Rachel Reviews: Drake’s ‘VIEWS’

Drake-Views-Album-Cover

 

I know, it seems strange to review Drake’s “VIEWS” first, which came out after Beyoncé dropped “Lemonade,” but I was sent zip files of both albums by people (who shall remain unnamed) on the same day, and “VIEWS” just happened to load first. That’s pretty much the extent of my reasoning. I’ll try and put out a review for “Lemonade” (as if you haven’t heard enough about it yet) soon, but for now, read on to see what I think of Drake’s new album. Thanks for visiting!


 

There are 20 songs on “VIEWS,” so I won’t do what I did with Kendrick’s “untitled unmastered” and review each track individually — instead, I’ll mention a few overarching themes, as well as my picks for the best and worst songs from Drake’s fourth studio album.

 

MAIN TAKEAWAYS

 

1. “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and Drake — Drake took the one more traveled by”

I guess this is my pretentious way of saying that I think Drake is rehashing the same topics and personas he’s tackled before on his previous albums. There’s the paranoid, untrusting Drake from “Energy” that pops up again in “Keep the Family Close” and “U With Me?”. We also have the braggadocious, “I’m better than everyone,” 6-God figure we’ve heard in “Started from the Bottom,” and now hear in “Hype,” Grammys” and “Pop Style.” And of course, the unlucky-in-love and pining Drake reappears in “Redemption,” “Faithful,” “Too Good,” “Fire & Desire” and most famously, his 2015 hit “Hotline Bling.” There really aren’t any new topics he’s bringing up here, which is a little disappointing and which keeps “VIEWS” from reaching Classic Album status to me. But granted, some of these songs are catchy as hell, so I’ll let him slide a bit.

 

drakecrying

2. The production is on-point, almost too on-point …  

Longtime Drake collaborator and friend Noah “40” Shebib produced the majority of the album’s songs, so you know it’s going to be good. However, there were times when it felt like the production was so great it overshadowed what Drake was trying to get across. A prime example is on “9,” the second song on the album. It starts off cool and dream-trance-y, but Drake fails to say anything important or memorable for me, except convey a general sense of “I’m coming for you, bitch,” which isn’t anything fresh from him, although the phrase “turn the six upside down, it’s a nine now” makes me laugh.

“Feel No Ways,” the fourth track, has some really cool retro sounds going on, thanks to production by Jordan Ullman, one half of OVO-signed duo Majid Jordan. The group’s known for its smooth and ultra nostalgia beats (Frank Ocean reference, anyone?) so I totally dug the vibe, but again, I didn’t really care about Drake’s lyrics. He’s done at least five other songs (probably more) about how he can’t move on from a relationship, so what else is there to say?

Moreover, while the production of each song was generally solid, there were times when the sound felt discordant. I get it’s supposed to reflect the changes in Toronto’s seasons, but each season/section of the album didn’t really seem to connect to the other. It jumps from orchestral and big-band reminiscent on “Keep the Family Close,” to retro on “Feel No Ways,” classic R&B with “Weston Road Flows,” then dancehall and afrobeat on “One Dance.” They’re all cool sounds on their own, but together it feels a little messy.

3. What’s Hot

There are some great tracks on the album, the first being “Hype,” which as I mentioned, is standard Drake bragging (“They wan’ be on TV right next to me / You cannot be right here next to me”), but it’s seriously intense and probably one of the hardest-hitting songs on the entire album.

Next is “Redemption,” which is Drake crooning at its finest. I loved the lines “Aw, please give me time / Cause I’m searchin’ for these words to say to you,” which was accompanied with a kind of sincerity that makes me slightly less annoyed that he keeps doing these same kind of lovelorn songs.

Another of my favorites was “Faithful,” the ninth track on “VIEWS,” and dvsn’s verse completely stole the show for me. The album has contributions from the likes of Future and Rihanna, but without a doubt my favorite feature was from the lesser-known act dvsn (or is it Dvsn?), the other Canadian R&B group signed to OVO besides Majid Jordan.¹ It was actually breathtaking to hear Daniel Daley’s² lush vocals, accompanied by the chorus — and when he hits those high notes … 

damndaniel

Sorry, I had to.

Other highlights include “One Dance” and the song everyone and their mother know, “Hotline Bling.” They were released before “VIEWS” came out, so I don’t have too much to add that hasn’t been said already. The latter is insanely catchy, but also condescending when you really examine the lyrics (why is Drake trying to stop this girl from being independent and having a good time??), so take it with a grain of salt.

4. What’s Cold

There wasn’t any song I hated on the album, but tracks like “Weston Road Flows” fell a little flat for me, especially with the way Mary J. Blige’s song, “Mary’s Joint” was used. Was it just me or did it sound like someone was playing that track twice at the same time? It just seemed messy and disjointed to me, although there were some great throwback references in the song, from TLC to T-Minus to Hpnotiq.

