“I don’t want you to get it right away… Great music takes a little work. It takes elevating your listening level. – Aubrey Drake Graham
After almost three years of anticipation and anxiety, Toronto’s sweetheart Aubrey Drake Graham released Views, his fourth studio album; this excludes 2015’s “mixtape” If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. Drake announced on August 6, 2014 that the title of his next album would be Views From The 6. Drake would shorten it to Views closer to the album release to make it less Toronto-centric. The build-up for the album has been bigger than any of his albums, thanks to the long delay between 2013’s Nothing Was The Same and 2016—his longest break between albums to date. In that time, Drake released many singles, including “Hotline Bling,” “Right Hand,”“Summer Sixteen,” “One Dance” and “Pop Style.”
On Thursday, April 28, OVO Sound Radio on Apple Music was expected to live stream the project in its entirety. However, to everyone’s surprise, the album officially dropped on Apple Music a few strikes before midnight on Thursday. Not surprisingly, the World Wide Web erupted in a flurry of excited and antsy posts from fans everywhere waiting to hear the first note of Views grace their ears on late Thursday night.
“Views already a classic,” Drake claims on “Hype,” the fifth track off the monster 20-track project. In a way, he’s right, though “already” is the key word. When you have as many committed supporters as almost any other artist in popular music, you can be pretty confident that at least a few hundred thousand of them are going to adore your new record. The strength of this record is something that is not found in his previous projects (even though Take Care is an arguable winner among them all) and more than outshines his most recent collaboration project with rapper Future, What A Time To Be Alive.
The Bond-esque opening to “Keep the Family Close” paints a picture of a curtain opening to Aubrey Graham introducing his project to the world after working on it for such a long period of time. As the album progresses, you can’t help but fall in love with Noah “40” Shebib’s production throughout the album’s entirety. Even though other producers (including Kanye West, Southside, Majid Jordan’s Jordan Ullman, and many more) played their part on the project, 40 comes into his own on this album and shows his best production to date. As a RapGenius comment stated, “When 40 cooks them like this, Drake can simply just breathe on a song and the track would be heat.”
While Drake calls himself “the most successful rapper 35 and under” on the smooth, Mary J. Blige-sampling standout “Weston Road Flows,” Views arrives at a time when he’s blending rap, R&B, and pop more freely than ever. Last year’s “Hotline Bling” was one of his biggest hits to date despite lacking any rap verses from the Toronto native, while Rihanna’s Drake-featuring “Work” is finally dropping down the Hot 100 after spending ten weeks at the top. Neither song is on the 19-track Views (“Hotline Bling” is in the 20 slot as a bonus track), but when was the last time Drake seemed short on melodies and hooks? Songs like “Controlla,” “One Dance” and “Too Good” incorporate the sounds of reggae, Afropop and U.K. Funky and are the album’s standout moments. “Feel No Ways” is the purest pop song here, which makes for a great cruising song meant for road trips and holding hands with your significant other (in a perfect world). With Drake, the concern is not whether he can keep making hits, but rather whether he can continue to evolve and keep his spot on the throne as one of music’s leading influencers.
He must be aware of that, because he rarely seems preoccupied with sheer catchiness on Views. His love life, whether that means being unable to commit to someone who wants him or else getting friend-zoned by someone he desires, is bothering him more than ever. On the slower tempo tracks of the album “Redemption” (if you listen closely, you can hear the sample of “One Wish” by Ray J) and “Fire & Desire,” Drake is worried about being exposed for one shortcoming or another, in regards to a woman taking advantage of him or him going through another heartbreak. That kind of bluntness in his lyrics ends up being more effective than his attempts at cleverness, which, with exceptions, typically feel too simple and obvious (“I had your back when all you used to do was front,” and so on). Moving forward with the expected shout out Drizzy had to give to Toronto, “9” and “Still Here” are Drake’s allegiance to the 6, where the rapper pseudo-thanks his city for always having his back and mending him into the artist and man he is today.
During Drake’s occasional rambling and the album’s slower moments, Views can start to stretch out and seem a bit monotonous, but a definite positive is how a song might do something totally different than the one before or after. That’s due to both Drake’s vocal versatility and the talents of the featured artists and producers here. Combine his almost on-point verses with the album’s immaculate production, and Views consistently sounds like a superstar and his elite group of collaborators operating at peak performance. While much of the album has the cookie-cutter, stripped-down feel of past Drake songs, there are also refreshing sounds here, as Drizzy’s taste for Afropop and dancehall is increasingly apparent; he’s branching out.
Are you just reading this review to find out which tracks are the bangers to play at your next pre-party? “Hype” is one, the Future-featuring “Grammys” is another (even though Future’s hook sounds like he copied and pasted the same seven words over and over again), and the closing title track is yet another. However, if we were to look at Views in comparison to his hip-hop peers, the rapper is not branching out and being as much of a risk-taker. Instead, it’s an album of various colors and dispositions that come together well enough, getting extra wins from its guests (including, by the way, the late Pimp C on “Faithful”). At the center of it all is, of course, Aubrey Drake Graham, whose place at the height of the music world seems secure for now. With all the resources and connections he has made over the past years that helped put this project together, Views may have been too big to fail, but he’s still maintained enough of his unique talent that it’s unlikely anyone could have done it better.
Top 5 (top 5, top 5, top 5) notable tracks: “Feel No Ways,” “Redemption,” “Still Here,” “Controlla,” “Childs Play”
Listen to the full album on Apple Music, or wait until this Friday (May 5) for Views to release on all streaming platforms!
By Rupal Mehta