Friday, April 29, 2016

Live Review - Drake - Views

Views from the Countryside 2.5 Hours Southwest of the 6

This is a picture from outside my bedroom window:

And this is a picture from the balcony of my friend's apartment:

Trying to reconcile these two images has been my major mental struggle lately. It feels very appropriate for some new Drake in a lot of ways. The "longing for longing". Or maybe trying to align your understanding of yourself with the world's placement of you, or something. I don't know.

I didn't always like Drake. There was a period when I thought BigGhost's writing about him was so funny that I had no choice but to agree: he was just too soft. This was before I understood the idea of an "emotional banger". But I came around on that, around the time Nothing Was the Same came out... I felt the dreamy energy of "Started from the Bottom", the triumphant grace of "Pound Cake", and especially the fragile hope of "Just Hold On We're Going Home". From there it was clear that "Marvin's Room" was a masterpiece and I had never really understood Drake.

And sure I'd side with BigGhost when he said "gun shots on a Drake album are like gun shots on a Drake album" while discussing IYRTITL, but I came to love those too. There's some sort of weird inversion Drake is capable of... first you find something he does distasteful, or unfitting of his image - like shouting "motherfuckers never loved us", or beefing with Meek Mill, or dozens of other things. Then you start to find it endearing that it's Wheelchair Jimmy who's doing these things, you realize that you never actually want to see him fail, that you're still on "his team". And somehow finding this juxtaposition endearing fluidly translates into genuine wholehearted appreciation for his music. It's so much that you don't even remember how jarring it initially was.

I remember reviewing Gucci Mane's Views from Zone 6 with the stated purpose of protesting Drake's re-appropriation of the term "6". But even then, I knew it was futile, that Toronto would - through warm irony at first, then occasionally by mistake - become the 6 to me too. That was over a year ago, and even the hype itself - the long history of fakeout singles and delays - has emerged on the "enthused participation" side of the Drizzy cycle.

With the last minute shortening of the title down to the "you already know"-feel Views, and the insta-meme album cover, Drake seems to be making some sort of play for iconic status. Again, it feels too soon, out of his depth, absurd, almost cutely so... but I don't think it'll feel that way for long. Everything I'm hearing about this suggests Views is Drake at his Drakest, and there's a city of millions that understands exactly what that nonsense sentence means. Is there really anyone else that we'd let sit on top of our tallest building?

Drake - Views
Live Review

1. Keep the Family Close
Alright alright. This is some Canadiana already. i.e. wind and cold. that is a canada meme that unfortunately retains truth. I like this sort of distant piano already, and these horns OH SHIT HERE WE GO. "How do you not check on me when things go wrong?" awww yeeeeeahhhhh, this is Drake, this is our boy moaning and feeling. "Like when Chrysler made that one car that looked like a Bentley" lmao what. "I knew you before I made ends meet and now we meeting our end" aw drake u so clever. This one is like... a gigantic slow burner. AND THE DRUMS O MAN. is this some ANGERED DRAKE? yeah okay i'm feeling this. longing for tennessee, the simplicity. he seems to have lost the thread about his family lol. The closeness of his voice vs the distance of all the instruments, and then the SUPER closeness of the drums, this is a very cool dynamic. "Everybody that I met on the way tries to get in the way" okay yes i know this one, inversion = clever. idk. i feel it tho. "Much closer" and then those drums again, this is an almost... LCD Soundsystemesque dynamic to it. Which in turn is Pixieseque. You play the loud parts quiet and the quiet parts loud. Etc etc. Very cool. Haunting, brooding. "You know who mans are?", i am familiar with slang terms sometimes. S+

2. 9
WOOOOOOAH okay this is pretty cool. ahaha okay yeah. "Mama heard my phone and said that rap's no good" hahaha man only Drake. "I made a decision last night that I would die for it, just to show the city what it means to be alive for it" that's actually sick. The hella trappy drums and that godlike synth line, jesus this is impressive. "And I turn the 6 upside down, it's a 9 now" uhhhhhhhhh questionable. But this breakdown around 1:40 is hella nice. "I got it right now so I'm everybody's friend/If I lose it right now I bet we never speak again" :(((( on some kanye shit there REAL FRIENDS yknow. MJ in every way hey yeah that's YE. but the way he breaks into his singing voice idk if kanye can do that one hahaha, it's so good. And the outro too, the way the sound is sort of "crushed", that's interesting, back into this wind motif, the super muted rap, is this hinting at the flow of the next song?? oh hell yeah i hope so. This is cool. Top of CN tower on cloudy day feelings. *