I also found both “Child’s Play” and “Pop Style” to be quite dumb, although the latter is slightly catchier. The former is pretty patronizing and basically says to the girl in question that if she doesn’t act the way Drake wants her, he’ll “give [her] back to the hood.” Also, lines like “she rode that dick like a soldier” won’t be putting him into the lyrical Hall of Fame any time soon.

Furthermore, while “Pop Style” is fun, I feel like the line, “Got so many chains they call me Chaining Tatum,” compels me to hate it on principle. I expect that from someone like 2 Chainz (it certainly would make more sense given his moniker), not Drake. That’s probably one of the dumbest things I’ve heard thus far in the year, and that’s taking into account the fact that I found out they’re making Angry Birds into a goddamn movie.

FINAL THOUGHTS

 

Like I said, “VIEWS” is far from a classic album, but it still has some really great tracks. There are slow jams for those inclined to sit and reflect while sullenly nursing a glass of red wine, but for people who want to get up and move, the album provides tracks for livelier scenarios as well.

Overall, I see “VIEWS” as more of a bridge to cross before getting to the really good stuff, and it makes me look forward to what Drake has to offer in the future. Apparently he’ll be coming out with more stuff in the summer, so stay tuned for that.


 

Scale: 1 (frozen) – 10 (boiling)

Rating: 8, or the attractiveness of white Chrises.

There are so many Chrises, I kind of forget who’s who. There’s Evans, Pine, Hemsworth, Pratt — the list goes on. They’re all attractive and probably really nice, but no Chris really sticks out to me since they all have that superhero-playing-suburban-dad-who-barbecues thing going on. Drake’s album is comparable: it’s catchy and agreeable, but not really that different from “Take Care” or “Nothing Was the Same.”

See you soon for Beyonce’s “Lemonade”!


Footnotes, because I’m fancy

1. What is it with Canada these days? They’re killing it on the R&B front: There’s The Weeknd, PARTYNEXTDOOR, Majid Jordan, Tory Lanez, dvsn, etc.
2. Disclaimer: I’m not 100 percent sure if it actually is Daniel Daley on the vocals. Besides producer Nineteen85, it’s still unclear who’s exactly in the group, although there are rumors Daley is also part of dvsn. So for now, I’m assuming it’s Daley singing in “Faithful,” otherwise my meme-ing doesn’t work at all here.
Advertisements

Hot and Cold: Week of 4/11 (ish)

ovo

It’s been a whiiile since I’ve done another “Hot and Cold”! This week I talk about Drake, new bills and whitewashing (cheery topic I know), among other things.


HOT

1. Drake releases new songs, date of album drop & plans to trademark his name (probably) 

There’s been a slew of Drake news in April, from him dropping two new songs, to him announcing that his upcoming album, “Views From the 6” will be out on April 29. Artists who are rumored to be involved with the album include Beyoncé, Jay Z, Kanye and even Willow Smith.

I’m stoked for the album, which will be Drake’s fourth and the follow-up to “Nothing Was the Same,” but right now I’m just wondering what’s next for young Aubrey. He’s done everything from rapping, singing, acting, to even hosting (both “Saturday Night Live” and the ESPY Awards) — what can we expect in the future? A collaboration between OVO and actual owls? Trademarking the name “Drake”? It doesn’t seem that unthinkable, since the last time Drake Bell’s name was mentioned, it was probably in a sentence like, “Who is Drake Bell again?”

In the words of Tyra Banks: “Two Drake’s stand before me … but only one can be America’s Next Top Drake.”

drake bar mitzvah

Drake on “SNL” in 2014

2. BuzzFeed’s profile of Karyn Kusama

I know, I know. It’s been BuzzFeed this, BuzzFeed that on this blog lately, but I really do have to give it props. BuzzFeed writer Adam B. Vary wrote a beautiful profile of director Karyn Kusama, who, despite making an acclaimed debut film, didn’t have the ascent to stardom other directors with her talent had because she was a woman. It’s a great read for a better understanding of the unfairness in Hollywood and how hard it is for movies to get made that aren’t about straight, white guys. 

3. Profile of Metro Boomin

As y’all can see by now, I love me some profiles. I always like it more when writers actually get to follow their subjects around (which sounds more trench-coaty and suspicious than it is) and spend a few days with them. It allows you to know that person in a much more intimate way than just asking, “Who’s your favorite artist?” or “What can we expect from your next album?”

This profile features the very in-demand producer, Metro Boomin. He’s known for producing for artists like Future (and for Future’s now-famous intro, “If Young Metro don’t trust you I’m gon’ shoot you”). But this piece dives in deeper, and examines Metro’s (real name Leland Tyler Wayne) childhood and how he got to where he is now.

