So when Drake claimed that Views From the 6 (retitled Views just prior to release) would be his magnum opus — his coup de grâce, his grand statement — to put Toronto permanently on top of the pop-culture landscape, I was as much a believer as anyone. His albums had only gotten better, his singles had only charted higher, and his collaborations had only become more interesting as time went on; three weeks ago it seemed like nothing would stop Views from achieving mythical status and being Drake’s landmark record.
So how bad does Views have to be for me to spend two paragraphs building it up? Not bad, actually. Just mediocre. Painfully mediocre, and repetitive, and anti-anthemic, and too long, and really unremarkable in every way. Should we have seen this coming? I don’t think so. Drake’s a workhorse, and he’s been touting Views as his biggest project to date for over a year. An epic failure actually would have been more predictable than the amorphous grey blob of hip-hop he serves up as a musical counterpart to the stormy Toronto sky on the record’s cover.
Speaking of Toronto, for a record meant to be an ode to The 6, there’s a considerable dearth of Toronto-centric sentiment. On second track “9,” Drake declares “I made a decision last night that I would die for it!” before rambling off eighteen more tracks about how long he’s spent wracking his mind over breakups that took place in clubs and hotel rooms around the world. Personally I think Drake knows — and loves — himself far too much to die for anything, but hey, on an album with maybe seven good songs, “9” is one of the better ones, so I’ll buy it.
And those other good songs are sometimes awesome. The mid-album, back-to-back, Caribbean-inspired dancehall fodder “Controlla” and “One Dance” are painful reminders of the direction Views could have taken. Culled from the same warm, tropical territory that made “Hotline Bling” such a breath of fresh air compared to the dark, haunting atmosphere carved out by trap’s sudden rise in mainstream popularity, both tracks give us the sweet, sing-rapping Drake who bends and pieces his words together like a seamless sine wave. “That’s why I need a one dance / Got a Hennessy in my hand / One more time ‘fore I go,” Drake sings on “One Dance’s” jaunty, piano laden chorus, and it’s in these impersonal but romantic statements that Drake shines brightest (see “I’ll take care of you” and “Just hold on we’re going home” from previous smash hits).
But these twin fantasies are immediately usurped by the low-pitched, uninteresting “Grammys” featuring a Future verse that has the unfortunate effect of looking like the unrefined little brother of current chart-topping rap single “Panda” (which is understandably criticized for ripping off Future’s iconic sound). The second part of the record’s second side is a similar slog through the typically slow, brooding production Drake’s become known for (credited to his longtime friend and producer Noah ’40’ Shebib). The production that on If You’re Reading This sounded industrial and aggressive has become a murky swamp of anti-production. “Faithful” is a painfully slow ballad reminiscent of middle of the road ’90s R&B that sees Drake wade for the hundredth time through the newly-in-love Drake quagmire, with lyrics more generic than anything he’s ever made (“Get all your affairs in order / I won’t have affairs, I’m yours, girl, faithful”). Ditto for “Feel No Ways,” which at least brings in the fan favorite weed-and-sex Drake (“There’s more to life than sleeping in and getting high with you”).
Picking apart Drake rehashing previous Drakes is almost unfair, though. Drake is the quintessential self-aware rapper. He’s only ever rapping about one life, one perspective — his. But the guy has put out 50-something songs in the last year, which averages out to a song a week about Drake’s life. Is there enough material there to be mined? Views would suggest a succinct ‘no.’ “Pop Style” features tough guy leader-of-the-crew Drake (seen most famously in 2013 on “Started From the Bottom”). “Fire & Desire” is I-just-wanna-get-married-and-be-happy Drake (“You just like my sidekick, I just wanna wife / fulfill all your desires”), a sentiment he’s been moping about since 2010 on “Unforgettable”.
The Drake we don’t see a lot of on Views, unfortunately, is fun-loving, happy Drake. The wink at the camera “Hotline Bling” comes in as a throwaway at the end of an otherwise grey album, brightened by the aforementioned highlights as well as the Shakira-esque Rihanna collaboration “Too Good.” “Child’s Play” also features a great lyric about fighting in The Cheesecake Factory that serves as a portal to an additional bizzaro Views, one in which Drake’s often humorous personal anecdotes don’t serve to show him as a sobering, serious sex and alcohol addicted heartthrob but as an affectionate and affable rapper trying to navigate his own romances under public scrutiny. “U With Me?” is a favorite for its clever wordplay describing a troubled relationship via text and Tinder symbolism (“All that grey in our conversation history / we both doin’ the same thing / Slidin on a late night”), but these come between quasi-sentimental ballads in which Drake bashes himself through one degree of separation by bashing his romantic partners.
And that’s the core issue at the heart of Views. Drake is trying to make serious, extremely personal music, and it’s just not fun to listen to or stimulating to think about. I buy into the Drake image more than anyone; I get the seemingly contradictory dichotomy that Drake projects as both a tough guy and an emotional punching bag. It’s classic rock star bullshit, but Drake gets a pass; he’s famous enough to be whatever he wants, and every time I listen to “Energy” or “Know Yourself” from If You’re Reading This, I almost even believe it’s true. Views, by contrast, offers no compelling reason to buy into 2016 Drake. There are some great tunes here, as is to be expected by someone with his connections and experience, but Views is an ocean away from the great album Drake promised, that he’s spent years working to perfect.
“I’m assuming everybody’s 35 and under / that’s when I plan to retire man it’s already funded,” Drake raps on the only old-school Drake song on the record, “Weston Road Flows.” I just hope that when he gets there, he’s not trying to push it to 40.
Article by HR Huber-Rodriguez