By Joey Thyne
Drake won 2015 by releasing a slew of throwaways over two mixtapes which turned out to be huge hits. His trajectory to superstardom began exponentially rising after 2011’s “Take Care.” Pressure weighed heavily on the anticipation for “Views” ever since it was announced nearly two years ago. This album was going to decide if Drake would be another trend to fade in the years to come or if he could be an artist who was able to make substantial work which stood the test of time.
From the very start of the album one thing was clear: hip hop’s somber soul sweetheart was back. “Views” is a return to the glossy R&B of “Take Care” and “Nothing was the Same.” He is still struggling with being rich and famous. He is still a hopeless romantic navigating the nuances of modern relationships. The sounds of weather in between songs is apt because the album feels like one of those stormy Sunday afternoons when you lethargically lay around thinking about all of the things you should be doing.
“Views” is 20 songs long, spanning a hefty hour and 22 minutes. This is okay if the artist has enough concepts to take advantage of the space. At times, though, it seems like Drake is scrambling to maintain consistency, stretching his material thin and retreading old ground. The music is so slow and has so little variation it can be a chore to complete.
The first six songs are more or less solid. It starts off in typical melodramatic Drake fashion with “Keep the Family Close” which sounds like a bombastic James Bond theme. “U With Me?” has a catchy hook and quality rhyming accompanied by pleasant production. “Feel No Ways” is a nice piece of moody electronica featuring good singing. “Redemption” through “Faithful” seems like disposable filler. “Still Here” is another standout track and the only time Drake seems to enjoy himself.
The second half the album takes a significant drop in quality, shifting to blatant mass appeal. The tropical groove of songs like “Controlla,” “One Dance” and “Too Good” are nauseously amusing but ultimately bland. These song do little besides beg to be overplayed on the radio. By the time “Fire & Desire” and the title track roll around, two of the best songs on the album, the listener has already lost interest.
Drake is notoriously sappy and constantly asserts that he is “real,” but after listening to his album I feel he only ever superficially scratches the surface. Instead of exhibiting of any genuine emotional reflection he settles for pouting over neglected text messages.
There are glimpses into the greatness Aubrey Graham could achieve if he wasn’t confined to being Drake: the icon, the sensation, the trend. Songs like “Weston Road Flows” and the “Views” show he has the ability to make excellent hip hop music, delivering exquisite bars.
Perhaps last year amidst the haze of trap beats, diss tracks, and meme-worthy dance moves he lost the essence of what made him so endearing in the first place: his spirit. Although the sound mimics his former albums, “Views” is unable to replicate the exuberant devotion of “Take Care” or the immaculate precision of “Nothing was the Same.” This time around he seems deathly afraid to put forward any sincere effort, as if enthusiasm would cost him his credibility.
There is a great album buried in there somewhere. However, the highlights are overshadowed by material that is lackluster and uninspired, resulting in an album that is too safe to be either a disaster or a masterpiece.
Joey Thyne studies journalism and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @b_e_nelson.