The 6 God is back with a new album, and such is the nature of the world that we live in that we must have the think pieces at the ready almost instantly.
Drake, né Aubrey Graham, has released this long anticipated fourth studio album VIEWS to much hype and acclaim. But is it any good?
VIEWS is good; solid, even. Let's start there. The 29-year-old mogul has released a solid album, which is fine in itself but probably feels like a disappointment for those who were awaiting Drake's answer to Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy or Kendrick Lamar's good kid, mAAd city. Though Aubrey has never been a prodigy, 2009's So Far Gone, and even 2007's Comeback Season, were both prodigious efforts from a then-rising star.
Why would VIEWS, while still very solid, feel like a letdown? Let's start with the album's name. Before it was VIEWS, this album was supposed to be Views from the 6. Aubrey himself had announced the name of this album two years ago in August 2014, an eternity in our reality. The name signified that the rapper was bringing the listener to his world, his hometown of Toronto. The name signified that the album would act as an ode and anthem to the City of Toronto, which wouldn't be confined to playing the role of Drake's hometown. It signified that the music would be just as much about T Dot as it would be about Drizzy.
This new name, VIEWS, means that the album is partly that, but not strictly that. It turns out that this album is more about the Toronto of Drake, about his brand of subdued melodies that are so perfect for late-night s/texting while "watching Vince [go] through the legs, arm in the hoop" and buying bottles with money you don't have at Fluid—because if money can't even buy Drake happiness, Drake is "happiest when I buy what I want." This Toronto that Drake has lived in, it could be just about any city.
Then, there's the album cover image.
Drake has always been an expert at creating content that was Internet-ready and not necessarily dependent on his ability to craft good music; "I do my own propaganda," he says on Hype in perhaps his truest rhyme yet. Drake the content generator is just as good as Drake the rapper. Let's just look at the slew of Drake posts this album inspired for BuzzFeed: Here are all the girls Drake talks about on "Views"; Drake says Yeah a lot on his new album because of course he does; Which "Views" song are you based on your zodiac; Here are all the new "Views" lyrics you need for Instagram captions; 33 texts from fuckboys past that you can blame "Views" for. And that's just one week, one Internet website, one album!
This cover image is a prime example of Drake at his Drake-iest, which is to say corniest. You see, because the rapper really wanted to make sure that his fans truly understood the theme of the album, he put the iconic (and, frankly, overplayed) CN Tower on the cover. Then, in perfect Drake fashion, he photoshopped himself on it because why not; content marketing, remember? While we can't see Aubrey's face, we all know the expression he has at that moment: :(. Turn that frown upside down, Drake, though then he wouldn't be Aubrey, right? It's not just the cover image either: to show that the summer part of VIEWS is over, Drake has a song called Summers Over Interlude.
See? Drake is Drake, and Drake is corny; but corny works for Drake.
That all said, Drake is a rapper and excels at that too. On VIEWS, he enrols once again the help of friend and producer Noah "40" Shebib to delve as deep as he ever has in the sound that's become iconic of Toronto: sober sounds, melodies and basslines, and cold snares and synths. It's a formula Drake had left behind recently, with If You're Reading This It's Too Late and What A Time To Be Alive. In much the same way he gets back to his hometown he never left, he finds the formula again on VIEWS. When Aubrey croons over and over "I’m searching for these words to say to you" on Redemption, it could be just as much about the listener's uncertainty with this return to the bare and minimalist-like OVO sound; the listener had appreciated this shift in Drake's sound. “The paranoia can start to turn into arrogance; thoughts too deep to go work ’em out with a therapist,” he continues on Weston Road Flows.
(But who are we kidding? It's about (a) girl(s), all of it, because with Drake, it always is.)
VIEWS is also about seasons, the four that Toronto sees every year; that, we know because he's told Zane Lowe as much. While this may be a great concept for an album, and it is, VIEWS here suffers by the restrictions this concept has imposed on the structure: the clear highlights certainly occur over the middle parts, the "summer months" of the album if you will, as the sound lightens up and Drake and his team experiment with sounds and melodies that break away with the dread of the winter. While we all would love to chill in the sun all day every day, it's true that the snowstorms of 9 and Faithful are still cool; there are those who say that the winter is necessary to enjoy summer, that the cold makes you appreciate the warmth and, well, sure but they’re all Raptors fans living in Canada, right?
Toronto has 140 languages and dialects spoken at any given time, but that’s the problem with the cold: it overwhelms any and everything, every little element that makes a city vibe and vibrant, even one as multicultural as Toronto. Or to put it in terms Drake would understand: a rose loses its pedals and dies with the first snowstorm. Though if you then give your girl said rose without pedals, then she surely will leave you; in Drake's world, that's just called inspiration for a song.
Of course, if and when a rose is in full bloom and still has its pedals, boy is it quite the sight. Where and when VIEWS shines, it does so spectacularly. The summer months of the album are perhaps the one time where Aubrey makes a clear break with the typical OVO sound; the results are standouts like One Dance, Controlla, seemingly-WATTBA-outtake Grammys and the RIhanna-featured Too Good, all of which borrow from Toronto's notable and important Caribbean influences.
You know what the problem is with summers in a place like Toronto? They're just too damn short. You've spent so long hoping to avoid it all; winter is "always on, man, I never get a break from it. Doesn't matter where I go, I can never get away from it," you lament, like Aubrey does on 9. In Canada, winters are relentless, even for the boy. "There's more to life than sleeping in," Drake sings this to some girl of his past in Feel No Ways, though he may as well speak to winter directly. "Three dots, you're thinking of a reaction still," he says in U With Me?, probably because the heart too gets cold and lonely on winter nights. By the end of winter, when Drake seemingly taunts Mother Nature in Still Here, we don't quite believe him. When the snow starts melting with Controlla, that's when we believe.
VIEWS clocks in at about 82 minutes—but wait, is summer already over?? :/ Yep, it sure is. Next is the fall, which will soon be followed by winter. Again. Goddamn.