Drake’s new playlist, More Life, has been in the pipeline since last fall. The Views follow-up is just as problematic as the Canadian’s previous chart-dominating album, a mix of Drake at his best and worst. If nothing else, the 22 track project feels like a placeholder and proves the rapper turned pop star needs a break.
Drake has been charting on the Hot 100 for over 400 consecutive weeks. That’s a really long time to be on top, and ample time to fall off. It’s thus unsurprising that Drake uses semantics to play it safe on More Life; instead of labeling the full-length commercial project an album, he refers to it as a playlist. For the optimistic of listeners, one might proclaim this as a genius business decision: a reaction to streaming age consumer values. For the narcissistic among us, it’s a calculating method of placing less emphasis on the release; this is not an album, and not to be judged as harshly as Views was.
Perhaps the critically lukewarm reactions to Views gave Drake cold feet. Perhaps he had 81 minutes of stylistically inconsistent b-sides and unfinished songs that he wanted to see the light of day. Whatever the reason, More Life sees Drake draw from a multitude of his established sounds. On ‘Lose You’ he revitalizes the sleepy stream-of-consciousness sounds of Thank Me Later, on ‘Madiba Riddim’ he returns to the dancehall of Views, while ‘Gyalchester’ is a return to the trap of If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. New sounds show up here too: ‘Ice Melts’ is what happens when Drake and Young Thug try to remake ‘Broccoli,’ while ‘Passionfruit’ is a sweet gem of summery dance-pop.
As with any Drake album, there are moments of true greatness. Lead single ‘Fake Love’ is back in remastered form, an accentuated bass bringing further power to its ridiculously catchy pop melodies. ‘Sacrifices’ brings the steel drums of Drake’s dancehall work to a posse cut with 2 Chainz and a pleasantly coherent Young Thug, to great success. Elsewhere ‘Lose You’ proves that 40 and Drake are still a powerfully dynamic duo. Yet, past these three highlights, More Life‘s greatest moments lie with other artists. ‘4422’ is a fantastic Sampha song, yet confusingly void of any Drake (he doesn’t even have a writing credit), while ‘Get It Together’ is essentially a Jorja Smith remix of Black Coffee’s ‘Superman,’ with Drake harmonizing on the hook.
While Drake taking a back seat is a welcome change from the monochromatic tone of Views, other collaborations play out less successfully. The grime track ‘Skepta Interlude’ would sound much better on a Skepta album than nestled in between Drake’s trap musings. Giggs shows up twice to see Drake in strong culture vulture form. First on ‘No Long Talk,’ where Drake steals yet another accent, then on ‘KMT’ where he bites XXXTENTACION’s flow. ‘Portland’ tries to replicate the success of ‘Mask Off’ (#flutes), but sounds more like a Quavo/Travis Scott collaboration than a Drake song. Perhaps this is what the Canadian star meant by playlist: a collection of solo songs and collaborations that don’t necessarily highlight Drake.
Though the inconsistency of genre is easily ignored by simply pressing shuffle (probably what Drake intended), the lackluster mixing across the board is less appealing. ‘Nothings Into Somethings’ somehow managed to be released despite the heavy clipping throughout the track, ‘Ice Melts’ boosts Young Thug’s vocals unpleasantly high. ‘Free Smoke,’ on the other hand, has a deafening bass that could really do with a little treatment. It’s unprofessional and makes More Life seem more and more like a mixtape trying to be something more than it really is.
Regardless, at 81 minutes, the tracklist could do with a trimming. There are moments where Drake sounds as passionate and hungry as he did in the days of Take Care. On occasion, he replicates the lightning-in-a-bottle feel of ‘Hotline Bling’ and ‘Know Yourself.’ Sometimes his Instagram caption ready lyrics hit just the right notes. But this is only sometimes, and the rest of the album is packed with filler. The truth is, More Life could be 40 minutes shorter and achieve the same goal. But that wouldn’t allow for chart domination.
At the least, More Life feels like a fitting conclusion to Drake’s most recent hot streak. Starting early 2015 with the excellent If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, the playlist brings the Views chapter of his career to a close, albeit a disappointing one. Drake chooses to end the album with these lyrics: ‘maybe gettin’ back to my regular life will humble me / I’ll be back in 2018 to give you the summary.’ It sounds as though even he realizes he’s been at the top of the charts for too long, with too little to show. And hell, even pop stars need holidays.