We weren’t expecting this, but here we are. On Friday, Drake surprise-dropped a new record, Honestly, Nevermind. And, huh, would ya look at that, it’s a full-on dance album. What do we make of that? What were the highlights? Lowlights? How will history remember it? Lots of questions, and lots of thoughts from our staff. Let’s get into it.
What is your tweet-length review of Honestly, Nevermind?
Justin Sayles: Singing Drake and Jon Snow both back? Welcome to Sad Boy Summer 2k15.
Khal Davenport: There’s a strong EP lurking somewhere in this new Drake release.
Katie Baker: Everyone else keeps tweeting that this sounds like a changing room—Zara is trending—but I think it sounds like a Peloton ride. One with a respectable Strive score!!!
Keith Fujimoto: Hearing me listen to this album at 11 p.m. made my wife leave our room to go sleep with our 4-year-old. [Infinite shrug.]
Isaiah Blakely: Not the “summer vibes” I was looking for. These songs sound like knockoffs of More Life.
Dan Comer: At its best we’re reminded of “Passionfruit” and “One Dance,” but on the whole, Honestly, Nevermind is Drake’s most boring project to date.
I’m in the corner
And I ain’t readin’ all that
Whoa oh oh
Or sorry that happened
Whoa oh oh
Blakely: “Jimmy Cooks.” 21 has a good verse, and while this album had a lot of More Life vibes, this song reminded me of “Sneakin’.”
Sayles: “Massive” is, well, massive.
Fujimoto: A combo of the snaps on “Down Hill,” the first 16 seconds of “Liability,” and the beat switch at 1:40 of “Jimmy Cooks.”
Davenport: It’s a toss-up; if I’m sticking with Drake’s take on dance music as a theme, “Sticky” is my favorite combination of Drake’s presence and a hard beat. Truth be told, “Jimmy Cooks”—especially 21 Savage’s verse—is currently getting the most play.
Comer: I’m embarrassed to say that it’s “Texts Go Green” by a landslide.
Baker: The whole second half has a lot that I like; hard to choose. The ’90s mall kid in me does appreciate the oontz of “Massive,” and the ’90s “Smooth” kid in me likes the dulcet riffs of “Tie That Binds.” There’s a “Kanye scoring a Top Gun spinoff” aspect to “Overdrive” that I really enjoy. And the finale is fun.
Harvilla: The tactlessness of “A Keeper,” from “I found a new muse / That’s bad news for you / Why would I keep you around?” to that tossed-off “Fuck out my face” is really doing it for me.
Least favorite song?
Blakely: “Liability” but there’s almost no wrong answer.
Baker: “Currents.” I’m not prude!!! I just prefer my squeaky mattresses to be in adjacent motel rooms so I can tweet about it and/or turn on Paul Simon’s “Duncan,” which has the best opening lyric in all of song!!!
Comer: Probably “Currents.” Trillville introduced the squeaking bed sample in 2004, and Drake hopefully retired it with this track.
Sayles: There’s a certain sameness to the back half of the album, so it’s tough to pinpoint any specific downpoint. It’s probably “Overdrive” or “Down Hill”—not because they’re necessarily bad, but because they don’t leave much of an impression on first contact.
Harvilla: One of the longest ones, or the one named “Sticky,” or the one called “Liability” that’s not Lorde’s song called “Liability.” Honestly I’d feel better if there were a singularly risible “Way 2 Sexy”–type fiasco on this record onto which I could concentrate my ire.
Davenport: Which song is the one where he sings? “TRY TRY TRY, TRY, TRY TRY TRY TRY TRY”? That one.
Fujimoto: “Tie That Binds” is expert-level cornball master craftsmanship.
OK, now that that’s out of the way: How do you really feel about Drake dropping a sad dance album?
Comer: I have fewer feelings than I thought I’d have, which is an early sign that this project missed the mark with its target audience.
Davenport: I appreciate the conspiracy theory that Drake was set on dropping his sad dance project on July 29, but then Beyoncé crushed that plan, forcing him to drop a sad dance project now.
Blakely: Very indifferent. I got bored listening. It feels very one-note. I give him props for trying something different, but at the same time, it feels like a similar vibe that he’s tried in the past, but this time with less success. I don’t think this album is bad, but nothing stands out.
Fujimoto: He took the “____ got me crying in the club” meme and made it into a 52-minute album.
Sayles: This would’ve really hit for me when I was 29.
Harvilla: My dream for the longest time was a whole album of Drake in “Hold On, We’re Going Home” mode, except that song radiates a warmth he does not appear to possess anymore, and also a full album of that might be overkill anyway. I will settle for a whole album of “Forget It, I’m Not Going Anywhere,” and I do genuinely appreciate that no one song here is long enough for his sadness/tactlessness to curdle into true insufferable self-pity.
Baker: What is life but a sad dance album?
How do you feel about the production on Honestly, Nevermind?
Blakely: Interesting. I don’t find the beat selection very inspiring, which is becoming a common theme for Drake albums. But this album was definitely a step up from CLB. (For starters, I thought the transitions between the first few songs flowed well.)
