Drake’s sixth album, “Certified Lover Boy” (2021), seemed like it was going to be something special. The album’s trailer brought a bittersweet sense of finality to the project, showing the Canadian rapper recreating a few of his iconic album covers. With his new heart-shaped haircut, fans hoped that Drake would fully embrace the album title’s name and ironically assume the “soft” rapper title he’d been given. However, the album fans received was far different than the one that was promoted.
Given how the project was marketed, fans were expecting more complexity and nuance from the self-proclaimed “certified lover boy.” Instead, the rapper released an album that appealed to the masses rather than taking a creative risk. It didn’t feel like Drake put his all into the project. So when Drake announced a surprise album last week titled “Honestly, Nevermind” (2022), fans were excited to hear new music from the artist. However, that excitement quickly turned into disappointment when they discovered that it wouldn’t be a hip-hop album but rather an experimental dance/house record. Fans swarmed social media to share their thoughts on the album, which was not well-received at all. Despite the negative reception, the album wasn’t as bad as people made it seem. The real issue lay within Drake’s formulaic approach to music and lack of effort.
“Honestly, Nevermind” is mediocre at its best. The album features enjoyable tracks like “Falling Back,” a chill, rhythmic tune ideal for a beach day or nightclub, as well as the late-night summer drive anthem “Down Hill.” The beat production for the album is also fantastic; most of Drake’s albums are beautifully produced and this project is no exception. In addition to this, the house and dance beats are infectious and sure to get people’s bodies moving to the dance floor. Though the album is a departure from what fans are used to, it is entertaining. A few fans commended the musician for branching out and potentially introducing the fan base to a genre of music they wouldn’t have otherwise known. Despite its positive features, however, it doesn’t feel like the Toronto rapper put effort into the project.
This is an attitude that pervades Drake’s recent work. “Honestly, Nevermind” is an attempt to try something different but it doesn’t deliver, just like “Certified Lover Boy.” Overdone themes of luxury, women and relationships ooze through every track, and it would have been interesting to see the rapper tackle new material with this more experimental body of work. It’s unfortunate that even when Drake tries something new, the end product is uninspired. His work seems stagnant — he’s continued to release albums to lukewarm reception, indicative of a broader issue he faces.
It’s not a new sentiment that Drake hasn’t evolved as an artist and his recent albums reflect his lack of progression. Drake has been pushing out mediocre work for some time now, using the same formulaic approach to get music to chart rather than make music that’s impactful. Nothing is wrong with making music that people want to vibe and dance to but Drake has consistently pumped out songs with the same subject matter for years. Though fans aren’t looking for Drake to handle deep, philosophical themes, it would be nice to switch up his subject matter for a change.
Though there are some enjoyable songs on the album, Drake doesn’t bring much to the table. He coasts on the instrumentals and allows the beat production to do the rest of the work, which is discouraging since the rapper has so much more to offer. Drake’s feature on Jack Harlow’s song “Churchill Downs” shows his lyrical and songwriting capabilities. Harlow even admitted to adding more bars to his own verse after hearing Drake’s verse so it’s clear Drake still possesses the ability to write good music. Even people who aren’t fans of Drake acknowledge that the rapper performed well on Harlow’s song, so the mediocrity of his latest album is frustrating.
At this point in Drake’s career, he has nothing left to prove. He’s been at the top for a while now and has been getting by doing the same things. It makes sense that he wouldn’t want to change the formula and risk losing money or fans. However, if Drake wants to remain in the conversation of hip-hop legends, he’ll need to step his game up with his next releases. This album highlights that it doesn’t matter if Drake does do something different. He’ll always attempt to just get by, scraping the surface to achieve commercial success.
It’s always great for artists to try something new so things don’t get stale. However, in the case of Drake, when he does attempt to experiment, the album still feels underwhelming, which indicates the issue is more than just changing things up. Though “Honestly, Nevermind” is mediocre, this doesn’t make it a bad album. Most of Drake’s hardcore rap fans may not like it but there are enjoyable, rhythmic tracks that are sure to be added to summer playlists and get people’s bodies moving. It’s unfortunate that Drake has gotten to a point in his career where it doesn’t seem like he tries. Drake is capable of doing more and he wouldn’t be where he is now if he hadn’t put in the work before. However, if he continues to put out mediocre albums to a lukewarm reception, the self-proclaimed “certified lover boy” won’t receive the same love he once did from his beloved fans.