3. U With Me?
oh hell yeah phone conversation core, drake is basically the best at this (next to Set Fire to Flames and Dean Blunt) LMAO this DMX line please. This beat is ACTUALLY NUTS though. "LOLOL I'm glad you find this shit amusing" hahaha thanks drake. this is crazy man, this confessional "real talk at 3am spilling your guts" sorta flow. and the huge silent spaces, i love it, so subdued, so full of longing... "All that grey in our conversation history", capturing modern elements in such a visceral way hnnnnnng so good. He drops the "that's the shit i don't like" line and in an instant i have done the whole drake meme-cycle and i love it. The way his voice finds its way on beat... a drake classic, an iconic drake move. "I made a career of reminiscing", hey is Drake the rap Proust??? or am i dumb as shit lmao. "A lotta niggas cut a check so they can take this flow" o damn. "You can never say I came up and forgot about your ass", that is indeed some real shit man. I wonder what it'd be like to be Drake's (or any famous person's) friend from before they blew up. I hope i get to find out so i can mooch off of them~~!! AHHH piano outro, so good. wait no what is this. these sounds. backwards chords??? KID A?? this is sick. good god almighty. *

4. Feel No Ways
Oh shit i am really feeling these drums. the contrast between them and the rest of the album is fantastic, this sudden crispness and aggressiveness. Ahhh, a classic Drake story, a girl moving on from him, as he moves in his own ways... I like how he gives us only slices of it. The nastiness of the "on purpose" is cutting. Oh man and the beat too. Wait wait is this the one Kanye helped produce? Unsure, unsure. "Feel a way, feel a way", anthemesque. These little instrumental breaks are so well done, is this like... vaporwave inspired? haha oh no that is only a thought i had in passing. I think Drake works best in modes of anticipatory nostalgia. I am already picturing people singing "Feel a way, feel a way", drunk, in small groups, after bars close, and I am loving it. I am loving the strings on this outro. I am basically just loving this whole album so far. **

5. Hype
oh shit, patois sample intro. on his too late flow i'm sure. menacing beat. AW YEAH HERE WE GO. "I just hit a lick, I gotta hit the next one" lmfao what the hell no you didn't. STILL YOUNG MONEY?? strange. Saying he's "blacking" in contrast to Michael Jackson, hmmmmmm. What is a "goofy"? Man whatever. I don't honestly care much about what any of this because this production and this flow is absolutely fantastic. "Views already a classic", I think this is the whole idea of the album. I don't know how this all adds up to something SO HYPE but it somehow does. "My enemies want to be friends with my other enemies", this feels like a subliminal reference to something specific but I can't keep up with all this shit. Alright yes that was indeed hype. And now we return to WIND AND COLD hahaha seems like he really meant to release this in January maybe lol. *

6. Weston Road Flows
ooooh this sample, OH MAN, the way the beat came on, this is NICE. This is like... glittering paradise feels. "He let us hit the weed on occasion for entertainment" lol. Nostalgic Drake best Drake. Memeing Drake... also best Drake. "Look in the mirror, I'm closer than I really appear", interesting. "40 the only one who know how I deal with the pressure" awww Drake's love for 40 is so beautiful. Man he's really going in on this one. This is just... perfect, right? Shoutout to "KD"? kd lang??? lol what? Planning on retiring at 35, that's already funded oh hell yeah. Found a lady in the east oh hell yeah my Drake x Leo Ieiri fanfiction truer than ever. but man he's just going in on this one VINCE CARTER hey a basketball player I've heard of. TTC METRO hey I rode on that. I love this. "But I'm happiest when I can buy what I want, get high when I want", this is a strangely motivating idea lmao. **