At 23 years old, Metro seems relatively inexperienced, but he’s actually been on his production grind for about 10 years now, and even left the prestigious Morehouse College to follow his passion. It’s a wonderful look into an artist who’s so passionate and fun to be around — maybe that’s why Future values him and whether or not he trusts you? 

metro boomin

4. New bills, bills bills

It was announced just two days ago that famed abolitionist and overall bad-ass Harriet Tubman will grace the front of the new $20 bills, and that other influential figures like Sojourner Truth, Eleanor Roosevelt and Martin Luther King, Jr. will be on the $10 and $5 bills. Go inclusion! 

However, my initial excitement to this news was slightly dimmed by the fact that former President Andrew Jackson, who is on the $20 bill now, will still be featured on the back. Remember, this is the guy who was responsible for the “Trail of Tears,” which some estimate killed nearly 6000 Cherokee. So the announcement is progress … I guess? 

COLD

1. Whitewashing in “Ghost in the Shell” film

Yes, let’s cast Scarlett Johansson as a Japanese character in a movie that’s based on a Japanese manga. What, was she just so hooked from being in “Lost in Translation” that she just had to do something involving Japan again? If you love Japan so much, just stick to Instagramming your sushi like normal white girls, ScarJo, and let actual Asians tell their stories for once.

[EDIT 5/1: I wrote about whitewashing and Asian representation for my school paper, check it out here: bit.ly/1QweJcx!]

2. Earthquakes in Japan and Ecuador

At least 40 people were killed and 1000 injured after two earthquakes in Japan last week, and the earthquake in Ecuador has claimed the lives of more than 270 people. It really puts shit into perspective, like the realization that you have no idea where Ecuador is on the map and what that says about both you and the American school system. So if you can, please go and donate to charities like Oxfam.

01-ecuador-earthquake

Aftermath of earthquake in Ecuador


That’s all for this week! See you next time (although that could be in like a week, or a month or whenever Frank Ocean drops that album (a.k.a. never)).

Hot and Cold: Week of 2/29

Welcome to Hot and Cold, where each week, I talk about the best and worst things that happened in that week. I decided to include stuff from Sunday, Feb. 28, because why not, it’s my damn blog.

enhanced-4298-1457042172-1

HOT:

1. Chris Rock at the Oscars
I want to give Chris Rock all the credit in the world for not holding back and really going to town on Hollywood and its insidious anti-blackness. It takes nuance to be able to point out that the racism du jour isn’t the overt racism we’re used to; it’s the kind of racism where “the nicest, white people on Earth,” who are all gung ho about Obama, refuse to hire black people.

2. Kendrick Lamar’s new album
“Untitled unmastered” is basically composed of stuff that didn’t make it on “To Pimp a Butterfly,” but damn, even Kendrick’s leftovers are 1000x better than Tyga on his best day (which isn’t saying much). If you want to know my exact thoughts on it, please read my review here.

*End of shameless plug.*

3. Pinot Noir from “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” is a thing now
I wasn’t aware that there was even a demand for Titus Andromedon’s pinot noir to actually be sold, but sometimes the best thing in life is shit you don’t expect. It’s 25 bucks, which is 20 bucks above my alcohol budget (don’t knock $5 wine until you try it. It doesn’t smell like feet. That much), but I’m a sucker for packaging and pop-culture references so I must have it.

enhanced-31403-1457041476-22

COLD:

1. Chris Rock at the Oscars 

Now I want to solidly smack Chris Rock with a shoe for that Asian joke (and Sacha Baron Cohen for even remotely implying that Asians are comparable to minions, a.k.a. the bane of my existence). Bringing out this old trope of Asians being good at math is not only wildly unoriginal, it’s indicative of the fact that many people claiming to be progressive still have blind spots when it comes to including people of other ethnicities. While it’s atrocious that films featuring black people are not given the accolades that they deserve, what about Hispanics and Asians? Are we not “people of color,” just like black people? Do we not deserve for our stories to be told? Are we not routinely skipped over for roles and instead have white people play us instead (let’s not forget the “Avatar” disaster)?

When you talk about people of color and only include black people, while making jokes about Asians, you are pretending to be progressive when in reality you are still excluding many voices that should also be heard. We all deserve better.

[EDIT 5/1: *shameless plug #2* I actually wrote an article in my school paper about the Oscars and whitewashing, so check it out here: bit.ly/1QweJcx. It also includes a more nuanced take on Chris Rock’s role in suppressing Asian voices, which I realized after writing this “Hot and Cold” post!]

LUKEWARM:

1. Peyton Manning is Retiring
I only include this as a way to convince myself that I’m remotely cultured about football. Truth be told, the only time I’ve ever watched Peyton Manning was in that SNL sketch, and he was so good in that I don’t really care what he did on the field. I mean, I barely understand what a quarterback is, and it was only recently that I learned that halfback is a real position (is halfback twice as important as quarterback, since it’s twice as much as 25 percent?? Someone help me). Adios, Peyton. Maybe I’ll see you in a Bud Light commercial one day.

I love sport.

1439914545-peyton

 

Until next week, folks.