Drake Views OVO / Young Money / Republic
The concept of Views is to represent the changing seasons in Toronto. Drake is a master of capturing a weather – the moonlit mahoganies of Take Care, the fresh breeze of Nothing Was The Same, the overcast greys of last year’s If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. He works best when he’s trying to build an overarching feeling.
Views, then, would ideally have been the union of these tonal textures – embodying the full spectrum of Toronto’s cycle from winter through to summer. The hope was that Drake would emerge from the decidedly bitter climes of If You’re Reading… and present something diverse and rounded. His mode of operation for the last couple of years made this look feasible. He’s gained a reputation as a stylistic curator for the mainstream – pop’s canny magpie, accumulating sounds and styles from across the world.
Unfortunately, Views is more of a flatline continuation of Drake’s tried and tested modes. The record is wearyingly long. Take Care and Nothing Was The Same felt generous, as if he was giving us a tour of every room in a suite he’d put together by hand. Here, it just sounds as if there’s been a lack of quality control.
Hype is another slice of isolated tough-talk which could have easily been a leftover from the If You’re Reading… sessions. His team-up with Future on Grammys is an uninspiring routine where both rappers wheel out the kind of stock braggadocio which only worked on their joint What A Time To Be Alive mixtape as an impulsive, off-album workout. Elsewhere, Drake seems to be trapped in a continuum where he can only fall back on his default settings, and all the lamentations about the perils of fame, the game and the heart eventually blur into one introspective fog.
While you could argue that these are the trademark lyrical themes many of us love him for, Views felt like the moment Drake needed to present something new. His knack for coining technically atrocious, but strangely entertaining one-liners is starting to lose its charm, and the quantity of dud punchlines here can’t be ignored. I can just about take “My wifey a spice like David Beckham” but I draw the line at “You toying with it like Happy Meal”.
There are great moments, of course, just not enough of them. One Dance, With You and Too Good are all outstanding pop songs – fresh, propulsive and full of life. It’s no coincidence that these three tracks feature guests, the handful of visitors Drake allows in provide much needed variation. By the time Rihanna appears on the 16th of 20 tracks, you almost wish she was coming to pick you up.
Whatever you thought of his work up until now, Drake has always seemed like one of rap’s most ingenious strategists. His tactics up until this point have been smart setups – forming the right allegiances, picking the right fights and striking at the opportune moments. In the lead up to Views, it felt like he was about to make another winning manoeuvre. It’s this elaborate warmup which makes Views so disappointing. A great album artist turning in an overly long and largely unimaginative extension of things we’ve already heard.
Where his other works have triumphed as crisp expressions of atmospheres and timeframes, Views finds Drake lost in a kind of hinterland. If there was a single weather captured on Views, it would be the one depicted in the artwork. A kind of half-lit grey casting a thin shadow over Toronto’s CN tower with Drake superimposed in the middle, somehow not quite present. He’s made himself visible to everyone, but he’s staring off into the distance.