Thursday, June 24, 2010

Album Review: Drake - Thank Me Later


My enjoyment of Drake's music is pretty well documented on this blog so I feel like I'd be remiss and kind of lame if I didn't do a blogpost reviewing his album.

With all the hype leading up to Drake's album I was excited when I learned that it leaked so I could get a chance to preview it. I knew I was gonna buy the album regardless so listening to the leak didn't seem sacrilegious for a close-but-not-quite-yet Drake stan such as myself. I'd heard "Over" and been pretty unimpressed but realized it was a fairly safe first "radio single" so from a marketing perspective, it made sense. Then I heard "Find Your Love" which took about a week to grow on me but once it did, I really enjoyed the song (and still do) even though most dudes probably won't want to admit that they like it.

In my world, Drake would have dropped this album way back when the buzz for "Best I've Ever Had" was at epic proportions (if you don't think the buzz for that track was epic you have a touch of Downs). You could not get in your car and turn on the radio or go to a club without having this song shoved down your throat (and about 90% of us were loving it, myself included). In my world, Drake's second single would have been "Say Something" being dropped about a month after "Best I've Ever Had". "Say Something" is a song that Drake completely owned! To this day I don't understand why Timbaland didn't just listen to Drake's verse and say: "Homie, you deserve this joint. I'm taking myself off, go head and run with it." And a month after "Say Something" dropped I'd have put out "Un-Thinkable". But of course, that song is Alicia Keys's and not Drake's. And after that I'd have killed the game with "Invented Sex" (notice a theme here?).

Best I've Ever Had -> Say Something -> Un-Thinkable -> Invented Sex

Club banger -> Club banger -> Lady-friendly -> *DROP ALBUM* -> Club banger -> WORLD EXPLODES AND ONLY DRAKE AND HIS HAREM OF SCRUMPETS SURVIVE!!!

If that formula wouldn't have gotten Drake a million units sold in the first week I don't know what would have. And I'm not necessarily a fan of formulaic rap marketing plans but if any artist right now was built to proliferate to pop ubiquity because of a rap marketing formula, IT'S DRAKE (Justin Beiber notwithstanding)!

The sad part is (for me), my world is far from reality. Drake doesn't care what I'd prefer, Drake cares about what he wants to do. And the reality is that Drake waited months after his initial buzz began and grew to a ridiculous level to drop his album, and he didn't come close to the order of releases I listed above. Heck, 3 of the 4 tracks I listed aren't even on the album (that's the theme I was hinting at)!

Speaking of the album, here's my track-by-track review.

Fireworks feat. Alicia Keys: Dope! I heard a live version of this before the CDQ and have liked it from the start. I'm still trying to figure out if the second verse is about the time he spent with Rihanna. Then again, Drake's heartache episodes do come up several times on the album so it could be someone that isn't famous.

Karaoke: I may be the only person on earth that enjoys this song (no, the singing doesn't bother me). And if so... So be it! To put it simply, I enjoy the vibe of the song and the hook. It has that relaxing vibe I like when I'm chillin' in my backyard on a night with clear skies, star-gazing. Drake does us the "favor" of rapping on this track but I think I'd actually prefer it without him rapping. I would jump out there and say that it's my favorite song on the album but Jay-Z is on track 10 with a pretty sick verse.

The Resistance: This is apparently the song that lots of people feel is the best on the album. I missed the memo. It's a good song (very well-written) but it just doesn't do it for me enough to say it's the best track on the album. It's a good listen though.

Over: He makes a nice segue into the song but I'm tired of hearing it. SKIP!

Show Me A Good Time: This track starts off upbeat and caught my ear off the break. It has a Baltimore club vibe to it that makes you wanna move. This is definitely one of my favorite tracks on the album, even with Drake's weak/flat flow at times. But this song is supposed to get you up and grooving and it succeeds in that area.

Up All Night: I like the sinister feel to this beat, especially the way the beat drops. Drake's verse ain't bad but Nicki Minaj stole this track to me. Her style and flow on the track is perfectly swaggerrific lol.

