After plenty of delays caused by Drake hurting his knee, we receive 'Certified Lover Boy' and it's a huge disappointment. The album's based around Drake's adventures through love and lust, basically being a toxic playboy, a character Drake fits better than I could've ever imagined, with the concept remaining strong in the first half but being broken in the second half by random songs that don't fit the album as well as the first few songs. Drake's goal with this album was to highlight the toxic masculinity in our world, using his character to show it, with it supposed to be the 'heartbreaking truth' that we'd discover after listening, and after a couple of listens, I guess I kinda get what he's talking about as the character that Drake plays faces a downfall as the album develops due to this toxic masculinity, going down a dark path and eventually destroying himself.
The vocals from Drake are decent, with a large portion of his vocals consisting of his melodic R&B style which ends up as an excellent decision as it fits the 'toxic playboy' personality perfectly, but there are some of his regular rap vocals which throw me off as they don't blend the best with the concept until we reach the downfall of his character. Drake's really perfected his R&B vocals, matching the intimate atmosphere magnificently, sounding so smooth and super exhausted. Drake sounds comfortable on the beats at all times, but that's the problem as he sounds a little too comfortable, not taking any risks vocally, destining the album to sound boring as on an album that's this long, you've got to move out of your comfort zone and try something that listeners wouldn't ever expect from you which Drake just doesn't do enough, only occasionally switching things up at an attempt to add variety, with most of these attempts just adding to the mess. An example of what Drake needed to do is present on 'Race My Mind', with his vocals sounding like they had evolved, with a coat of vocal effects allowing him sound so much more sharp and fresh, managing to connect with the futuristic beat excellently. Two tracks later, he once again experiments with his vocals, sounding slightly deeper than usual as he sings his heart out, seeming to have taken significant influence from The Weeknd, but it just didn't work well at all for Drake as he just lacks the vocal effects that makes The Weeknd's vocals work, needing Ty Dolla $ign to distract us from his embarrassing singing. From what I observed, Drake ventured out with his vocals much more on the second half, using his aggressive and conscious/'serious' rapping styles (such as on 'No Friends In The Industry' and 'You Only Live Twice' respectively) along with varying up his singing style, while on the other hand, the first half felt true to Drake and the character he was playing as his vocals were teasing and slick, tremendous but got too tiring too quickly. Overall, Drake's vocals were delicate, a trick to hide his toxic personality, not being diverse enough, but when he does try something different, he weirdly ends up sounding like a clone of someone else, not knowing how to switch things up with his vocals.
The production is average at best, being built from plenty of pads and some synths, reminding me of the beats of 'Donda' as the beats on this album have the same late-night atmosphere, not sounding as spacey but instead interestingly intimate while the drums on this album are a billion times better. Sometimes I feel like these instrumentals are all the same as they seem to have the same pad/synth base that is faintly present in the background while Drake's vocals are given priority over everything, just being a bunch of repetitive beats. I didn't have much hope for the production so I wasn't very disappointed to hear these bland beats that are the definition of simple, sounding so empty as I would've rather taken generic beats over this. 'Champagne Poetry' gave me some hope that Drake would prove me wrong and that the beats might actually be beautiful, with the 'Michelle' by The Beatles sample sounding stunning, supported by haunting background vocals, while the beat switch being mediocre as the second sample wasn't as vivid but did come along with jazzy counter melodies that I enjoyed, layered with an airy, rough synthesizer as his verse developed and excellent drums. Another sample, 'Mountains' by Charlotte Day Wilson is used on 'Fair Trade' working as well as the 'Michelle' sample did, creating a mellow atmosphere as the dark synths and crisp drums come in, with the beat subtly changing on Travis Scott's verse which I wasn't a fan of at all as the new beat was a disaster, seeming to use a pretty bad, repetitive pad that didn't mesh nicely with his dark delivery. What was a initially rumored to be a Metro Boomin produced track, 'Way 2 Sexy' ends up being produced by Too Dope and TM88, reminding me a lot of 'Lay Wit Ya' by Isaiah Rashad, having the same dirty combination between the instrumental and drums that I dig. The drums on the first half of 'N 2 Deep' are perfect, grabbing my attention just for the beat to sadly switch later on the song. Metro Boomin produced track, 'Knife Talk', was probably the most detailed beat on the album like I mentioned earlier as the piano is perfect, working wonderfully with 21 Savage to create a classic, dark atmosphere that we've known to except from the pair as Drake additionally has a nice amount of chemistry with the beat too. 'Race My Mind' reminds me of 'New Again' by Kanye West, having a similar futuristic atmosphere. None of the other beats really grab my attention, luckily not ending up as disasters, but just being way too deserted, having not enough going on. Overall, the production on the album can be pretty bad as they lack nice elements that match the mood of the album, relying on Drake to create the concept of the album all on his own using his melodies and writing, a task that would be too difficult for any artist to accomplish, while leaving the job of adding variety to the album in the hands of the features.