7. Redemption
oh my god, how does he keep making sounds like this? this is DEEP. man. the suffering. Suffering Drake is best Drake. the vocal echoes are sick too, on a full on singing breakdown. but man the drums. i could listen to these drums for hours. "I gave your nickname to someone else" hahaha. "I miss the feeling of you missing me" sheesh. Caught up in your feelings. But I feel like i feel something like this too. Except that if I examined it, it would turn out to be something stupid about K-On! or Leffen or something. The idea of "Spending the winter" feels very Canadian. The depth of this sound though... Oh man this flow at 3:40... this bubbling under thing... "This year for Christmas, I just want apologies", and then all these specific stories... "I wonder when my shit drops, if they listen", a painful idea. "Sell my secrets back to me if I was paying" geez. "Since Take Care I've been Care Taken", sure... okay. nice. S+

8. With You
Awww yeah ft PARTYNEXTDOOR, one of my favorite names in rap, his singing voice is sick too. This is really nice, and again the hugeness of the drums breaks through so wonderfully. Yeah this slightly raspy but hugely passionate voice, I love that, and the sort of aggressiveness of this flow, even when he sings way up with the "ooohs", there's still that driving energy. "Mixing vodka and emotions" heh. The choral sounds that 40 uses, how did he unlock those?? And now they're getting sorta chopped into the mix, hell yeah. The heaviness of those drums though good god. S+

9. Faithful
featuring the LATE GREAT PIMP C??? what the hell??? and again a nighttime distant piano sort of atmosphere, very spacey, very cold. "I'm high maintenance a little bit" OH HELL YEAH IT'S PIMP C what the hell i wonder where this verse came from? "I don't fuck with anybody in this shit but Bun" (and evidently Drake???). this contrast is bananas though, how the hell are they able to do that? "That pussy knows me better than I know myself" lmfao pls. "Let's do the things that we say on tapes", that sort of circular thinking is so strangely romantic hahaha. "You can't take no Ls off me", this is ambiguous. Seems to suggest many Ls LOL. dvsn is pretty sick too, I've heard some of their stuff... "Too Deep" i think. man the contrast between the rest of this song and Pimp C's part is really bizarre LOL. like it feels like i just fever-dreamed that somehow. lol. i dunno. S+

10. Still Here
Oooh interesting, very spacey... where could this be going? Sounds sorta like the "worst behavior" intro, i was expecting the "WORST" huehuaehua. "Me and all my niggas doing well", good grammar. "Nothing mutual about my funds, though", man... I can't even imagine being rich lol. these sort of sung echoes of each line, where it's very evidently the same take, this is like... I don't know, a powerful sort of complacency, or something? oh SHIT hallelujah, everyone rocking Gucci, everyone through the door. I love it. Woah this suddenly abrasive samples, and now back in with reinforced drums and stuff for the outro, yeah, i feel it... Cool stuff. S

11. Controlla
Hmm, sounds like a patois hint... the energy of this beat so far too... this is pretty sick so far. "I think I lie for you, I think I die for you", sure. There's a lurking dancehall sort of power to this, but it's behind dreamy 40-type distance, a very interesting blend. Oh man the way the bass builds up when he starts rapping fast, that's pretty nutty, that's SMART. ooh straight dancehall samples, I knew it was coming. the minimalness of them and then AIRHORN, all building this sort of atmosphere that Drake is distant from. I love it. "My last girl, she'd tear me apart but she'd never split a ting with me", nice, and then when he does the "lie for you, die for you" part it feels MORE REAL after all this, nice. Oh man the beat here near the end, that super distortion, that's really cool, I wonder how you do that. Someday I have to just try every setting and effect in FL or something so I can talk more intelligently about this stuff. DANCEHALL SHOUTOUTS, drake made it onto a riddim, good for him. S

12. One Dance
This was a single I think but I didn't hear it. Okay hell yes, I am liking this already, the surging feeling of the piano chords is sick. what does "OT" mean. it couldn't mean ottawa. lol. but yeah i can see why this is a single, I want to hear it again and I'm still hearing it. I guess that's Kyla singing "Baaaaaby", that's pretty sick. "I had to bust out the silence" aww yeah. The slickness of "I need a one dance", the smoothness and speed and OH MAN at 1:35, those samples that come in, good lord, that is a REALLY REALLY insightful addition. How??? how do they think of such things??? and now this extended breakdown with Kyla, I like it, OH MAN AND THE CHOPPED SAMPLES? this is like musical fetish #1. oh man and overlayed with the hook??? are you trying to kill me with this? **

