Duck

Honestly it doesn’t matter

Universal

To call Drake Certified lover a flop, as many have since the album’s release in September, is to say more about the hip-hop superstar’s overall success than the perceived failure of a Grammy-nominated LP. which broke multiple streaming records en route to ending 2021 as the third biggest release of the year.

But ok, of course: unlike nearly everything Drake had done since beginning his major-label recording career over a decade ago, the meandering Certified lover fell slightly out of step with the pop culture zeitgeist. The album did not lead to a string of lasting radio hits (although Lane 2 sexy went to No. 1) and neither did the music take over TikTok and social media in a modern smash fashion. For perhaps the first time, Drake’s grip seemed to let go.

which makes it easier to see Honestly it doesn’t matter — the CLB follow-up he caught on June 17 just hours after revealing his 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 (including WAP sampled a classic Baltimore club track) to former Drake collaborator The Weeknd; Drake himself flirted with the sounds of house music in songs such as Passion fruit and Take care of yourself.

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 South Africa. Black coffee. In the tenderness of the music — more than one song recalls the aftermathFaded away Everything except 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 Drake’s Covid-era Peak Privileged Isolation Slide Toosie the video eventually reached him.)

Does Drake make a good house diva? His singing on Honestly it doesn’t matter is clearly covered with autotune and after opening fall back, where he soars in a breathless falsetto, his vocal melodies rarely venture beyond a comfortable mid-range. Yet there’s an endearing vulnerability to his delivery in songs like The texts turn green and calling my name which marries perfectly with the promise of abandonment in the production; the result is both melancholy and ecstatic, as in Downhillwhere Drake laments a relationship in constant confusion, which comes to an end while drums and keyboards continue to threaten to turn into Lionel Richie All night long.

Although the music moves at a faster pace than on Drake’s earlier records, he still surrounds himself with signifiers of lavish sophistication: the chilled saxophone that ripples through the album’s instrumental opener, for example, or the spanish style floating guitar in tie that binds. But he seems sincere in his desire, whatever the inspiration, to encounter house music on its own terms. These propelling piano triplets in Massive? As essential to the genre as a power chord is to hard rock.

Indeed, it is Drake’s commitment that brings the album together, 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. – Review by Mikael Wood/Los Angeles Times/Tribune News Service