Music in Review: Certified Lover Boy

Matthew Drewry

Drake is another one of the Titanic artists of our time, and potentially the greatest commercial artist of our generation. Drake, real name Aubrey Graham, has the most #1 R&B singles of our generation, including a diamond single in “God’s Plan”, racking up more than a billion streams.
Despite this massive commercial success, Drake has critically struggled as of late. Recent full-length efforts in “Scorpion”, “Views”, and “More Life” have been received as half baked, repetitive, and bloated, despite making massive sales. Shorter tapes like “Dark Lane Demos” and “Care Package” have demonstrated some stylistic growth and experimentation, but rarely in a fully formed and polished package expected from such a massive artist with an equally large team.
It is on the tails of these releases we receive Drake’s sixth studio album, “Certified Lover Boy”. At a significant 86-minute runtime packed with features from industry heroes, Drake sounds like… well… Drake. If you expected massive artistic growth and nuanced depth, look somewhere else. However, if you like Drake, you’ll enjoy “Certified Lover Boy”.
The production across this album is classic Drake, nocturnal, smooth, high gloss, and featuring huge names including 40 (Noah Shehib), TM88, Cardo, Metro Boomin, Travis Scott and PartyNextDoor. The production consistently compliments Drake’s style, with clean, simple leads, and expansive, beautifully mixed drums. There are some grand harp arpeggios on “Race My Mind” and a grungy guitar riff on “N 2 Deep” that offer a particularly refreshing pops of sound to those tracks as well. Some tracks do err a bit on the “chiptune” production style, but there are a multitude of refreshing and unique beat switches and overall enough sonic variety across the tracklisting to keep things fresh. Overall, the mixing and production are cohesive, high quality and add to the sonic palette of “Certified Lover Boy”.
Where this album falls apart, for me, is the depth thematically. In 21 tracks, I can barely discern a notable theme Drake is trying to pursue with “Certified Lover Boy”, except “Drake spends money and has weird relationships with women”, which I suppose is a theme, but not one noteworthy in any way. This is confusing and disappointing considering the album’s extensive and delayed rollout, and Drake’s goofy heart-detail haircut. Many of the tracks are so hook driven there’s barely anything there, and sometimes Drake just phones in a verse and delegates the rest of the track to his features. There are some legitimately stomach-turning bars on the album too, like Drake saying “Yeah, say that you a lesbian, girl, me too” on the song “Girls Want Girls”.
Also, this album is littered with really gross sentiments of Drake manipulating women reliant on him for money, such as on “TSU”. There’s also the “I’m too sexy for my shirt” sample and hook in “Way 2 Sexy” that just comes off embarrassing.
Future, Young Thug, and Drake come together with an average age of 33, and a total of 13 children fathered between the three (that we know about.) It’s just off putting to hear.
It’s like a streetwear brand like Off-White, where the clothing is expensive, but for what reason and at what cost? Where is the thought and theming behind the scenes that justifies the 21-track price tag? After having an illegitimate child and hiding it from the press, how has Drake’s life changed? He seems to throw a couple “I love my son” bars in here and there, but Drake rapping about his emotions and various partners as a 34-year-old man and megastar with a child comes off as distasteful at the least, and that’s the beginning of it. In “Knife Talk” with 21 Savage, Drake somehow starts acting like he has lived “gangster” lifestyle, despite being a child actor on “Degrassi” at 15. While I can’t really draw much away from the technical rapping and singing, the theme and any depth just seems lost in the extensive tracklist, if it existed to begin with.

This distaste extends to the cover as well. Why? How does someone with as talented an inner circle as Drake bring an album to market featuring a multitude of pregnant women emojis. Did he fire his graphic designer? Does he have more illegitimate children he’s hiding from the public? 

I will acknowledge the value of these features in providing some relief from Drake lowballing a majority of the album lyrically. Lil Baby lends a great performance, Lil Durk and Giveon basically redeem Drake’s performance on “In the Bible”, Jay-Z sounds better in his feature than on his feature on “Donda”, Travis Scott phones it in for half of his verse but brings a good switch up in the 2nd half. Lil Wayne and Rick Ross hold it down on their tracks easily, and Kid Cudi sounds great on his track, though a bit reliant on the JuiceWLRD esque drawl singing.  

These critiques aside, I think for a Drake fan the fundamentals are here. The production is great, the features are there, and Drake doesn’t sound blatantly bad.. Drake doesn’t seem intent on making any major statement or branching out stylistically in any way. 

I am not, however, a Drake fan, and I would consider this album not notable in any way. While I acknowledge the mass appeal and quality finish of the whole package, I can’t say this album sounds like anything but sonic wallpaper.  Drake seems absolutely intent on not offending or impressing anybody, to the detriment of this album. It’s almost like he’s the kid in class trying to avoid being called on by the professor. I rate “Certified Lover Boy” a 2.5 of 5 stars.