13. Grammys
with FUTURE HENDRIX oh HELL yeah. oh man. the minimal beat. the ad-libs. "Tell me what you really feel", intense. wattba. "Oh well, ship's sailed" haha, i love that for some reason. Hype Williams??? oh he prolly means the video director LOL. "Hall of Fame, like I'm shirt off shorty", I don't know what he means by this. "Top five, top five", hmm. "This ain't to medal on the way shit, we really put days in" and oh hell yeah here's our boy Future, we know he has to go in, how far in will he go?? The panning on this pretty cool. "They want me to go to the Met gallery/I wanna take a percoset and sit down"(?) hahaha. I keep wanting him to flip into his like "continuous" flow, it feels like he's teasing us. It's still pretty sick though. This was dark, intense, stream of trap. Good. S+

14. Child's Play
lol what is this sample?? "She's fucking somebody on the basketball team" hahaha. Oh man this beat is crazy already. Apparently (according to wikipedia) Metro Boomin is on this one, I feel that. So what is the child's play? The shopping? The basketball? lol. "What you gotta fight with me at Cheesecake/You know I like to go there" HAHAHA oh man this is like some Kanye-tier argument summary raps, I love it. His love for people eating there and wanting to preserve their happiness is beautiful. Yeah okay I'm hella feeling this, the beat switch??? The sort of "internalization"?? the samples distant and now "outside"? the choral backing on "bounce that shit like ooohhhhhh", goodness. This bouncy flow is so good. "Say a different number than the one that's in my head", something about checked like that Louis bag, oh hell yeah. And the way he sort of trails out... human, haunting. and this sample of SHE RODE THAT DICK LIKE A SOLIDER lmfao. drake is all about these contrasts. these flailing human contrasts. oh man. the extended outro here, so sweet, and the heaviness of those chords. and car talk samples? **

15. Pop Style
this was a single too, I didn't hear it cause of spoilers or laziness or w/e. I thought it had Kanye and Jay-Z on it?? sorta disappointed that it didn't, I wanted another Pound Cake. "Turn my birthday into a lifestyle" wow this image is extremely visceral somehow. The beat is crazy too, the sort of deliriousness of it, of that synth. "I feel like they want to see me learn the hard way", I like that. "They still out to get me, I don't get it/You cannot get me, that's a given" lol pls. "Everybody lookin out for themselves but they still got their eyes on me" very good. "Problems hit the gym, they all work out" hahaha man. He has so many of these. So so many. Does this make him MVP from 09-16? "My friend's chain so big he look like the artist" hahahahha. That's kind. Geez and now the real lurking ominous outro, so intense... *

16. Too Good
ohh we got RIHANNA on this one, the pass back from "Work"? this is a nice sort of... tropical? feeling?? unsure how to parse it. this is pretty sweet, though. "And last night, I think I lost my patience", "I got high as your expectations", aw man. so real and yet so absurd, simultaneously. Oh and then Rihanna in on the echo-verse, I really feel that. Maaaan her voice is actually so nice, there's this crispness to it and yet such a playful "wandering" feeling too. This idea of being "too good to you", I dunno if I feel that lol. what could that mean? Drake gets up in his bitterness sometimes, sometimes so far I can't see him. Oh heavy patois, and then the echoing "siiiixxxx" sample, we haven't heard that in a while. "Free time is costing me more than it seems", this is a painful aspect of success I guess. The persistence of these drums and stuff is really cool too though, the beat has shifted so much but it's anchored onto these driving drums, very nice. And this hella dancehally outro, I actually love it. It's no Bam Bam at the end of Famous, but it's pretty nice. The slight electric guitar is cool too. S+

17. Summers Over Interlude
dunno how to parse this title. Wikipedia says it is not Summer's Over, so i guess it's a Finnegans Wake sort of thing, many summers. idk. this is cool though. again a sort of "anticipatory iconicness" to it, I think. like it sounds like something you're already comfortable with, already familiar, already classic. I guess this is produced by "Maneesh", whom wikipedia knows very little about. It is nice though.

