For some, the anticipation of Drake’s new release VIEWS may have surpassed the process of actually listening to it. That bubbly feeling of suspense, the expectation of sweetness right before it hits the tooth, can often reward the imagination miles beyond what reality serves up. With VIEWS, the primary attempt at brevity seems to have come from edits to the album title itself, which was previously named Views From The 6. Otherwise, the project clocks in at a winded 80 plus minutes, letting the listener in on an immense range of contemplations from Drake, but at times stirring the same motif over and over again into a soft monotony that can’t help but lull ever so slightly.
Had the album itself been trimmed in half, highlighting hook-heavy standouts like “Too Good” featuring Rihanna, “Controlla” and “One Dance” we could be looking at one of the most succinct and radio-friendly Hip Hop albums of all time. But all it takes is a skim through the album’s accompanying digital booklet featuring Drake’s favorite twins, Elizabeth and Victoria Lejonhjärta, to see that he’s not an obvious proponent of the less is more mentality.
And that’s fine; Drake’s public seems generally enamored enough to stay clued-in to each Tweet, Instagram post and miscellaneous snippet to hit the web. Commercially, nobody does it better. VIEWS has already debuted at Number 1 on the Billboard 200 Chart and shattered existing streaming benchmarks, so the overall viability of the project is basically irrefutable. Apple Music’s exclusive premier of the album was a palatable alternative to TIDAL’s momentary monopoly over Kanye’s The Life of Pablo, Rihanna’s ANTI and Beyoncé‘s Lemonade. Drake was already familiar with Apple’s entertainment ecosystem, having previously published almost two dozen radio shows to Apple Music’s Beats 1 with OVO Sound Radio.
The album itself revolves around the city of Toronto; its people, its seasons and most notably, its ferocious winters. Drake represents his hometown with a dedication matched by none and shining the spotlight on the city allows Drake to lean into a wintery soundscape but also shatter that ice on command. Songs like “Redemption” play out like a subzero breakup coming on the heels of perpetual blizzard, while the very next track “With You” featuring PARTYNEXTDOOR takes a similar range of once-melancholy synths, but melts it into a fluttery anthem.
— Drizzy (@Drake) May 3, 2016
VIEWS is a project that will undoubtedly be mulled over on repeat, propelled from the depths of winter into the heart of summer and out of speakers across the globe. Not simply because of its pinnacle moments of brilliance, but more so, because it’s quintessentially Drake and he knows it. To the rap demigod, tacking the lead single, “Hotline Bling” onto the album as a bonus is a lot like spiking the football in the end zone when it’s already 42-0. His celebrity has grown to overshadow JAY Z, Lil Wayne and others who once shared the spotlight with equal acclaim. But from the moment we watched Drake cha-cha through the “Hotline Bling” music video in his hot-red, lacquered nylon Moncler bubble jacket, we knew that when it comes to synthesizing sex with sentiment, Drake is undeniable.
Drake’s greatest power rests in his immaculate versatility; an ability to gracefully pivot between male and female demographics. He can write a verse that nods to relentless masculinity, follow with a hook that’s really just pillow-talk, and then do it all again over a different beat. A similar debonair aesthetic might once have been attributed to Kanye, except that nowadays Kanye has a lot of off-camera moments when the cameras are clearly turned on. Drake on the other hand is sort of like the James Bond of rap music, we want to know what he’s driving, what he’s wearing and who he’s…hanging out with.
Drake is now the cultural epicenter for a generation; a single representation of all things cool, triumphant and impossibly successful. What other artist can consistently pluck heartstrings over the thumping undulation of Noah “40” Shebib’s bass? Let alone, make heartbreak look so chic to begin with? If Drake’s got a bleeding heart, use some gauze, find the right packaging and sell it off to the masses. And while he’s not quite humble, he’s proved repeatedly that he lives the reality that he raps about in his songs. Sometimes to the tune of exceptional victory, but often to the tune of loss. That razor’s edge makes Drake addictive to watch. So maybe the success of VIEWS was predictable all along. On the promotional single leading up to the album’s release, “Summer Sixteen,” Drake leaves metaphor behind as passé and dives headfirst into self-assurance:
“I used to wanna be on Roc-A-Fella/ Then I turned into Jay
Now I got a house in L.A./ Now I got a bigger pool than ‘Ye
And look man ‘Ye’s pool is nice/ Mine’s just bigger is what I’m saying…”
Even when indulging in this sort of dangerous candor, Drake’s complex celebrity, coupled with deeply personal subject matter and masterful production, allows us to speculate on his myth and participate in his product at the very same time.
Having already amassed over 250 million album streams, Drake is poised to keep dominating the charts while further cementing his status as the pop star’s ultimate pop star. But even with record setting success, Drake may find that his deepest questions still remain unanswered. After all, where does a man at the apex of industry go, when he can’t help but keep climbing?
Visuals by Richie Williamson