The lyrics on the album are frustrating, capturing my attention due to its bold nature as Drake doesn't back away from anything at all, diving deep into his love adventures which usually exhale toxicity as he seems to harass the women he's in love with, thinking that he's helping in them, the height of toxic masculinity. The confident nature of the lyrics reminds me of current female rappers who go all out with their sex lyrics, with Drake instead going all out with the various weird situations that he had faced when he was in love. Drake's recklessness leads to some super fun lyrics, with a perfect example being 'Way 2 Sexy' where the three rappers on the track base their lyrics on the sample used on the track, 'I'm Too Sexy' by Right Said Fred, with the swag of the three rappers jumping through the roof, hyping me up. There's some storytelling present, with every attempt ending up awfully except 'TSU', also known as 'Not Around', with Drake's character being blinded by his toxic masculinity, thinking that he's saving this stripper by paying her for her services and maybe even for sex, dropping some memorable bars in the process, while talking about how he won't tell anyone about what they did during their short relationship as it could ruin both of their lives, with Drake's character ending up as the selfish person we always knew he was, based on all the other adventures discussed on the album. Feel like some songs are being taken too seriously lyrically like 'Girls Want Girls' which is supposed to be a silly, slow song to vibe to, nothing more. Classic reunion between Rick Ross and Drake and Drake and Lil Wayne occurs on 'You Only Live Twice', with the three rappers dropping bars after bars like I mentioned before, with their energetic personalities on the track being matched by the cheerful beat. I assume '7am On Bridle Path' is a freestyle, based on how it sounds, with the track seeming to be aimed at Kanye, taking shots at anyone who was involved with him too such as Justin Laboy, with Drake's bars not being as strong as I would've expected them to be, seeming to have gotten slightly softer on diss tracks, as some people didn't even realize the track was aimed at him. The choruses are not that catchy, other than maybe two to three tracks, but the bold lines do make up for it as they keep you hooked and coming back to the album as the disbelief that Drake leaves us in is sometimes too much for us to not return. The flows are always cool but still quite basic for Drake standards, having the ability to automatically make everything sound so smooth. Overall, Drake's lyrics might've been a little cornier than usual but that's because he was choosing to be bold with this album, taking risks with his lyrics which I wasn't really expecting at all as I feel like too many people are overlooking that Drake is playing a character and at the end of the day, his lyrics achieved their goal at highlighting toxic masculinity although not showing us that it leads to disaster as best as Drake could've, with the lyrics just being around the average mark.
From track 1-10, I feel like we witness Drake's character having fun and taking advantage of women, pretending to care about them when deep down, we all know he's a player disguised and who does a player care about? Only himself. At first, I assumed that 'Yebba's Heartbreak' was added just to complete the recurring theme of having at least one track per album without Drake on it, but after analyzing the album more closely, it allowed me to understand the song better as it seems to show that Drake had fallen in love during all the fun he had, could be with the stripper from 'TSU', but because he stuck to his toxic character, he either couldn't tell her that he loved her or messed things up with her, causing heartbreak, with the purpose of this interlude being from the perspective of the women that Drake loves, I assume. The heartbreak Drake faced seemed to just increase his toxic masculinity as he shoved down all his feelings and continued to live life, starting the downfall of his character as he seems to have cut everyone out and get involved in dangerous activities, although returning to the the women he loves in track 15. From this point to the end of the album, we witness Drake's character's toxic masculinity fading away, shoved out by the love for the women but it's sadly too late as he can't take back all the mistakes he's made, leaving Drake in remorse. The second last song is usually a personal moment on an album, with Little Simz having 'How Did You Get Here' and Kanye West having 'Come to Life', while Drake has '------- Fans'. Well, I mean at least '------ Fans' is still an intimate moment as it's probably the most honest we've heard Drake. The song is about Drake seeing forgiveness from his ex for messing around sexually with fans, making me assume he cheated on his partner in the process, accepting his mistakes. The tone of the song throws me off, with Drake even sounding like Chris Brown on the first half of the song like I mentioned before, turning the topic into something disgusting, especially with him naming the song straight-out 'that' being a risky decision that backfired. The song definitely comes off as more than a little creepy, using a threatening tone, but I feel like the purpose of the track is to highlight the peak of his toxic masculinity, while additionally rappers rap about having sex with their fans literally all the time so it could just be that I'm being too harsh on Drake.
Overall, 'Certified Lover Boy' takes on the bold topic of toxic masculinity, which I assume won't work well with the mainstream as I doubt Drake intended it towards them, seeming to try and capture the attentions of critics with the weird cover art and the intriguing character that Drake builds and plays, but the lack of effort and experimentation with his vocals and production prevent the album from reaching its potential, having decent vocals, production that's way too plain, and lyrics that create Drake's toxic character beautifully.
