“Take Care,” “Nothing Was the Same,” “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late,” and “So Far Gone” are all classic Drake albums that are examples of his immense talent and influence in the music industry.
“Certified Lover Boy” is not one of those examples.
Drake’s seventh studio album continues a worrisome downward trajectory in Drake’s career. Starting with “Views”, Drake has shown less and less interest in making the truly great music that he’s capable of making, instead opting for risk-free, effortless chart-toppers.
This slide continued with “More Life” and “Scorpion,” and “Certified Lover Boy” which fall right in line.
“Certified Lover Boy,” runs 21 tracks long, which makes for a marathon runtime of 1 hour and 26 minutes. The album starts off strong with “Champagne Poetry,” which uses a wonderful sample of the Beatles’ “Michelle” to back a great intro track. It’s reminiscent of the opener to Drake’s “Nothing Was The Same” album, “Tuscan Leather.”
It all goes downhill from there.
The album becomes mind-numbing as soon as track 2 starts. Drake sounds half-asleep in most of these songs. He’s consistently outshined by his features, which is a recurring trend throughout the album. “Girls Want Girls” especially reflects this, as Drake completely wastes a good Lil Baby feature with one of the laziest verses and hooks I’ve ever heard. “Fair Trade” features a phoned-in Travis Scott verse that still dominates the track.
Against all odds, the song “Way 2 Sexy” is great. Even though Drake once again sounds a bit lazy, the infectious beat, and Future’s hook create an energy that is seldom present on this album.
The track samples “I’m Too Sexy” by Right Said Fred, which is a preposterous concept. However, that adds to the uniqueness of the song. It’s a much-needed change from the album’s repetitiveness.
Unfortunately, this energy drops off rather quickly. “TSU” is a fine follow-up, but the album reverts back to its repetitive nature almost immediately. Occasionally, there’s a nice track or feature to keep the listener interested, such as “No Friends in the Industry” or “Knife Talk,” but “Certified Lover Boy” often doesn’t come up with anything creative or interesting.
This pattern of similar songs is broken up with two brilliant back-to-back tracks, “You Only Live Twice” and “IMY2”. These are the best two songs on the album, and yet they’re polar opposites.
On “You Only Live Twice,” Drake sounds amazing. As I listen to this song, I’m reminded of the Drake that first broke through in the music industry, the one that went bar-for-bar with Eminem and Kanye on “Forever.” Yet the most memorable part of this track is the verse delivered by his mentor, Lil Wayne.
Weezy sounds like he’s on a track from “Tha Carter III,” delivering the sense of humor and wordplay that made him such an influential figure in the mid-2000s. Rick Ross sounds wonderful as well, opening up the track with the energy that he’s known for bringing.
“IMY2” is far and away the best song on the album.
The track opens with a Juice WRLD soundbite, and then transitions into an angelic Kid Cudi feature. He’s one of the few features on “Certified Lover Boy” that doesn’t sound phoned-in. Drake has a pretty great hook on this one as well. Putting their three year-long feud behind them, they sound as if they’ve been friends for years rather than enemies in the past.
If the entire album had the focus and energy of these two songs, “Certified Lover Boy” would be a candidate for album of the year. But the vast majority of the album is lacking. Drake had so much more conceptually and musically that he could have done with this album.
And there are moments on this album where it actually lives up to the mammoth hype and anticipation that preceded it. But the stretches between these moments are too long and too repetitive to continually keep me interested.
All the promotion for this album told us that this would be different. It would be a blend of every album he’s made. This one would be his best yet.
But at the end of the day, “Certified Lover Boy” sticks to the same formula Drake has used since 2016. And that formula has gotten stale.
Sure, there are a couple of songs I’ll have on my playlist. Drake will top the charts and sell tons of copies like he always does. But as an album, I’m likely never going to end up revisiting this. It falls short in so many ways. And once again, I find myself disappointed in Drake.