It’s a mystery how one of the most popular artists in the world manages to sound like a guest on his own project. Maybe it’s the features, since almost half of the tracks on Drake’s new playlist, More Life, have some sort of guest verse.
Not that this makes the album any less relevant. It shattered Drake’s own streaming records, receiving almost 100 million streams within the first 24 hours of being released on Apple Music—proving once and for all that Drake could release white noise and still sell.
More Life tends to go in one ear and out the other, flowing cohesively from track to track. Drake often lets the beats play themselves out for 30-40 seconds before jumping in with a verse or a hook. Perhaps this is what he meant when he defined the project as a “playlist” and not a new album. Although, you could be more cynical and argue that this is nothing more than a marketing ploy to excuse laziness.
Sonically Drake’s latest project is a lot like Views, with its Caribbean-influenced dance hall tracks and the occasional banger keeping the listener light on their toes. At this point we all know the sound, since every artist looking for some mainstream appeal is trying to replicate Drake’s chart-topping success. Whether you like the sound or not is another matter entirely. However, I will say that songs like “Passionfruit” and “Blem” are catchy improvements to tracks like “One Dance.”
In terms of its lyrical content, Drake has slightly stepped up his game and removed all trace of the struggle bars that plagued Views (no more “Chain-ing Tatum”). Instead we are given some Drake relationship bars and generic pop lines with some patois slang. The hook on “Get it Together” illustrates the change well: “You need me to get that shit together/ So we can get together.” It’s not memorable when compared to the corny “you toyin’ with it like Happy Meal” line on last years’ “U With Me?” which is for the best. Still, it’s disappointing that Drake can’t find a middle ground between corny and generic.
Let’s talk about the features, which are the best part of the album (playlist).
U.K. acts like Skepta and Sampha get their own tracks, which serve as fantastic displays of their talents. Sampha’s track “4422” ends up being the best song on the mixtape (sorry, “playlist”).
Quavo of Migos fame comes on and delivers a passionate hook on “Portland,” and his performance with Travis Scott makes for an infectiously upbeat track. “Sacrifices” features Young Thug without his signature melodic screams, and he delivers a verse that you never knew you wanted. These amazing guest spots make you forget that industry greats like Kanye are also on the same album (er, “playlist”).
More Life’s central flaw is its lack of memorability. And I’m not just talking about the lyrics. The beats, while unified in sound, are done so to a fault, and tracks become forgettable unless you check their name after every listen. It’s far from awful, but it’s not the confessional Drake that made personable tracks like “Marvin’s Room” such a success.
At the end of the day, for someone who defined so much of what it means to be a pop/hip-hop superstar, I think it’s fair to expect more.