Fancy: Showtime! You know it's a party track when you see "feat. Swizz Beatz". And as usual, Swizzy delivers. This song is about empowering the ladies and has a Beyonce-esque hook (ie - "nails done hair done everything did!"). Tippord came through with a nice verse on this one also. The part at the end where they slow it down and Drake sings and then raps kinda threw the song off a bit for me and makes it seem to drag a bit. But up until that point this song rocks!

Shut It Down: Fact... I like The Dream's music a lot. Fact... I think The Dream and Drake are both good at song-writing and composition. Fact... I really can't get with this song. It's way too long and it screws up the flow of the album. You go from party-happy "Fancy" to red light special? Not feeling it. And "ice cream conversations, they all want the scoop" is a horrible line Mr. Nash! I'm interested in seeing if any of you like this song.

Unforgettable: This track succeeds where the last one fails. It's not too long, overdone, or seemingly contrived. Jeezy brings that street feel to a record that Drake is whining about his love life (again) on. Maybe he should be classified as singer first and rapper second since he talks about love and sings so much (not that there's anything wrong with singing about love, I'm just saying). And Jeezy has the what is undoubtedly the most reckless line of the album on this track, "... done everything in the A but effed Chili". It's so uncalled-for and reckless but that's the type of shenanigans you would expect from Jeezy. It's still a step up from "paddy-cake paddy-cake MICRO-WAVE!" though, lol.

Light Up: I thought Drake's verse was dope until I heard Jay's. I mean, Drake's verse is pretty good but Jay killed his verse and if you think anything otherwise you are crazy! I have actually replaced the version with Jay and Drake with the version that has Lil Wayne's Rikers Island call-in verse (rofl). Jay verse > Wayne verse > Drake verse. As far as rapping goes this is arguably the best song on the album. The only contender is...

Miss Me: Drake kills his verse. His flow and swagger are on point and it reminds me of his flow on some of his old mixtapes. Question, why not give Bun a verse rather than just having him do a "drop" in the middle of a verse? Or maybe Bun will appear on a remix of this track. "Bills everywhere! Trill everything! And Drake just stand for do right and kill everything!" I had to get that one out of my system, lol. Lil Wayne stans won't agree but Drake's verse is better than Wayne's. Oh and did I mention that the beat on this song is vicious?!?!?!!!!

Cece's Interlude: Another one of (what I consider) the misplaced tracks on this album. I could do without this one on the album at all. It messed up the flow of the album to me. And it's yet another track of Drake addressing his heartache. *YAWN*. It's not that I don't care about Drake and his women issues, it's more so that Kanye did it sooooo much better on 808s. It's like my man Kev said, "Drake is a poor man's Kanye West!" He was referring to the the 808s version of Kanye only though, lol.

Find Your Love: I really like this song. It took me several listens but it grew on me. This is a complete rip-off of the type of track you'd expect on 808s & Heartbreaks, which is understandable (I guess) considering Kanye produced this track. I can already see a video with Amber Rose as the star even though it's not Yeezy's track.

Thank Me Now: My response to the title of this track...Ummmm, try again. Thank you for what exactly, Aubrey? This track sounds forced to me and I'm not quite sure why. The ill part about it is that Drake spits some of his best lines on this track. "your idols become your rivals...A-I'em for your survival." That's dope shyt.

I'll get it out of the way quickly because this is what you probably wanted to know rather than my opinion on each song...

I like the album but I think that it's average. Easy-listening (some would say it's boring I'd imagine) and Drake doesn't do anything to turn you away (then again, that's if you don't mind his singing so much). Overall I'd give this disc a 3 on a scale of 1-to-5 (I'd upgrade it to 3.5 if he took off the song with Terius Nash and "Cece's Interlude"). Ok, there you have it! Now onto more prognosticating and opinionated bantering.

I'm gonna be honest and say I love Drake's music prior to the release of this album more than I enjoy this album. So Far Gone still gets consistent play in my rotation and Comeback Season gets put into the rotation at least once every couple months. I don't listen to his first mixtape (Room For Improvement) very much at all but even that one's not bad (it's not better than Thank Me Later though). I won't jump out there and say Room For Improvement is better than this album but So Far Gone (the original version) just might be. I could see people saying that this album is more polished than So Far Gone and I agree from a production stand-point. But from a quality and consistency stand-point, I think So Far Gone has the upper-hand.

