Text by Tony Wang.
Upon the first entire listening, I disdained Views, Drake’s long awaited fourth studio album. It seemed like Drake had departed from the nocturnal, layered, ethereal, and most importantly, trademarked sound associated with Toronto that he pioneered and used to great effect in situating his last two studio albums, Take Care and Nothing Was The Same. There was always something so polished, exquisite and relatable about the sound that Drake and 40 had created for Take Care. It felt spacious and floaty, yet gave a coherent and heavy presence. Sonically it was able to depict wide open spaces yet induce a feeling of claustrophobia. The sound was simultaneously affectionate yet distant. It was a wonderfully complicated and captivating sound. Having been a Torontonian and a follower of Drake’s rise in the global music scene, it seemed that this unique sound would continue on indefinitely, with Drake and 40 being the agents tasked with spreading and further developing this gospel. It was to be the paradigm-defining thesis which orients the soundscape and culture of the Toronto music scene and the city’s aesthetic. The sound and Drake should have been inseparable. Yet, Views begged to differ. The entire project felt simplistic without reason, scatterbrained and without charm, much to the contrast of Drake’s previous projects. How could an artist such as Drake put out an LP which felt so subpar? Why didn’t his producer 40 and the rest of the OVO cohort stop this album from happening?
Listening to music one late night as I was returning home I put on music, on came a Views track, ‘Controlla’. As I cruised through the midnight streets, past all the well-lit but closed and empty shops, empty roads and traffic lights which seemingly signal to themselves, I realized, or rather I was struck by, the purpose of the music. It was as if the track was most comfortable and expressive in the emptiness and quietness of a city during its slumber. In those moments, the track came alive and synergized with what I was perceiving and sensing. Any of the issues I previously levied against Views were instantly vaporized. The simplicity that I had once despised became the integral element which made the track so appealing. And it almost seemed that the simpler the composition, the more profound the track became. Next was ‘Too Good’. What was once a repetitive, pop-styled and overly simplistic track with a Rihanna feature became much more alive against the backdrop of the night. It was as if the subdued riddim of the song added just the right amount of intensity to give the voids of the nocturnal city streets life. The next track, ‘One Dance’, which was mediocre at best during my first few listens, became something incredible. It infused just the right amount of energy to the perceptive, sensational and auditory silence which existed beyond the music itself. In these settings, each track was imbued with a new purpose and life that was not apparent sitting at my desk in the middle of the day. It was as if to experience these songs I had to experience them on their terms, being right there, in the dead of night.
Upon reflection, it seems, I was deceived by the simplicity and style of Views and the album’s deviation from its predecessors. I’ll be first to admit it: I became a complacent fan. I forgot that artists can evolve and that good music need not be what is familiar. In this respect, despite sounding like a loose collection of music, Views actually reminds me of Take Care. However, the latter was explicit in its sonic portrayal of human musings in a nocturnal Toronto while Views is a more implicit rendition. Whereas Take Care was able to invoke images of driving through Toronto’s streets at midnight, Views needs to be experienced during that drive. You have to enter Drake and 40’s world to understand the reasons and motions behind the music. When one enters the correct state of mind, the music of Views starts to demonstrate the trademark relatability and consistency that Drake is known for. And surprisingly, despite being the most sonically distant from its predecessors, the riddim influenced tracks are the strongest examples of this.
Surprising maybe, but with the use of these riddim inspired tracks, we are witnessing an evolution of the nocturnal Toronto sound and another one of Drake’s paradigm-shifting thesis. While Toronto in the past was dominated by subdued temperaments of sounds along the same wavelength as those found on Take Care and Nothing Was The Same, we now see its development of a more energetic and fun side. The sound still retains its characteristic nighttime elements but the incorporation and use of uncomplicated riddim influences give a burst of energy and positivity to a sound which originally was only capable of expressing more somber attitudes. And this means that with Views, Drake and 40 are still in the process of evolving and adding to the repertoire of emotions and sounds which define Toronto.
‘Views’ was released on the 29th of April. Buy/listen here.