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Album Review: Drake “VIEWS”

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“I’m what the Beatles wanted to see happen to music.”-Aubrey Graham, Degrassi Unscripted

The Degrassi Unscripted mini series featured one cast member an episode as they lived their lives off set. It was a forgettable excerpt in the show’s history except for one moment: during Aubrey Graham’s episode, he admitted his secret ambition to become a rapper. A decade later, he’s become the most popular artist in the world. Sharpening the aesthetic of Kanye West’s 808’s and Heartbreak, each release pushed gangsta rap further toward the fringes of the culture while making the vulnerable everyday man a staple. VIEWS comes after over a year and a half of promises to inspire a “paradigm shift.”

Recent OVO signees Majid Jordan, PARTYNEXTDOOR and dvsn each lend to the feel of the album. The Jordan Ullman-produced “Feel No Ways” is refreshingly uptempo, and Drake is irresistible as he playfully dances around the track. The PARTYNEXTDOOR featured “With You” is effervescent. dvsn make their influence known throughout the album. Their 90’s R&B style of production breathes life into different parts of VIEWS. “Faithful” is invigorated by their presence, despite an out of place Pimp C verse. dvsn’s fingerprints are all over “Redemption,” as Drake balances loneliness and accountability. The beautifully sampled “Weston Road Flows” provides the perfect backdrop for nostalgia. “Too Good” once again finds Drake and Rihanna showcasing their unquestionable chemistry over Nineteen85’s lush soundscape.

“Pop Style” is the weakest song on the album. It’s boring flow and lifeless chorus make it a poor choice for a second single. “Hotline Bling”, his most popular song to date, is a bonus despite being released last July. His attempt to add Caribbean vibes to the album with “One Dance” and “Controlla” fall short. “Controlla” is the better of the two songs, but gives way to Drake’s recently adopted accent. His forced Jamaican patois at random parts of the album strengthens the most damning criticism of Drake, that he is an actor first.

On “Hype” and “9”, Drake growls from atop his throne, ferociously listing his accomplishments to anyone who will listen. These songs echo the defiant spirit of If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, but they also capture the spirit of this album. VIEWS, although well executed, is more of the same. Drake spends most of his time on this album sharpening his sword, and very little forging new weapons.

The opening ballad “Keep the Family Close” is epic. The orchestral intro employs some creative use of tempo and a hilarious line comparing an old flame to the Chrysler 300C. The 3:30 mark of “U With Me?” is one of the most unique moments of Drake’s entire catalog. In an instant, he abandons the track’s low tone and his voice raises to the loudest it has ever been in song. The listener is confronted by his frustration with not being acknowledged as he believes he should. It is the most honest twenty seconds of his career.

Heartbreak Drake is at the crossroads. VIEWS is not the watershed moment he hoped it would be. It wouldn’t be the first time this happened: The Beatles were dismissed as a pop act for the first five albums of their careers. It wasn’t until Rubber Soul and Revolver that they started pushing the boundaries of their music. There is more than enough time to live up to the claim he made a decade ago.