What's ironic is that Drake would have named this album more appropriately had he named it "Room For Improvement" rather than "Thank Me Later". The latter title denotes a certain level of confidence/arrogance (depending on how you view it) that the album just doesn't quite live up to. It's like when Slim Thug released the album Already Platinum which I don't think even went platinum (could definitely be wrong on that and definitely don't care enough about Slim Thug to look it up). Songs like "The Resistance", "Light Up" (though Jay-Z Renegade'd him on the track), "Unforgettable", and "Miss Me" show that Drake's got talent and potential. But other songs come across as duds that are ill-placed in the flow of the album ("Shut It Down" and "Cece's Interlude"). It's obvious that Drake can be a great writer ("UnThinkable" with Alicia Keys, "Miss Me", and "The Resistance") but it just seems he hasn't fully put all the talents he has together in a way that is cohesive through-out an entire album. But the great part is that this is just album #1 so he'll have at least one more shot at putting it all together.

This is a solid/serviceable/decent initial release musically and seems like it will be a commercial success on the level of Jay-Z's Blueprint 3 (Drake sold 462K units in the first week and will undoubtedly go platinum and Jay sold about 100k more than that his first week). There are also rumors circulating that Drake is making $5 off each album copy sold which would mean he's already a couple million off the album sales alone (not taking into consideration tour money and whatever other back-end deals he has like the Sprite deal). With that said, I don't consider those first week sales numbers a failure for Drake because he was hyped up so much that he was never going to measure up to it. And even if the numbers aren't a millie out the gate, he is at least making a decent penny for his efforts.

If Drake's as talented as I think he is, he'll continue working on music that brings out what he does best which is rapping (not singing) and also writing songs for people that CAN sing like Alicia Keys. If Aubrey sticks to the melodies on hooks and bridges only and continues to work on his lyrical dexterity, he'll be okay. That is, if he wants to be a rapper. I get the impression he wants to be Kanye-esque and form-fit himself into the genre's he enjoys and is influenced by. Drake has a decent ear for beats that the mainstream enjoys so radio play won't be an issue, and he gon' be ayight if he keeps himself on every hook, lol. But instead of thanking him, after listening to this album I feel like he's done average and maybe even good up to this point but there's definitely room for improvement.

If you would like to see a list of all my past posts that are Aubrey Drake Graham related, you can check them out here.

For another perspective on Drizzy's album, check out the homie @marcusjmoore's post on Thank Me Later over at www.sound-savvy.com.

4 comments:

j.a.c. said...

My favs are Karaoke and Fancy. I think I only like it when Drake sings. He's a corny rapper to me.

miKeSee said...

I think we're on the same page with our favs. I'd add Miss Me, Light Up, and Find Your Love (maybe even Unforgettable). But I can definitely see why you'd think he's corny as a rapper. Sometimes he just seems like he's trying too hard. But other times I think his rapping style fits perfectly. It really depends on the beat/vibe and content of the song.

M.C. said...

I haven't listened to TML enough to form the kind of opinion I really want. But I will say this. Ever since Drake signed his distribution deal with Young Money, my stomach churned and the feeling of foreboding that we wouldn't get that mixtape magic stayed. So with that said, I knew TML would be the kind of record that it is. I actually love Room for Improvement, because that is when he first developed his style. He has some great 1-liners on that mixtape. I agree with a lot what you said (who knew I would agree with you considering I am a Drake stan), but I wish he would do more of a rap album with a No I.D., 9th Wonder, Just Blaze...I think that collab would be killer! I like 40, Boi 1-da, etc., but some of the best parts of SFG were the tracks that he chose to rap over like "Ignant Shit," and other sample-laden tracks. At times TML was too emo for me and I'm a woman, but it's still better than most. Now looking for that Kanye joint this fall.

miKeSee said...

Funny thing is that I didn't really have an issue with Drake signing with YM because he always has seemed to do his own thing on the business-side. And Wayne helps bring out better raps from Drake in my opinion.

I agree with you on Room For Improvement in terms of that being where he started to develop his style. And I agree that a mash-up with some real hip-hop producers would be a good look for him. Throw Yeezy on that list too by the way.

My prediction for this next Kanye West album is that is going to be "so amazing"! Everything I have heard that may be on the album "Power" and "Monsta" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KkBjLfVeDHk)