Wednesday 1 August 2018

Review of 'Scorpion' by Drake

Drake’s new double album is a drag.

I’m allergic to long albums. Upon seeing that Scorpion was 25 tracks long, I almost broke into anaphylactic shock there and then. Drake’s last album was 20 tracks long and my biggest complaint with that was that it was too long. How would I get through this without falling into a coma?

Two things pulled me through – the fact that I’ve liked a few Drake hits in the past enough to tolerate him for two hours and the fact that Drake is now a daddy and we all needed to hear him confront the topic. Celebrity scandal usually isn’t my thing, but anyone who listened to that scathing diss track from Pusha T knows that Drake needed to respond to the allegations that he was ‘hiding a child’ – if he wanted to preserve the good guy persona he’d so willingly tried to prove in the video for ‘God’s Plan’, he needed to come clean about it.

And Drake does just that on this album, saving it for the final track ‘March 14’, which ends up being a truly deep insight into the life of a single dad following reluctantly in the footsteps of his father: ‘but this champagne toast is short-lived/ I’ve got an empty crib in my empty crib’. It’s the hip hop icon and human meme’s most personal and moving song to date (the first time I almost cried at a Drake song. ALMOST) – but it’s right at the end of the album, no doubt shoehorned in last minute, so that we have to listen to the remaining 24 tracks of Drake drivel.  

Admittedly, this wasn’t supposed to be an album about fatherhood, and the rest of the lyrical content is an improvement from Views, which was largely him resenting women with a few corny bars thrown in. In fact, there are some very personal tracks on Scorpion like ‘Jaded’ and ‘Emotionless’ that are practically cornball free. I even enjoyed Drake getting mean on ‘Nonstop’ as he spits ‘yeah I’m lightskinned, but I’m still a dark n***a’.

It's great to see Drake confronting the topic of duality on this album, which seems fitting for a double album. After all, the half-black/half-white, half-Catholic/half-Jewish, Canadian-American dual citizen rapper-singer knows a thing or two about having a mixed identity. It’s also interesting to see Drake divide the album into one half of mainly rapping and one half of mainly singing. The album certainly has a theme.

Sadly, it’s musically dull as dishwater. The 25 tracks may delve into genres as diverse as gospel and trap, but few of the songs actually have much direction. There are few beat changes and very few hooks – as a result each song gets dull after about 30 seconds. Only when Drake pulls out the more ambient and experimental beats as on ‘Emotionless’ does he keep things engaging and that’s largely due to the help of the personal lyrical content. Some of the guest vocalists are also able to spice things up by adding new vocal tones – particularly Michael Jackson on ‘Don’t Matter To Me’, who I wasn’t expecting to be resurrected for a Drake feature – but most of the time its just Drake rapping or singing in the same tone, showing us that it’s probably best that he continues to combine the two rather than trying to focus solely on one.

Scorpion’s marathon length hasn’t stopped it receiving more Spotify streams in a day than any other record (although the excessive promotion on Spotify definitely helped, as he appeared as the thumbnail of every playlist including totally inappropriate playlists such as Great British Breakfast and Indie Argentina). What makes Drake’s new album so streamable is perhaps the fact that it makes great background music. The lack of hooks and beat changes make it the perfect album for zoning out to. Only when the lyrics get ultra-personal does Drake pull the listener in and I have my suspicions that most of these tracks were only thrown in at the last minute anyway (ironic, as they're some of his best). It’s an album with a lot of promise, but ultimately Drake’s biggest dud.