Drake’s ‘Honestly, Nevermind’ is a stylish dance music reset

To call Drake’s “Certified Lover Boy” a flop, as many have done since the album’s release in September, says more about the hip-hop superstar’s overall success than perceived failure. of a Grammy-nominated LP that broke multiple streaming records. on track to end 2021 as the third biggest release of last year.

But ok, of course: unlike nearly everything Drake had done since beginning his major-label recording career over a decade ago, the winding “Certified Lover Boy” went slightly out of sync. pop culture zeitgeist. The album didn’t spawn a string of lasting radio hits (although “Way 2 Sexy” went to No. 1) and the music didn’t take over TikTok and social media like a modern smash. For perhaps the first time, Drake’s grip seemed to slip.

Which makes it easier to view “Honestly Never Mind” — the follow-up to “CLB” he caught on Friday just hours after revealing its existence — as Drake fired a reset. Consisting almost entirely of clean, airy club music jams in which he raps as little as ever, Drake’s seventh studio album marks an undeniable shift in direction, even as the 35-year-old remains lyrically concerned about the petty romantic grievances that have always fueled his writing.

Still, what an attractive and perverse choice for a potential course correction. Yes, plenty of pop stars have been exploring dance music lately, from Dua Lipa to Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion (whose “WAP” sampled a classic Baltimore club track) to former Drake collaborator The weekend; Drake himself flirted with the sounds of house music in songs such as “Passionfruit” and “Take Care.”

But here he leans into the concept harder than any other A-list act, laying down tightly structured verses and choruses over rhythmic, timeless beats produced by a team led by his longtime studio accomplice, Noah.” 40″ Shebib, with Gordo and Le café noir from South Africa. In the tenderness of the music – more than one song recalls the post-“Missing” Everything but the Girl – Drake plays with hip-hop’s evolving ideas of masculinity; it’s also alluring to hear pop’s preeminent solipsist engage in grooves and textures traditionally suited for communal purposes. (Perhaps the privileged isolation of Drake’s COVID-era “Toosie Slide” video has finally gotten to him.)

Does Drake make a good house diva? His vocals on “Honestly, Nevermind” are clearly blanketed in autotune, and after the opener of “Falling Back,” where he soars into a breathless falsetto, his vocal melodies rarely venture beyond a midrange. comfortable. Yet there’s an endearing vulnerability to his delivery in songs like “Texts Go Green” and “Calling My Name” that dovetails beautifully with the promise of abandonment in the production; the result is both melancholy and ecstatic, as in “Down Hill”, where Drake laments a relationship in “constant confusion, nearing conclusion” while drums and keyboards threaten to turn into “All Night Long”. by Lionel Richie.

Although the music moves at a faster pace than on Drake’s previous records, he still surrounds himself with plush signifiers of sophistication: the chilled saxophone that ripples through the album’s instrumental opener, for example, or the floating Spanish-style guitar in “Tie That Binds. But he seems sincere in his desire, however inspired, to meet house music on his own terms. Those propelling piano triplets in “Massive”? Also essential to the genre as a power chord is to hard rock.

Indeed, it’s Drake’s commitment that makes the closer album, “Jimmy Cooks,” so shocking. Built on a sample of a heart-pounding Memphis rap track, it has Drake and the LP’s only featured guest, 21 Savage, trading rounds of tough talk about fearing no foe. “You don’t like my way of speaking?” N—, say something,” Drake dares such a hater, spitting out the words instead of cooing them like he used to. It’s a reminder that he knows we’re listening – and that he’s always formulating a response.

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