Review Summary: Take Care contains the emotion of a late-night R&B record, disappointed and full of heartbreak.
When Aubrey 'Drake' Graham burst onto the scene in 2009 with his insanely infectious (but slightly annoying) single 'Best I Ever Had', I don't think anyone had any idea just how big he would get over the next two years. With Lil Wayne as his mentor and signing to 'Young Money Entertainment' Drake released his first record 'Thank Me Later' that jumped to the number one spot on the Billboard charts and quickly became one of the most popular rappers on the radio. When Drake came onto the scene I initially could not get what all the hype was about him. His rhymes often seemed too melodramatic to fit a kid who had recently come off a hit television show. His nasally style of rapping and his bland off tune robot-like singing made me want to cringe, and his frequent collaborations with Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj lowered my opinion of him even farther. It seemed as if Drake straddled the hip-hop and R&B elements of his music rather awkwardly most of the time and he just couldn't fit into the right style.
All of this makes it quite a surprise that 'Take Care' is one of the biggest improvements I've seen in a artist in a long time. Just looking at the photograph on the front cover you see Drake sitting at a table surrounded by luxurious furniture drinking out of a gold cup, looking rather unhappy with the fame that he's attained over the past two years. The overall feel of the record successfully captures the feelings you would infer from looking the the album cover, 'Take Care' has all of the makings of a slightly depressing late-night R&B record obsessed with fake love and disappointment. Most of the production on 'Take Care' is handled by Drake's frequent collaborator '40' who fills the album with murky beats, dark synths, muffled drums, smooth piano and a general aesthetic idea of being way more cohesive album than the rather terrible and rushed 'Thank Me Later'.
One of the biggest assets to 'Take Care' is the general idea that less is more. Most songs don't contain more than some looped piano and a simple beat, but these muddled backdrops give 'Take Care' a more ambient and personal touch than I had ever imagined Drake of ever creating. Some of the atmospheric sounds heard here would sound comfortable on The Weeknd's 'House Of Balloons' which comes as no surprise as Abel Tesfaye not only appears on several tracks (the fantastic 'Crew Love' and 'The Ride') but also has song-writing credits on five of the albums songs. The minimalist approach also fits Drakes now greatly improved singing and rapping techniques. He no longer sounds like he's forcing some kind of hook when he's singing and his lyrics have way less eye-rolling/vomit inducing moments present here. The boasting that Drake often partakes in is now dominated by a more self-conscious and heartbroken approach than any of his previous efforts.
While Drake certainly has improved fantastically he still has yet to fix some of the weaknesses that he had before. 'Take Care' is over eighty minutes long and it isn't hard to notice that there is a ton of filler present. Some songs sound like under developed versions of far superior songs that are already here, 'We'll Be Fine' sounds like a weaker version of 'Underground Kings', the general structure of the fantastic opener 'Over My Dead Body' is basically copied by 'Look What You've Done' and 'Doing It Wrong' with the latter going basically going nowhere despite featuring a noteworthy harmonica solo by Stevie Wonder. A few of the songs just don't fit together with the cohesive nature of the rest of the record, including the first single 'Headlines' which more or less sounds like a better take of 'Over' from ' Thank Me Later'. The other two tracks that ruin the flow of the album would be the single 'Make Me Proud' (which sounds like 'Best I Ever Had part two) and the horrible title track that sounds like it was just an attempt at another chart-topping single.
Obviously 'Take Care' is nowhere near perfect, but it shows Drake as an artist who is willing to experiment and who is settling into a darker style that he seems way more comfortable with. If about twenty minutes of 'Take Care' could have been skinned it could be taken as a way more cohesive album that captures that nineties R&B sound so perfectly. But sadly a whole lot of filler is present, including there are a few guest spots that could have been tossed aside completely (Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, Birdman) that offer almost nothing to the album at all. But if 'Take Care' is any evidence of what Drake is capable of producing in the future, then I'm looking forward to what he has to offer.
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