The most surprising thing about Drake’s newest studio album, “Certified Lover Boy” was the cover.
The multi-platinum megastar announced the album out of nowhere, right on the heels of Kanye West’s highly anticipated “Donda”. CLB was initially slated for release in August 2020, but was postponed indefinitely. Drake announced the album on his instagram a mere week before its release date of Sept. 3. Promotion was limited to a series of cryptic billboards that popped up in major cities across the US and Canada like Toronto, New York, Chicago, Atlanta and Memphis.
And the album cover? Twelve emojis of pregnant women cradling their stomachs on a plain, white background.
I know. Pure, unbridled genius.
The album, nearly an hour and a half long, is eclectic. Drake invites a number of accomplished artists to feature on the project alongside him, like Jay Z and Future Hendrix. Even Paul McCartney and John Lennon of “The Beatles” are credited on the album. But despite all the circumstance and self-proclaimed grandeur seems to drip from “Certified Lover Boy”, the album, which was meant to be a mark of his success, falls short of being memorable.
The album, like most albums, has good songs and bad songs. “Fair Trade” stands out and is what many are calling one of the best songs on the album. In it, Drake looks back on the forces that brought him to the level of success that he enjoys today as well as the things he had to trade in exchange for it. He thanks his mom and separates himself from old resentments. Coupled with an explosive feature from Travis Scott, “Fair Trade” is almost perfect.
“Way 2 Sexy,” “Knife Talk” and “TSU” are also sure-fire hits that have received attention and praise. On “Way 2 Sexy” Future, on top of a simple but perfectly catchy beat and in no discernable order, lists all the things he’s too sexy for. On “Knife Talk” 21 Savage raps in a way that’s reminiscent of his 2016 hit “No Heart” about his street prowess. Coupled with lines of a similar nature from Drake sprinkled with a bit of his infamous corniness (“Checked the weather and it’s gettin’ real oppy outside”), the song is great . In “TSU”, leaked and highly anticipated, Drake flatters himself by telling the story of one of his many women from his perspective. A woman who relies on him and is seeking forgiveness, though from who or what is unclear. It’s one of the better songs but has caused due controversy because it credits disgraced R. Kelly because of a sample used on the song’s second half.
“Girls Want Girls” had so much potential simply by virtue of the fact that Lil Baby is featured. The pair have a long track record of spectacular collaborations and I and many expected so much after the masterpiece that was“Wants and Needs” on Drake’s “Scary Hours 2” EP. Not only did Lil Baby’s feature fall unusually flat, Drake took it upon himself to, as a man, declare that he’s a lesbian?
Many members of the queer community, understandably, found the line “say that you a lesbian, girl, me too” offensive. It speaks to the state of arrested emotional development the Canadian artist seems to be stuck in. He’s a grown man with a son going on 40 – and his music never seems to reflect the level of maturity that you’d expect him to have. A TikTok user, @yungvec, described listening to this album as “reading the personal diary of the world’s most unlikeable man” and lines like that one are why.
“7 AM on Bridle Path” is notable simply because of the calculated disses Drake throws at his longtime rival, Kanye West. West leaked and deleted Drake’s address on Twitter and at the time Drake responded with nothing but a video of himself laughing as he cruised in a car with the roof down. On this song, which many seem to think is entirely about West, Drake uses his words to respond saying, “Give that address to your driver, make it your destination/’Stead of just a post out of desperation.”
Overall the album wasn’t all that bad. There are sure-fire hits, songs that will chart and dominate the airwaves for a few weeks but what happens after that? I keep coming back to an earlier studio album of Drake’s, “Take Care”. Where this album is diverse in the feelings it conveys, that one is almost singularly a heartbreak album. Both albums have star studded features. The albums are three minutes apart in length.
Then, Drake had something to prove. He was young and he was hungry. Now he has nothing to prove and instead chooses to remind us over and over again that he’s rich. And that he’s made it. He lacks the ability or maybe just the desire to create in the way that he used to. With the amount of fame and notoriety that Drake has achieved, he can do anything – he can throw emoji’s on cover art and it will sell. That is a blessing and a curse, for him and for us.
“Take Care” will be 10 years old in November, and to this day songs from that album like “Marvin’s Room” and “Shot for Me” – even “The Motto” are touching. You feel everything that he does. They are unforgettable classics. Ten, maybe even five years from now I don’t think I’ll remember anything from “Certified Lover Boy,” except maybe the album cover.
Up close and in the moment, the album isn’t all that bad. But stepping back and looking at the bigger picture, “Certified Lover Boy” is painfully forgettable. It lacks emotion. It lacks depth. It lacks passion – all the things that made Drake great before the world labeled him the greatest.