“Take Care” (featuring Rihanna), #9
“The Motto” (featuring Lil Wayne), #18
“Hate Sleeping Alone”, #67
“We’ll Be Fine” (featuring Birdman), #89
“HYFR (Hell Yeah Fucking Right)” (featuring Lil Wayne), #92
“Shot for Me”, #100
It’s strange to think of Drake as being such a divisive figure, but there are few other artists who inspire such praise (Sasha Frere-Jones, in The New Yorker, called Take Care brilliant; Pitchfork gave it an 8.6) and such hatred (many others think Drake is not only terrible but possibly evil). His music is quiet, nonthreatening, and totally insular. The minimalist beats are often excellent—listen to the way the emotional tension subtly and suddenly increases during the break on “Take Care”—but the raps sound like a guy talking to himself in a mirror, or to his girlfriend’s voice mail in the middle of the night, conversational monologues that occasionally slip into a bit of chorus or melody and then slip right back to their solipsistic norm. Not only does he have a limited range of things to talk about, but he has a limited range of ways to say it. There are occasional good lines, but the closest thing to an enlightened thought is the opening of “Take Care”, which is lifted from a fifty-year old Bobby Bland record. His attitudes are somewhat unenlightened, as well: his feelings toward women (and he thinks about women almost as often as he thinks about himself), are only slightly more progressive than, say, Cat Stevens and others of the old, singer/songwriter type, a group who Drake is, in truth, more easily comparable to than most of the rappers who have come before him (I can’t help put wonder if he thinks of himself as following in the tradition of Nick Drake, but that may just be the coincidence of the names putting ideas in my head). It’s unfair to judge him by these scattered tracks, of course, most of which are bonus cuts from the deluxe version of the album that charted only because of the featured artists or for their titles; if you were a devoted Drake fan, wouldn’t you want to hear “Hate Sleeping Alone”? Like his previous singles, all of these probably sound better on the album. Despite all of his charting records, Drake isn’t a singles artist. His albums work far better than his individual tracks, with the songs playing off of and reinforcing each other, though the sameness of the sound is wearing. For now, though, you can file me with the Drake agnostics: not terrible (at least when he isn’t wallowing in self-pity), but not brilliant, either. Different? For sure. Important? I’m afraid so.
“Rumour Has It/Someone Like You”, #11
“You and I/You and I”, #69
“I Can’t Go for That/You Make My Dreams”, #80
“Hit Me With Your Best Shot/One Way or Another”, #86
This uses the Etta James sample better than Flo Rida did (that is, only once, instead of over and over), but you’d still be better off with the original.