Drake’s songwriting hits a particular high point when he chooses narcissism over self-awareness. This arguably led to its most defining trait: the incredibly specific and memorable drakeisms, which are sometimes delivered with the belief that they are profound, which also makes them unintentionally funny. Think of the melodramatic and self-loathing details that fill Take care of yourself (“I think I’m addicted to nude pics/And sittin’ talkin’ ’bout bitches we almost had”); the batshit diatribe at the end of “Diamonds Dancing”; the mafia myth making on If you’re reading this, it’s too late (“I order pasta Alfredo/So I eat in the kitchen like I’m in the mafia”). Even on Views, his most serious album, his ego is so inflated that he must surely know how ridiculous he looks. But maybe not.
In recent years, Drake’s growing desire to participate in the joke has made his writing much less exciting. This is how we ended up with the failed launch of the viral dance challenge “Toosie Slide”, the despair of 2021 Certified Loverand now the top-down nature of his new album Honestly it doesn’t matter. The album incorporates styles like Baltimore and Jersey house and club into its whimsical, washed-out foundation. It sounds refreshing and unlike any other Drake album, and it brings back his inescapable trick to legitimizing the trend jump by recruiting genre heavyweights into his orbit: South African DJ Black Coffee and chameleon electronic producer Carnage (under his house alias Gordo) both have major production contributions. It’s light and airy, and the songs flow together like a DJ mix, kind of like 2017. more life. This should all work, but it feels a bit empty for one obvious reason: Drake’s writing lacks its old zest.
Honestly it doesn’t matterThe most memorable line from isn’t actually on the album. In a tearful Apple Music note that accompanied the release, he wrote, “I can’t remember the last time someone hung up their phone, looked me in the eye, and asked me my current view of time.” It’s hilarious – a level of self-obsession and illusion that the record lacks. On “Calling My Name,” where a heart-pounding house beat does all the work, Drake talks about lost love with details that boil down to, “You are my water, my refreshment / Take your clothes off, take the pressure off.” When he’s not saying anything worthwhile, you tend to zoom in on his singing, but his voice is too monotonous to handle the load. Likewise, on “Down Hill,” produced by 40, his lyrics about heartbreak are full of banalities. In the past, his gender twist, even watered down, made himself singular through his writing. Without it, you end up with a flattened version of a pre-existing superior sound.