Best Tracks: Fair Trade, Race My Mind, Girls Want Girls, TSU, Champagne Poetry, In The Bible, Yebba's Heartbreak, No Friends In The Industry
Worst Tracks: ------- Fans, 7am On Bridle Path, The Remorse, Pipe Down, Fountains
SUMMARY OF MY THOUGHTS AFTER INITIAL LISTEN:
So I guess Drake is neither a 'Certified Lover Boy' or 'Certified Boy Lover', instead being a lesbian? I can't believe I was hyped for this, this is some of the most boring music from Drake that I've ever heard. The long length of the album didn't help as I had gotten exhausted by the sixteenth track, not allowing me enjoy anything after to the extent that I could've if I had an equal amount of energy to what I entered the album with. Features on the project were okay, with some of the putting in fire verses and completely carrying Drake while the rest are features that I don't remember as they get completely lost in the long length of the album. The slow, smooth nature of the album is steady for the most part, but randomly switches to random songs that have no cohesion with the rest of the tracks, at around the fourteenth track, seeming to be throwaways added to the album so that Drake's sales would increase, increasing the margin of his victory in terms of sales compared to 'Donda' in the process, but from a musical stand-point, that was what turned this album into a mess, a bigger mess than 'Donda'. Honestly, if this album ended at track 12, this would be an easy 80, maybe even one of Drake's best albums as the flow of the album was absolutely fantastic through the first ten tracks. I mean, what else can I say, this is a worse version of 'Donda'.
INITIAL THOUGHTS ON THE ALBUM:
A little too long but Drake's lyrics are lovely and the beat is so pretty
Pretty Boring, feels like a worse version of the last track
Girls Want Girls
No idea why the lyrics are like this, but Lil Baby snapped on his verse. Beat is so smooth while Drake slides on it. Might actually be better than Wants and Needs
In The Bible
Drake's performance mediocre, flow was off. DURK SNAPPED, ONE OF HIS BEST VERSES! GIVEON outro was an outstanding touch to the track, great chemistry between him and the beat.
Drake's chorus was too repetitive, but still a solid chorus while his verse was quite forgettable. Beat very basic as it's just another generic Drake beat. Never heard Jay-Z sound so soft lol, loved his verse.
Best song so far, the chorus is SO GOOD. Drake's flow was fantastic, with Travis Scott's verse development being perfect.
Way 2 Sexy
Chorus so repetitive but who cares when it's this fun, Future's cadence was so cool. Verses weren't very good though. Might be worse than D4L
Think the leaked name of the song was 'Not Around'. His storytelling ain't the best but it's decent, like the story. Never thought I'd enjoy Drake rapping about a stripper but it's such a vibe, outro was outstanding
N 2 Deep
Only thing interesting about the first half of the song is the beat. Love the transition to the second half, Future's performance was worse than on 'Way 2 Sexy', but still pleasant. Second half way better than first half, I actually like the chorus of the second half lol
Pretty boring, like a few lines though
Love Yebba's vocals, not sure why this is on the album though even though it is a wonderful moment
No Friends In the Industry
Aggressive Drake makes his first appearance on the album and he goes hard, dropping plenty of bars with an amazing amount of energy, got me hyped
Classic 21 Savage song with a brief decent Drake appearance. Metro Boomin's beat is probably the most detailed so far on the album, piano is perfect
7am On Bridle Path
Sounds like a last-minute diss track freestyle against Kanye, beat and his bars are so bad
Race My Mind
WOW. DRAKE'S VOCALS ARE SOME OF HIS BEST AND THE BEAT IS CRAZY
Outdated by ten years, the writing is so bad. Tems' feature was not good too
Get Along Better
Basically Drake trying to sing like The Weeknd but he failed, Ty Dolla $ign subtly carries Drake. Extra points cause Drake shouted me out in the ad-libs
You Only Live Twice
Just a bunch of flexing. Wayne>Drake>Rick Ross on the track. Lemon Pepper Freestyle>You Only Live Twice
Glad to see Kid Cudi and Drake collaborate, but I think we can agree that Kid Cudi stole the show
Went way too far with this track, did he really need to tell us that he was having sex with fans? That's just embarrassing and leaves a sour taste, can't forget to say that his tone makes it creepy too. Can't believe he's asking forgiveness to his ex too after all that, seems like he's trying to mess her life up. Also, why does he sound like Chris Brown in the first half of the song? No one likes Chris Brown so stop trying to sound like him Drake
Does anyone even care about what he has to say at this point? The last track ruined my vibe so I don't care, keep rapping Drake.