Review Summary: Shameless and delusional self-aggrandizing; unmistakeably a Drake album.
I'm sure Drake knows by now that he's practically untouchable. Consider that he spent the majority of 2015 half-heartedly feuding with a rapper worth half his game whilst pedaling a middling win in the victory lap of What a Time to Be Alive
and the just okay smash hit "Hotline Bling". There really wasn't any need for any of it, but it helped to cement Drake as some ineffable wunderkind to whom all criticism is untoward; criticize Aubrey Graham, and it's likely your popularity and potential legacy will be left in tatters. It's a quality he's yanked from Kanye West, whose own contempt for external critical narrative has fostered a reckless attitude that's persisted even into this year's maddeningly contrived The Life of Pablo
. Where that album seemed confused in its execution, though, Drake's vision for Views
- one of Toronto, success, and the people who've helped pull it all off- is outwardly confident and surefooted in its direction. In that sense, it's closer to the Kanye West of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
, ground covered well five years ago on Take Care
. But Take Care
saw Drake's career from the vantage point of imminent greatness and promise; alternatively, Views
is the afterward, where the peak has been reached and the fall looks daunting if not unavoidable.
In taking such a narrative, Views
comes off as more of a celebration of Drake's ascent than the cautious ambience of Nothing was the Same
or If You're Reading this it's too Late
. Where those albums stuck close to vitriolic lyricism and an almost total abandonment of guests, Views
sounds eager to bring in the OVO family and make the most of the moment. Its lead singles, the irresistibly hooky "One Dance" and arrogantly anthemic "Pop Style", give a sense of the proceedings, flicking between a lackadaisical poppiness and menacing trapiness. It opens up room for further experimentation, as "Feel No Ways", a potential pop hit, is drained of its radio friendliness and made to embody some absolutely loathsome lines ('I tried with you / there's more to life than sleeping with you
'). It's indicative of Views
' insularity, particularly evident in how Drake has seen it fit to strip "Pop Style" and "Controlla" of their defining features. In the former, the displacement of The Throne makes a definitive statement that Drake can survive with or without the old guard, even if the song itself leaves much to be desired. In the latter, the removal of an up-and-comer makes it clear that Drake's time is scarce for hanger-ons, even as he rambles on into the 80-minute mark. In that sense, he still hues close to the hubris of the last two years in the sort of aesthetic he tries to cultivate; that is, spare and without much outside influence. When he does open up airtime for guests- as in "Grammys" or career highlight "Faithful"- he allows for a dynamic that emphasizes the vileness of his own stardom. Consider "Too Good", where he demands Rihanna not, 'play the victim when you're with me
.' He's somehow emerged with a pettiness even "Marvin's Room" couldn't manage, and considering he's been pedaling this schtick since at least Thank Me Later
, that has to be some concession to what Drake can do with himself. Lesser critics have defaulted to citing Views
as a boring retread; in truth, it's the closest Drake has ever come to his own identifiable sound, with all the necessary faults that entails.
In that sense, Views
isn't anything more than double down on Drake's standard, a distillation of his grossest tendencies matched by 40 and Nineteen85's propensity towards lean and minimal beat-making. And hell, it's not as if Views
sets out to be a perfect album (a central fault of The Life of Pablo
's messy manifestation as 'album of the lifetime'). Instead, carrying on that influence, it's the sort of album proud of its mistakes if it services the ends to which its creator is desperate to achieve. Truthfully, Drake's got a lot of ground to cover, especially since this feels like the sort of album that Take Care
deserved in its immediate aftermath. But in abandoning the tenser environs of the last few years in which he fostered negativity and the aura of bad vibes, Views
sounds triumphant; the sound of not caring even as the results themselves don't always justify his confidence. After all, Drake's never been a rapper as much as a brand and an attitude that serves little purpose outside of promoting itself. True to that, Views
sounds like shameless and delusional self-aggrandizing; it's unmistakably a Drake album.