Musical brand

Drake: Honestly, Nevermind review – brand new moods, same old moans | Duck

Jhe kind of reporting that relies on quotes from Twitter is rarely the most accurate indicator of the public’s mood – whatever opinion you want to emphasize, you can undoubtedly find someone with 38 subscribers who gushed it — but, in the case of Honestly, Nevermind said the stories might have a point. “Drake’s new album shocks followers with dramatic shift in musical direction” offers one, with the news that at least one Twitter user thought its content amounted to “trolling.”

The problem is, honestly, Nevermind — at least until its last two tracks — is basically a house album, and it’s not traditionally a genre rappers dabble in. It is a decision that is not entirely without precedent. Drake’s 2017 mixtape More Life featured a sprinkling of house-infused tracks, including Passionfruit. Kanye West sampled Hardrive’s ’90s New York house classic, Deep Inside on Fade, from The Life of Pablo; P Diddy made a documentary about how much he loved Ibiza, while if you dive into the late 80s you can find house tracks from the Jungle Brothers and Queen Latifah. But these are isolated incidents. For the most part, hip-hop and house are two that rarely come together, perhaps for the reasons suggested by André 3000 of Outkast: “For the average guy on the street, house music is kind of tied to the gay community…in the ‘hood they think [if you listen to house] are you gay or white.

And yet here comes Drake, with an album almost entirely based on floor-four beats – even Down Hill, without a beat and kalimba, is only a bass drum away from house – and the songs come and go as if they were part of a DJ mix. It offers an almost peak-hour piano dancefloor banger with Massive, and something bearing the influence of the French filtered house style popularized by Daft Punk on Currents. Alas, the latter is blanketed in the sound of creaking bedsteads, which is both a little too on the nose given the lustful content of the lyrics – “I don’t mean to be too loud, but I’m going to your room now” – and, on a purely sonic level, spectacularly boring.

Its main motto, however, is old-school deep house, less than a million miles from the work of producers Larry Heard or Marshall Jefferson in his Jungle Wonz guise: beats that crank along at just under 120 bpm. covered with misty and discreet synths. It’s a subgenre that has always seemed to be more about melancholy and morning reflection than frenetic action on the dance floor, which makes it appropriate for Drake. Constructed by his regular production collaborators, rather than in-house producers drafted for the task, the tracks are often very good: Falling Back’s gentle throb is layered with a hiss, as if discovered on tape several years old. decades, and there’s a beautifully wistful piano line that pops up halfway through A Keeper. It’s a style of music that matches Drake’s approach, in terms of mood and perhaps because there’s a long tradition of house tracks that feature improvised vocals – vocalist Michael Watson’s career is almost based on them – and Drake’s voice still has a meandering, improvisatory quality that suggests he’s making them up as he goes.

Despite the musical left turn, the problem with Honestly, Nevermind is the same one you might have had with almost any recent Drake album. It bears a title that makes the already passive-aggressive name of grunge’s most famous album even more passive-aggressive, giving a good indication that Drake hasn’t changed his default emotional framework.

The lyrics offer a steady drizzle of sullen displeasure and accusation how dare you; conjuring up, for the umpteenth time, a world of stunted teenagers in which – if he doesn’t tell you how wonderful he is, or that he doesn’t care, or that he’s about to get out of it – his feelings are perpetually hurt, everything is always someone else’s fault and everything is so unfair. You listen to him chirp, as usual, his self-aggrandizement seeking space with his constantly hurt ego – “what would you do without me?”, “you lie and a piece of me dies”, “if I were in your shoes, I’d hate myself” – and think: I know your audience loves it, but it’s not you Are you tired of continuing like this now? It’s a tenor that seemed unusual and fresh on arrival but gradually calcified in cliché.

Honestly, Nevermind offers an odd combination of the unexpected and business as usual. The sense that it represents a diversion rather than a new direction is underscored by the closing tracks – Responsibility is gloopily chopped and screwed; an 808 trap beat powers 21 Savage’s guest slot Jimmy Crooks – but there’s nonetheless something truly admirable about Drake’s desire to go beyond the music his audience expects, and do it well . You just want him to apply the same hustle to his character.