With as much hype as this album has received, the end result is displeasingly dull.
Since the release of his last studio album, Nothing Was The Same in the summer of 2013, Drake has kept his name incredibly relevant in the music industry. From the surprise retail mixtape, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, to the disappointingly unfinished collaborative effort with Future, What a Time To Be Alive, the Toronto rapper has teased fans for almost two years with what should be a career-topping project – Views. However, the album stumbles to find its feet as it takes the listener on a stop-start journey of many musical phases, starting with bold orchestral instrumentation in ‘Keep the Family Close’ and ending with the ultimate pop hit of 2015 ‘Hotline Bling’. The journey is by no means a short one. Spanning an unjustifiably unheard of 82 minutes, Views becomes tiresome before entering its final quarter. However, it’s not all doom and gloom on the six side.
Production on the album is handled primarily by one Noah “40” Shebib – a lifelong friend of Drake. His production credits on 12 of the songs including ‘9’ and ‘Redemption’ provide listeners with the distinct OVO sound that they have come to love. Synths that have been submerged underwater combined with the hard-hitting hi-hats that travel from left to right ear make for incredibly satisfying listening. 40’s production is proof of his progression, making him the real talent on this album.
Clocking in at a whopping 20 songs, Drake’s fourth studio album is the same song length as his career-defining Take Care, making it almost a 2.0 version with ‘Redemption’ as its ‘Marvin’s Rooms’. Whilst that is a good thing in terms of replicating such a ground-breaking sound from what was a highly critically-acclaimed album, it’s also exceptionally safe. Nothing about the concept behind Views feels unique in any way. In fact, the same can be said for a lot of the songs on this album. Very few tracks stand out, regrettably admitting that ‘Hotline Bling’ makes the biggest impact. ‘Still Here’ makes a great case for being one of the most noteworthy songs on the album but that is only because it plays like the best of a bad bunch of substance lacking songs.
Despite this, Drake has taken an interesting new direction in approaching dancehall music – a scene that is becoming increasingly popular in Toronto. If Views is truly an album about the city that Drake loves rather than recycled incessant self-loathing, then the homage to dancehall music in his city is something that is done well. Despite its repetitive and tiresome beat, ‘One Dance’ was our first hint at Drake’s take on dancehall. A real highlight on the album is ‘Too Good’ featuring Rihanna is a track that acts as a successor to ‘Work’. The track undeniably has dancehall coursing through its veins coming to a close with a sample from ‘Love Yuh Bad’, a track by dancehall legend, Popcaan, who missed out on inclusion in the album cut of ‘Controlla’.
Popcaan’s nonappearance on ‘Controlla’ is not the only absence on the album. Surprising to many fans was the absence of Kanye West and Jay Z on ‘Pop Style’, one of the singles released before the album. Drake explained to Zane Lowe in an interview on the Beats 1 radio show prior to a full length stream of the album that
“I just ended up going with my version of that song. Jay didn’t really do a verse. Really I was just trying to get ‘Ye on it at first, and ‘Ye just sent it to me like that, like, ‘Yo, Jay just kind of did my first two lines for me. He was just here, and that’s how we flexed it.’ It was cool, he was all excited about, ‘Yo, put The Throne, it’ll be a crazy moment!’”.
Additionally, the lack of ‘Summer Sixteen’ caused a stir amongst fans. It is a good decision, however, as the track acted as a final announcement of the forthcoming views, before official singles from the album started to be released. His announced musical takeover in the summer of ’16 is further reinforced by this track in his North American tour alongside Future under the same name as the song.
There are some particularly puzzling songs on this album, most notably ‘Faithful’ and ‘Grammys’ featuring Future. Quite simply put, ‘Grammys’ is one of the worst Drake songs I have ever heard. Despite its flaws regarding the fact that it felt unfinished, What A Time To Be Alive demonstrated the chemistry that Drake and Future have in forming certified club bangers. ‘Jumpman’ and ‘Big Rings’ are hard evidence of this. As Drake told Zane Lowe in his interview before the album launch, WATTBA was produced from start to finish in only six days. For what is meant to be the most important album of his career, one would have expected Drake to give collaboration with Future a tad more time to ensure its listenability, let alone its perfection. Future’s collaborative effort on Views feels extremely disjointed and interrupts the flow of the album.
One track that I can’t quite get my head around is ‘Faithful’ featuring Pimp C. The deceased Southside legend features an opening verse in which, before handing the baton onto Drake, states in his southern gutter tongue “I don’t fuck with nobody in this shit but Bun” – referring to Bun B, the other half of Pimp’s rap duo, UGK. Pimp C literally says that he doesn’t fuck with anyone but Bun B and yet Drake sampled his vocals against the will of the philosophy of a dead man.
For an album that has had as much marketing and social media coverage as Views has, the final result is disappointingly underwhelming. Conceptually, the album fails to live up to the name. With tracks so unsubtly named such as ‘6PM in New York’, ‘6 God’ and ‘You and the Six’ If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late is more deserving of the name Views. Upon listening to this album I was fully expecting to be taken on a wildly creative journey with a clear beginning, middle and end of how the city of Toronto shaped and created the artist that Drake is today. Instead what the audience receives is a frustratingly safe package with a few stand out tracks that have little to no significance in artistically informing the audience on the Six.
Views is out now via OVO Sound.