Kanye West’s 2010 magnum opus, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, takes a piercing look at the relationship between humanity and celebrity. Such a duality is clearly what Drake sought to explore on his 4th studio effort, Views, yet he falls short at almost every turn. What could have been a carefully curated display of pop-sensibility and hit-making turns out to be an elongated crawl through the desolate psyche of a man whose previously endearing introspection has been eclipsed by self-absorption. His own attempts at advertising his plights on a pedestal feels more pedestrian than exceptional as Drake builds on the most pandering aspects of his past two releases, Nothing Was the Same and If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, with none of the earnest self-examination of Take Care. A sulken seven-foot behemoth perched atop Toronto’s CN Towers, Drake has yet to find a new way to connect with those of us watching from below.
Views can be considered familiar territory for Drizzy more often than not as the writing has gotten overwhelmingly bad: struggle bars force “Pop Style” (“Got so many chains they call me Chaining Tatum”) to come to a grinding halt, “Weston Road Flows” substitutes insightful storytelling for inconsequential banter, and “Feel No Ways” houses tone-deaf remarks, which highlights the notion that Drake has seemingly regressed as a vocalist. The delivery is consistently leaden, as heard on “Redemption,” which is extremely flat in its execution. His style has been overdone to the point of diminishing returns, and the warmer tones and borrowed patois that feign progression on the second half of this project prove to be negligible when surrounded by such stagnation. Drake’s lyrics, at face value, come off as the perpetual embodiment of the Mr. Krabs meme — he’s always in utter shock that nondescript woman #666 can’t wait around for him or live up to his surely reasonable standards. Views is a manifestation of the artist’s most possessive and petty attributes. “Child’s Play” is the greatest offender of Drake’s kitschy writing as it, no bullshit, has Drake threatening to give his girl “back to the hood” because she dared to cause a scene at a Cheesecake Factory he loves to frequent. After four albums, he still seems as emotionally stunted as he did when penning Thank Me Later’s centerpiece “Find Your Love,” and even moreso creatively.
This meandering affair hits its stride only when it capitalizes off Drake’s sense of melody and packages his limited range as a vocalist into easily digestible offerings. The borrowed but infectious soul brimming underneath left-field standouts such as “Controlla” (complete with a Beenie Man co-sign during the outro) or the Rihanna assisted “Too Good,” serve as a much needed contrast to the project’s dreadfully icy sheen. The jovial bounce of the latter collaboration makes it the spiritual sequel to the duo’s recent hit, ‘Work,” and turns out to be one of the best written tracks on the album due to its insistence on presenting both sides of a given story — not just Drake’s typical self-aggrandizement. These colorful vibrations provide a necessary respite from the heavy-handed self-pity that plagues much of the album and create a groove that the 6ix God should’ve explored more thoroughly.
The soundtrack to Drake’s soporific narrative sees his longtime collaborator, Noah “40” Shebib, reeling in his usual reach and working alongside rising stars Allen Ritter, WizKid and Nineteen85, as well as more household names such as Bo1da, Metro Boomin and Kanye West. The (probably purposefully) bloated tracklist is carefully sequenced to deliver an immersive listen, even if Drake is ultimately unable to match the cinematic soundscape. It’s an occasionally exciting backdrop that has 40 & Co. playing with a mess of influences, from MAVADO to Mary J Blige. However, Views rarely steps out of the sparse, moody niche we’ve come to expect and they only manage to add a few vibrant strokes to an otherwise monochromatic canvas.
Full of grand aspirations but poor taste, Drake assumes we’re all here to wallow in his disenchantment and forgets that he’s there to convince us of its continued gravity. Drake feeds his own ego and starves his humility. There are engaging moments scattered throughout, such as the subtle outro to “9” or dvsn’s stellar turn on “Faithful,” but from the content to the execution, Views is strangled by the 6ix God’s own delusions. Popcaan is inexplicably absent from the final version of “Controlla” (even though Drake flips “Love Yuh Bad” for a standout moment on “Too Good”), DMX, who wanted nothing to do Drake in the past, now opens up the third track and what the late Pimp C would’ve thought about his vocals being woven into the saccharine serenade that is “Faithful” isn’t hard to imagine.
Therein lies the main issue with Views: Drake’s ability to emote hasn’t breached any new ground. During the Zane Lowe interview that preceded the world premiere of this record, Drake emphasized: “I feel like I told everybody how I’m actually feeling…not what this person’s going through…this is more like ‘This is where I’m at.’” In the same session, the man of the hour declared “I love that I’m the guy that doesn’t take himself too seriously.” There’s a disconnect between the two answers; there’s no real shred of the man that claims to not take himself “too seriously” on this 82-minute testament to insufferable insecurity.