Music Review: Drake - 'Views'

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For more than thirty years, the CN Tower was the tallest free-standing structure in the world. Toronto's most recognizable landmark was original and inventive — a symbol of pride for an entire country. More than just a building, the tower represented the fulfillment of man's most ambitious dreams.

These days, the CN is dirty and fading, mostly unchanged since its completion in 1976. The tower still wows, but has been surpassed in recent years by more impressive architecture in Dubai and Guangzhou

For his fourth studio album, Views, a contemplative (and Photoshopped) Drake finds himself atop the decaying icon, surveying the city with which he is now synonymous. His music joins him in the rarefied air: not new, not different, just...higher.

Frustratingly, the same tired tropes we've come to expect from Aubrey Graham linger once again on Views: the trappings of fame, issues with commitment, a laundry list of well-adjusted exes whose memories he can't seem to shake. The opening track, "Keep the Family Close," is an extravagant ode to broken relationships, disguised as a James Bond opening theme. The mostly drowsy "U With Me?" may have actually been rejected from 2009's So Far Gone mixtape. On "Redemption," Drake groans he's "not in position to deal with commitment." Little does he know, the listener is now in a position to deal with insomnia.

Maybe we're too hard on the former child actor. Drake's themes are worn, sure, but most of us ignore the sad-sack jilted lover persona in favor of the confident hit machine anyway. With 20 tracks, certainly Views delivers a few bright spots. 

That depends on what you're looking for. "Weston Road Flows" draws on an early-90's vibe, and "Feel No Ways" tags along with a mix of R&B keyboards and graffiti snares. "One Dance" and "Controlla," two Jamaican dancehall-inspired tracks, are both primed for success on the summer circuit. But even the best moments — including "Too Good," the fourth-best Drake and Rihanna collaboration — don't inspire repeat listens.

It begs the question: Should Drake even bother with full-length projects?

"Hotline Bling," the most successful pop song of his career, released six months ago and peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. It's tacked on to the end of Views, unlike "Summer Sixteen," a more timely anthem conspicuously absent from this album. Why, then, does Drake release albums at all, if not as vehicles for another round of chart-topping hits?

Thematic storytelling is obviously not one of Drake's strengths. He pales in comparison to would-be contemporaries Kanye, Kendrick and even Rick Ross in this regard. Views is neither cohesive nor focused, and once again we're left to revisit the few worthy tracks and hammer them into the ground until the next batch arrives randomly on Soundcloud.

One day, Aubrey might devote his energy to being the Drake he is rather than the Drake we expect him to be. Maybe then he can shed this boring comfort zone and restore our excitement for a once-innovative talent. |ES|

MusicTim