Another Drake album falls just maddeningly short of greatness, but Charlie Lewis can’t stay mad.
In his list of his 25 favourite hip hop albums, Chris Rock quotes the line “Fuck being hard/ Posdnuos is complicated” from De La Soul’s In the Woods, and concludes “That’s some gangsta shit, because he don’t give a fuck.” There’s a similar appeal to Drake. He’s a rapper so completely, so unapologetically vulnerable and open and romantic and emotional that’s its actually incredibly hard. He knows some people think he’s a pussy, and he don’t give a fuck.
Which is why I think I detect, in most of the memes that mock him (check out the glorious twitter handle @thingsdrakedo – sample tweet: ‘Drake the type of dude who picks up hookers in Grand Theft Auto and drives them to a safer part of the city – or ‘Drake as a proud girlfriend’) at best genuine affection and at least grudging respect.
That’s what was so disappointing about Hotline Bling. It turned all his good traits into their mirror opposites – his sensitivity curdled into self-pity, his decency blurring into joyless judgement.
When your key lyric is to tell a girl ‘I feel left out’, you’re not speaking for anyone I want to hear from. Bling is affixed as an extra track at the end of Views, and while the album never quite plumbs those depths elsewhere, Views is probably his least interesting effort lyrically. So let’s just say he gets a B minus in that area. He makes his opulent alienation about as interesting as anyone could (which isn’t fantastically interesting), he retains some insight and is still capable of a moody reflection which will make you wish you’d deleted your ex’s contact details (don’t drink and listen to Redemption, kids).
While we’re in the ‘could do better’ category – the album self-sabotages in a few key areas. It’s oddly seasoned with groggy autotune, which is neither necessary (Drake has formidable melodic gifts, and one of the loveliest singing voices in the mainstream) nor as interesting as he seems to think. It’s laced with long interludes which hobble its momentum, extending an album that badly needs a trim, and slows down an album that badly needs a little more fire.
There are too many songs, and not enough women. Both as muses and collaborators, women bring out the best in Drake, and they feature on only 3 tracks on Views. Rihanna returns for the best of them, Too Good, which exploits their steel melting chemistry and provides a little richness and interplay to an album that spends too much time focused on a desperately handsome millionaire’s trust issues.
But it’s as a musical whole that Views seems to want to be judged, and on that front, it holds up. Too many tracks, but I’d be hard pressed to name a bad one. From the sumptuous, orchestra led Keep the Family Close, through the lazy rap of Faithful and Still Here to the simple, sexy pleasures of Controlla and One Dance, and the baby-making interlude Summer’s Over, Views is typically rich and melodic. It’s an album of subtle and deft pleasures – its high points fizz rather than explode and each listen gives you something new.
So we’re with left with another good to great record, from an artist consistently pushing the boundaries of his art form. But I’m left with the same feeling I always have after digesting an Drake LP, best expressed, as it happens, by @thingsdrakedo: ‘Drake sits back and admires the puzzle he has finished. He sips his green tea, then sighs. “There’s still a piece missing.”’