Drake’s Honestly, Nevermind: best served tepid

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So far in 2022, music lovers have been marked by career highlights in the form of new recordings by hip-hop hippos Pusha T and Kendrick Lamar. So when Drake announced that his next album would be released in less than 24 hours this week, along with the pixelated metal lyrics, it was assumed that he was going to struggle with the great rap releases of the year. It was a dubious prospect: for a very long time the Canadian artist did not release solid full-fledged works. This is not to say that he completely detracts from his catalog of the past five years; while his last full-length albums were voraciously long and had little to say, Drake always sailed by with at least one firework per era—a flexible hook to waddle through clubs, radio, viral videos, and streaming platforms.

Honestly, it doesn’t matter is Drake’s seventh studio album, released just nine months after last year’s passable Certified lover, and holds only 14 tracks (a meager amount for an artist whose last few releases average around 20). The album is dedicated to Virgil Abloh, a highly influential fashion designer and art director of Louis Vuitton who died last year, and a DJ and producer known in dance music. And so, it is logical that Honestly, it doesn’t matter it’s not the rap album people were expecting: instead, it’s perhaps best categorized as a 2017 Drake “playlist” sequel. More life with smooth dance tracks by the pool. But where More life there were still heavier moments and textures, it seems that this last record is trying to work on pure vibrations – with a middle effect.

Drake has often been accused of being a “cultural vulture” for choosing different styles from around the world, but here his deep house penchant hardly seems “relevant” despite a couple of somewhat stylized nods towards the bustling club from Jersey and dance style afternoon, Amapiano, as in the Massive air horns. On the other hand, even this is indicative of a good knowledge of his global audience, as well as his choice of collaborators: artists from South Africa such as Tresor, and exquisite DJ and producer Black Coffee, who appeared on “Get It Together”, bright moment from More lifeand provides a performance production here with its characteristic sedate, warm beats.

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Apart from the creaky bed noise on “Currents”, there are many things to enjoy in the tight sound throughout the record. Blows slowly growing, knocking. Sure, there’s a lot more exciting work going on in the dance world right now, but the fluctuating wetness of songs like “Texts Go Green” and the gentle, shifting glow of “Sticky” ensure this album will be on many summer playlists. and there are ample opportunities for fun remixes. Perhaps the problem is that the energy of the bits doesn’t quite match – let alone enrich – Drake himself.

While Drake is known for his poor rich boy escapade, the lyrics that the album came with (including the line “My desire for revenge wins my good guy’s game every time”) suggest a return to a joyful, insistent attitude on some of his best songs. On the contrary, much of his performance is unconvincing and uninspired, while his lyrics seem a little embarrassing for a man in his thirties (personal favorite: “Call me daddy/I taught you what a father can’t teach”).

By the time we get to the final track “Jimmy Cooks” with London-born and Atlanta-based 21 Savage, there’s an immediacy in the clean, classic rap sound. Drake sounds like he’s really enjoying himself, but 21 (the only credited feature on the record) outshines him with his delightful, supple delivery.

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The problem isn’t really that Drake released a dance album. Throughout his career, he has shown a flair for really great songs that make hips move and legs shake (Take Care, One Dance, Passionfruit). But then he felt like our main character, Prince Hamlet, giving us summer grooves or catharsis of crying in the club. On the Honestly, it doesn’t matter he’s more of an extra, playing background music. There are nice moments here, and it’s certainly not a terrible album, but it’s probably more appropriate to think of it as, say, a Black Coffee record that features a relatively cool Drake.

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