Drake’s ‘Certified Lover Boy’ is a lonely, predictable wail from the mountaintop

Chris Richards

THE WASHINGTON POST – Even as this season ends in fires and floods, Drake is still Drake, which means his new album sounds like his past three, which means he can’t-stop-won’t-stop rapping about the superiority and loneliness of the rich, which means too many people will continue mistaking his effervescent grievance-pop as some demented soundtrack for an American Dream that no longer exists. Started from the bottom, still here, refusing to leave. His music is the mist on the mountaintop.

At least others are finally shouting at that cloud. His sound has been stuck in neutral for nearly a decade, but for some reason, it’s this album, Certified Lover Boy, that’s making everyone realise that Drake makes mood music for VC dudes and we’ve probably heard enough. What took so long? Maybe it has something to do with Drake recently describing this record as “a combination of toxic masculinity and acceptance of truth, which is inevitably heartbreaking”.

That’s a berserk confluence of words, but the most salient one is “inevitably”. It’s not that Drake’s stay-the-sameness has become a smothering omnipresence so much as an inevitability. When music this big doesn’t change, life feels smaller.

The problem now is that Drake has known exactly how good he is for a very long time, and apparently that’s been good enough. The only moment he bends his voice in a fresh direction is on In the Bible, a weary lover’s spat of a song with a stumbling hook that begins in an off-beat mumble, then shoots up into a wilting plea. His exasperation is meant to sound more expert than believable, but it’s still great, and he’s clearly having some kind of fun.

The rest of this 86-minute schlep, however, nestles deep into Drake’s dreariest comfort zone: a deeply aggrieved, impossibly paranoid place where nobody loves a global superstar.

Drake recently described his new album, ‘Certified Lover Boy’, as “a combination of toxic masculinity and acceptance of truth, which is inevitably heartbreaking.”. PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST

So instead of a hero’s quest, his music becomes a McDonald’s menu board, joyless and unchanging man-as-brand stuff, with his strengths and weaknesses continuing to self-cancel.

He’s still attuned to the inherent musicality of human speech, but still prone to spouting sweet nothings and sour gripes.

He’s still savvy enough to invite under-loved voices into his musical orbit but still capricious enough to treat a sample of Project Pat’s juggernaut rhymes like a decorative throw pillow.

All of that neutrality makes it hard to tell whether Drake has wasted his creative resources or if he’s completely given up on trying to move the ball forward. Or, on a spinning planet, does stasis count as change?

If so, the Drake story is about a handsome nerd who conquered the information age by pretending to be rap’s most toxic alpha-male, then accidentally became a top-down sociopath whose music depicts wealth as a position from which to hate everybody else.

“Nobody praying for you when you winning,” he nags in the album’s final moments. “Don’t forget it.”

He’s right about that, at least. Nobody needs to pray for the rich in this failing world. Like a Drake song, their continued security remains an inevitability, too.

As for this new pile of Drake songs, they feel mostly meaningless. Drake will be fine.