18. Fire & Desire
oooh, hmm, this is some real... all red velvet bedroom shit. the fuzz building up is really cool too... "You get real on a pill and I like it" geez. "You a real-ass woman and I like it", this romantic Drake isn't necessarily my favorite Drake but it is an OK Drake. I feel like if this song didn't exist it could have just occurred as a result of sexual potential fields, or something. I think I heard a quiet sample of a girl giggling, I really liked it. I think the most interesting way to approach this song is in the context of the rest of the album, wherein it seems like he's just setting himself up again for disaster or something hahaha. S-

Okay here we go. Title track. Final track. Gospel intro. Here we go. Hell yes. And the piano too, hnnng. That sort of jazzy riffiness. OH MAN and the bloom around his first word. "They saying it's love, but it isn't love, isn't it?" this feels raw and painful. Dropped out with 6 credits left. I see, I see. "The paranoia could start turning into arrogance", this is a powerful insight into a common famous person transformation I think. Oh man and the huge instrumental breakdown, right after "But I haven't flown with y'all boys in a minute". "They'd rather run up on me than run to their goals", going to the club at 20 below, Americans won't understand this hue. "Now me and Kobe doing shots the night before the game", damn, even I know that's a big deal. "Running through the 6, thumbing through the contracts", this is nice, super triumphant, really bringing about the accumulation of the album. Dating your favorite musicians and film stars. "If I was you I wouldn't like me either". Damn. But we all love Drake. Everyone loves Drake. That's the core of the Drake meme. Oh man this outro though... the depth of this cold, how can something be so fuzzy and so cold? And the distant happy conversation... it's vaguely Burialesque, even. Alright. Sick shit. Good job Drake. **

20. Hotline Bling
This is the bonus outro thing that we've all heard a million times but we're gonna sit here and listen to and enjoy it just as much as we've done the other 999999 times. This song is a masterpiece. This is the perfect example of the Drake cycle I talked about in the intro. First you think this song is maybe lame or corny or anachronistic or something. Then you think about how charmingly sad the lameness is. And then, before you can really sort out that feeling, you realize that you actually really truly love it. It extends to every lyric, every move in the video, every wardrobe choice. It's so perfect, all of it. I can't help but hear Erykah Badu's excellent pseudo-cover of it as I have heard it more recently. This entire song is fractically memetic and I have seen every element of it in every context and yet the big breakdown in the middle still hits me right in the gut. Ahhh good. I really don't know how this song could possibly be improved. ****

I still have some complex thoughts about Drake as human meme that I can't quite articulate, and the undercurrent of vague awareness that this is somehow "about" Toronto, a city I have never lived in but visit probably 5-10 times per year is sometimes very jarring, but I shouldn't let that distract me from the music itself. This feels like Drake's attempt to sort of reign in his entire image, to bring all of the associated jokes and relationships and expectations under his "control", to let him have the final word on all of them. At the same time, he makes a similar play to release the definitive "Drake sound", a distillation and perfection of the elements that made him famous, in an endearingly transparent bid for iconic status.

It's largely successful. Listening to this album, you're awash in the five years since Thank Me Later, the evolution of his sound from basic 808s-derivative to the definitive sound of drunk voicemails to exes. There's that godlike underwater bliss from 40, wonderfully accentuated with all the innovations of the generation of producers that followed him. The guest verses, too, really drive home the difference between this Drake, a perpetual underdog you have to root for, to someone who could make your whole career by putting you on.

So yeah, this is certainly Drake at his Drakest, doing all your favorite Drake stuff that you have come to love so well. It's a bit of a double edged sword, as I think his best stuff is the stuff where he goes outside his comfort zone, playing with structure and sound while still maintaining the core of his incredible voice and production. I wasn't too shocked by anything he did on this. Given my high standards for what the Drake sound "ought to" be, that's impressive. But given my hopes for a whole album that felt as fresh and wonderful as "Hotline Bling" or "Just Hold On...", it's a little disappointing.

I dunno, I'm pretty happy with it tho. Like everything else Drake, it'll probably grow on me too.

My backlog for reviews is long again, but I hopped on this ASAP for a small chance of scale. When I listen to Drake and he mentions places I've been it feels like maybe I can be the next pitchfork dot com w/ live music festival because I am an idiot. It is a nice idiotic feeling.

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