After nearly two years of teasing us, Drake finally released his fourth proper album, Views, last night. And after all that waiting, Worldmusicfests staffers and contributors are offering their gut reactions to Drizzy’s 20-track epic.
Brian Josephs: Views is a big release; whoever denies that fact is being contrarian for the sake of it. But Drake has never felt as small as he does here. His probable hits — “One Dance,” “Controlla,” and the Rihanna-featuring “Too Good” — find him jacking Afrobeat and dancehall waves (to be fair, he does them well). But it’s the producers who’re really pushing themselves here. Drake rests on self-aggrandizing schmaltz, and that’s less compelling than what’s out there in 2016.
Early Score: 6/10
Melody Lau: There’s a moment on Views’ opening track, the Bond-like curtain reveal “Keep the Family Close,” where Drake is feeling disoriented. “With my dad out in Tennessee is where I belong / Out here in L.A. I don’t know what’s going on,” he sings. While he calls Toronto home, Drake has been fairly nomadic since his career took off and perhaps this is playing into the trust issues he’s rehashing. Views — as it has so clearly been laid out on the album cover and even with the sounds of a streetcar seconds into the record — is an ode to Toronto.
This is where Drake goes to charge up, to ruminate on relationships; the album is even mapped out over the course of the city’s only two seasons. The results illustrate both the city’s diasporic culture as well as Drake’s strength in adapting to various styles, from the dancehall breeze of “Controlla” (now sadly sans Popcaan) to the more experimental beat-making styles of “Still Here,” which expands on the sound he disseminated on “Back to Back” (both produced by Daxz). Probably an unintentional nod to the album’s seasonal theme is how long this album can feel. Drake’s albums have all crossed the hourlong mark but upon first listen it feels weighted. For the wealth of material Drake has given us though, he manages a high batting average.
Early Score: 8/10
Andrew Unterberger: “The album is based around the change of the seasons in our city,” Drake says, and you’re glad he remembers there are still seasons besides winter. Views earns its 19-track runtime by evolving as it goes, its leaves turning different shades, reminding you just how monochromatic Drizzy’s last few LPs were by comparison. The album may be his most sonically vibrant, a playground of his best pop productions, but it’s a 40-degree day for Drake lyrically: “I need you inspired, I need you excited,” he pleads, but amidst the usual array of meme recalls, ex check-ins, and hi-haters, it sounds like he’s talking to himself. Aubrey’s still insisting on retiring at 35, and it was inevitable he’d make a Views at some point before then. But if this ends up as the Drake album people find the most agreeable, it’ll also be the one few fans consider their favorite.
Early Score: 7/10
Iyana Robertson: It’s like that time Jay Z released a long-ass album — only it’s nothing like it at all. While comfortably seated in their proverbial hip-hop thrones, both rappers chose excess over brevity, but that’s where the comparisons end. Jay Z offered monumental rap moments. Drake? Meh. Jay Z grouped sonic themes to create cohesion. Drake? Nope. Jay Z proved that poignant bars were still on the menu. Drake? Not so much. The 6 God’s smite missed the benchmark of Hov’s holy hand.
Early Score: 5/10
Sheldon Pearce: How much ground is really left for Drake to cover these days? Much of Views just rehashes his tropes with less involved writing and odder pacing. The equilibrium is off somehow. It’s an album that unnecessarily draws out running times and is probably five or six songs too long, sulking in its own melodrama. But then there are moments like “Too Good,” another Rihanna collaboration that gets the chemistry of romantic ennui just right, showcasing the very best of Drake: his ability to see the best of himself in his distorted perception of others.
Early Score: 7/10
Israel Daramola: This album is content to be just fine; to meander about aimlessly as though Drake is fulfilling a contract with the audience to give them only what is expected of him. Regardless of individual quality, the songs kinda blur together. Drake is the biggest star in rap but also the safest, never actually growing or experimenting beyond watering down reggae and Afropop music. It’s a shame, but when has a king not gotten fat and too comfortable on their throne?
Early Score: 4/10
Anna Gaca: I’ve taken connecting flights shorter than Views, but those didn’t have Drake on them. The trouble with worrying about legacy is that forests start looking more important than trees, and Drizzy’s latest is a thicket. “I made a career of reminiscing,” he raps, and 82 minutes is a long time to stick with it. The production’s generous negative space makes Views a pleasant if not universally rewarding listen, though “Hotline Bling” deserved better than a cynical play for chart position.
Early Score: 7/10
Dan Weiss: I used to date a girl from Toronto and the first time I visited, she took me to the CN Tower, where we rode to the top and drank alarmingly green whiskey sours. From New Jersey, the Megabus ride was a good 12 to 14 hours depending on who customs was giving a hard time, and I would take it overnight so it was easier to sleep. Would usually watch the dawn rise as it approached the city, and whatever my misgivings about Drake or this better-produced, better-sung album’s length or tempo, it absolutely evokes that slowly brightening view. So congrats.
Early Score: 7/10
AVERAGE SCORE: 6.4