By John Connor Coulston // Staff Writer
First off, I’ve always had mixed feelings towards Drake. I’ve never been a fan of his “sensitive douchebag” persona, but I have to admit that his last release, Take Care, was one of the best releases of 2011.
He seemed to find the balance in rapping about wealth and fame and writing songs about love and relationships. His rap-focused tracks such as “Headlines” and “Make Me Proud” were entertaining. His R&B focused tracks just as “Marvin’s Room” and “Take Care” were full of relatable emotions. However, those elements are what his follow up, Nothing Was the Same, is missing.
If you break down the content of the album, it’s easy to see how NWTS isn’t quite as fulfilling as Take Care.
First off, the production is far too similar throughout. A majority of the beats follow the same pattern of a slow tempo, generic drum machines, short altered vocal samples placed in the background, and an occasional layer of piano. This repeated formula makes a majority of the tracks blur together.
The best beats come on the opening tracks “Tuscan Leather” and “Furthest Thing” where they shy away from the drabness that fills the rest of NWTS and go for an upbeat, vocal sample focused sound.
Lyrically, Drake doesn’t veer far from his usual approach. There are songs about fame, life troubles, and fame causing life troubles. However, what Drake raps about just isn’t as entertaining or compelling as the material on Take Care. His emotional tracks don’t
come off as relatable, while his upbeat tracks—which there aren’t many of—focus on his personal life, which isn’t that amusing.
I don’t want to ride around town listening to Drake whining about record company issues or his detractors, but that’s just me. The lyrics aren’t terrible, they just come off as uninteresting. That isn’t helped by the one factor that kills NWTS—Drake’s delivery.
The one thing that particularly drags the album down is Drake’s lack of enthusiasm and emotion.
Most of these tracks are Drake simply talking in monotone to a rhythm. He even finds a way to turn an upbeat track into a bore fest. On “Worst Behavior” he transforms an urgent, attention-grabbing flow into dimensionless vocals that will make you want to skip to the next song. Drake has never sounded as flat in his entire career, and it’s unclear why. This album could have been so much better if the vocals were done with more energy and passion.
Despite the disappointment on NWTS, a couple tracks manage to shine through. “Wu Tang Forever” shows the balance that was
evident on Take Care, all while not boring the listener with a drab delivery. Another standout moment is the collaboration with singer-songwriter Sampha on “Too Much.” While Drake does a decent job, what keeps the track compelling is the hook/production from Sampha. He delivers an emotional hook that transforms into a vocal sample used as the beat. It’s a fantastic accompaniment.
There is one track on the album that I just cannot deny. The single “Hold On, We’re Going Home” is a clubready love song akin to
Miguel’s “Adorn.” It’s an excellent combination of 80’s R&B and modern production. Drake channels his emotional R&B side and delivers a simple, engaging narrative with an upbeat rhythm. While I’m glad the entire album wasn’t as danceable as this track, it was an extremely needed break from the all the mundane moments.
Overall, Drake’s Nothing Was the Same was a rather boring listening experience. It lacked the emotion and enthusiasm needed to keep the listener engaged. Without those two elements, it sounds like Drake talking for an hour. While that might be interesting to some, I’m just going to stick with “Hold On, We’re Going Home” and hope his next project is more inspired.
Drake’s Nothing Was the Same is available for download on iTunes and is streaming on Spotify.