally and creatively), offers a more redeemable narrative arc. Drizzy’s way with words elevates the chopped-up-soul of “Weston Road Flows”; a happy halfway-house between the pugnacious singles of last few years (“I’m looking at their first week numbers like, what are those? I mean, you boys not even coming close”) and the slow lurch and sorrow of his albums of old (“you treat me like I was born yesterday/you forgot my birthday”).
Sadly, for every moment where Drizzy masters the art of self-congratulatory misery, there’s an under baked effort waiting to stifle any semblance of momentum. The James Blake-aping “Redemption” is one of many promising tracks that feels like it was written after Drake had taken one too many of Future’s benzos. He succumbs to a drowsy lull that he’s unable to either shake or truly harness. The track sprawls for the best part of six minutes, pitching itself as the album’s emotional centerpiece without ever landing that heart-wrenching haymaker – instead, Drake simply fills space-spinning thoughts.
The alarm bells begin to sound when Drake offers rehashes of recent material without reaching the transcendent heights of old or adding any significant new wrinkle. The spritely “fuck-y’all, all-y’all” anthem “Hype” is a damn good time in its own right, but can’t help feeling like a watered down hangover from If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. Worryingly, considering that that record was a work-in-progess mixtape and Views is a three-years-in-the-making LP, “Hype” feels unfinished compared to “Energy”. “Grammys” is worse still. It’s remains a treat to hear Future and Drake sharing airspace and dispensing pot shots (“I would ask you what’s the deal/But you ain’t got a deal”), but the Atlanta rapper’s verse feels oddly restrained and the hook is dead-on-arrival. There’s no doubt about it: “Jumpman” and “Diamonds Dancing” deserved a better successor.
Annoyingly, “Grammys” ruins what would otherwise be a sublime sequence that sees Drizzy leaving the snowy streets and dropping into the dizzying warmth of dancehall. The Partynextdoor assisted “With You” sees Drake shimmy to his sorrows and gives the first hint that women can bring joy as well as head/heartache. It also stands as one of the album’s more novel and daring arrangements (a Kingston bound, Balearic lurch – that’s certainly a new one on me – picture Bieber’s “Sorry” on downers). The sublimely produced “Child’s Play” proves equally intriguing as an indignant Drake sees his aggression drain away into a thrillingly fractured final verse that simply recedes into the murky ether.
“One Dance” starkly cuts through the layer gloom that permeates Views; standing tall as a proud lead single on an album that openly askews hitmaking. Views might be full of quasi-danceable undercurrents, but “One Dance” is the one moment in which Drake unshackles his audiences and invites them to join him on the dancefloor. Impressively, he does this (as he did on “Hotline Bling”) while retaining the warring lovers/brothers narrative thread (“soon as you see the text, reply me/I don’t wanna spend time fighting”).
If Views is, to put it kindly, injudiciously edited, then there are certain decisions that Drake gets 100% right. “Pop Style” has lost the pitiful dead weight that was The Throne’s (Jay & Ye’s) phoned in verse. Drake sadly stands by the “Chaining Tatum” punchline line, but this Big Sean-esque jam is now re-energised and Drake clearly enjoys vibing off this minimalist, howling woof arrangement. Better yet, this re-invigorate single feeds into Views clear stand out: “Too Good”. Rihanna seemingly lights a fire under-Drizzy and atop a soft-Caribbean rhythm Drake blends giddy excitement with his usual detached supremacy (“I’m too good for, you take my love for granted”). Rhi Rhi is a delight. She’s ditched “Work’s” formless, slang heavy, jargon for a crisp sweetness that recalls her early, darling of the pop world, days.
Drake is far too accomplished to put over 80 minutes of music out into the world and fall flat on his face. There are flashes of brilliance, a smattering of unavoidable (if largely understated) hooks and plenty of worthwhile reflections on the paranoia that superstardom breeds in both one’s professional and private life. Still, despite the highs (and a pleasing injection of dancehall joy), there is an unmistakable of air of stagnation and, worse, regression on Views. Whether it’s complacency or the result of a failed artistic grope for severity, Drake’s long awaited fourth album is an indulgent, laundry list of complaints that struggles to entertain. The 6 God remains an interesting narrator, but he relies far too heavily on assumption that the world is hanging on his every word and does too little to warrant his audience’s continued attention as a result – or as he puts it himself: “the paranoia can start to turn into arrogance”.