It may be lonely at the top, but Drake makes success sound downright unbearable on Views. A somber trek through the mind of music’s most self-absorbed misanthrope, Drake’s fourth studio album serves up a tepid mush of R&B balladry, half-hearted brag raps, and a few surprisingly enjoyable ventures into dancehall. It’s his longest and least-essential effort to date, a would-be opus without a mission statement. But the most unfortunate part of Views isn’t the trite lyricism or the rampant misogyny; we’ve come to expect all that from Drizzy. It’s the largely forgettable production from longtime collaborator 40 that fails to save Drake’s mediocre songwriting from itself.
The 6 God intended to release a strictly R&B mixtape back in 2010, but if the indistinguishable malaise of Views is anything to go by, let’s be thankful we never received that project. Drake opens the album with his biggest risk to date, an unabashed attempt at lounge lizardry on “Keep the Family Close”. Unfortunately, the end result is a tuneless embarrassment, with perhaps the clunkiest hook on an album full of them:
“All of my ‘let’s just be friends’ are friends I don’t have anymore
How do you not check on me when things go wrong
Guess I should’ve tried to keep my family closer
“9” is no better, with its inexcusably thin beat doing no favors to Drake’s lifeless bars and awkward silences. “Feel No Ways” rummages through the sonics of previous singles “Find Your Love” and “Hold On We’re Going Home” without the catchiness or cohesion of either hit. Instead, we’re treated to syrupy keyboard pads haphazardly chopped together over a sputtering drumbeat that wouldn’t have made the cut on Kanye West’s 808s & Heartbreak (an album to which Drake owes much of his career). Later on, “Fire & Desire” leans on a labored vocal rhythm where Drake stretches the second-to-last syllable of almost every single phrase in the song, a habit that would have been forgivable on a shorter album but just grates when placed over an hour into the proceedings.
Meanwhile, the bangers are few and far between, and none of them measure up to the understated menace of If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. “Still Here” dilutes it with non-descript chord changes, while “Hype” drags on and on with utterly unengaging, pitch-shifted bell chimes. “Grammys” is even weaker than the worst of Drake’s last collaborative effort with Future, What A Time To Be Alive. All parties involved sound like they’re going through the motions, sleepwalking through repetitive flows and a cookie-cutter trap beat. Future’s hook—a generous term here—consists of variations on the phrases “they gon’ think I won a Grammy” and “I’m hangin’ out, they can’t stand me”. It’s as dry as it reads.
Though highlights are few and far between, Drake still manages some sublime moments on Views. The aforementioned forays into dancehall—“Controlla”, “One Dance”, and “Too Good”—are a breath of fresh air both for the album and Drake’s sound at large. On the contrary, “Weston Road Flows” harkens back to the days of “mixtape Drake”, with a gorgeous Mary J. Blige sample supporting his stroll down memory lane. No half-baked hooks, just straight-up storytelling over sumptuous production. The excellent “U With Me?” follows a similar formula until the beat changes gears and Drake ramps up the intensity by pushing the limit of his singing range:
“Understand I got responsibilities to people that I need, and on my way to make this dough
A lot of niggas cut the check so they can take this flow, a lot of niggas cut the check so they can take this flow
Tryna give your ass the world, you runnin’ your fingers through my curls
You knew me when the kid had waves, but that’s enough of that
You could never say I came up and forgot about your ass and that’s some real shit”
In another world, Views could have surfaced as either a back-to-basics Drake album or a fearless foray into new sounds, but the artist’s indecision stains every aspect of this project. His conflicted stances on relationships, both romantic and platonic, lend credence to the argument that maybe the dour nature of Drake’s Views are warranted—if I was him, I wouldn’t like me either.
Rating 4 out of 10