Comer: Gotta give Drake credit for making an album that on the whole sounds different from his previous projects. Still, you’d think a full-on dance record would have fewer predictable drops and banal hooks than Aubrey’s team offers here.
Baker: I really like the … economy? of this album. It feels like a good Project Runway final collection to me. It has a point of view and is cohesive enough that the bigger zags feel intentional and part of a whole
Harvilla: I dig it, actually, in its muted melancholy—as Sad Dance Albums go, it’s way more for being sad than for dancing, which suits me fine. Black Coffee is a welcome addition to the fold; the squeaky-bed beat to “Currents” is teetering on the knife’s edge between I Really Dig This and I’m Profoundly Irritated by This, which is impressive all on its own.
Davenport: I love Black Coffee, who produced a number of these records. As a fan of electronic music for a while, I was hype when Drake and Jorja Smith floated over Black Coffee’s “Superman,” turning it into their More Life standout “Get It Together” five years ago. I wish Drake would’ve taken this excursion back then!
Sayles: It’s often thrilling. “Massive” evokes Mr. Fingers and Frankie Knuckles–style music. The bed-squeakin’ “Currents” is a tasteful homage to Jersey club music. (Though maybe a few years too late!!) He’s playing with newer genres like amapiano and gqom. For an album that may get written off as “Passionfruit” x 13 + 21 Savage, there’s a lot of sophisticated music going on here.
Does this in any way seem like a reaction to the response to Certified Lover Boy?
Davenport: No, because I will actually listen to some of these records again.
Fujimoto: I guess, and the cure to quell the replies was to take it to the dance floor with an influx of kickdrums.
Comer: I’m having a hard time drawing a line between the two albums sonically, but Honestly, Nevermind’s accompanying Apple Music missive suggests a connection. A few highlights:
- “My urge for revenge wins the game against my good guy inside every single fckn time.”
- “I’ll take loyalty over an oh my & emoji fire.”
- “I know whats what and especially what and who is by my side.”
Blakely: I hope that wasn’t his intention, because this doesn’t answer many of the CLB critics.
Sayles: The last time Drake surprise-dropped a record, it was 2015’s If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. That album reasserted his dominance as an MC. I was expecting the same after the lukewarm reception to Certified Lover Boy. This is decidedly not that, but it does feel like an intentional reset. The question now is whether it will achieve that.
Harvilla: Drake albums nowadays have a Nobody Goes There Anymore, It’s Too Crowded vibe for me: They’re ubiquitous but exhausting streaming monoliths that nobody wants to actually talk about. It seems clear we didn’t say enough of the right things about Certified Lover Boy, so this is either an Apology Record (from him) or a Penalty Record (levied on us).
Does this qualify as an experimental Drake record?
Davenport: I’m fine with you calling it an experiment, but Drake singing over dance tracks isn’t new, and has been done way better in the past.
Harvilla: Not really, and none of the experimental records Drake might even plausibly make are notions I want to put out into the world, so actually, sure, this is experimental, and no need to experiment any further.
Sayles: If it’s not an experiment, then it’s certainly a provocation, at least as much as Drake is capable of.
Baker: I’m no Drake scholar—although I was a Degrassi watcher!—but listening to this, I was definitely like, “Sure, this sounds like Drake.” So how experimental could it be?
Fujimoto: Experimentation with 140 bpm SoundClick jawns.
Blakely: I’ve gone back and forth on this but I’ll lean yes. Despite the fact that it’s a genre he’s tried before, it was bold of him to dedicate a whole album to this style.
Comer: It’s the poster child experimental Drake record.
After hearing him croon for an entire album, how do you feel about Drake as a singer?
Fujimoto: Still meh, but not bleh.
Baker: It can start to sound a little same-y but I don’t really mind it as much as I expected to based on advance tweets. It also just makes me appreciate some of the tracks where he changes it up a bit (“Sticky,” “Jimmy Cooks,” etc.) all the more.
Blakely: He’s gotten better but Drake as a singer is my least favorite Drake.
Harvilla: Given the choice between spending an hour or so with Sad Narcissist Rapper Drake or Sad Narcissist Singer Drake, I’ll take the singer, grudgingly, and so Honestly, Nevermind is like watching two teams I don’t really want to win the NBA Finals play each other in the NBA Finals, and the team I dislike less wins. Just to pick an analogy at random.
Sayles: I enjoy plenty of Singing Ass Drake records, but if Honestly, Nevermind proves anything definitively, it’s that his singing voice isn’t strong enough to hold down an entire album.
Comer: He can carry a decent tune, but Drake’s singing should be reserved for one-off tracks and self-features on his rap projects.
Davenport: Did I hear him croon, or did I hear that fuzzy Auto-Tune throughout most of these tracks?
What do you make of the inclusion of “Jimmy Cooks” (and 21 Savage as the album’s sole guest vocalist)?
Davenport: I love a good left-turn bonus track, and that’s how I’m treating this, even if “Liability” kind of sets us up for that vibe.
Blakely: I’m glad he put it on even though it doesn’t go with the rest of the album. I think he knew he was taking a risk with this album, so he gave us a song he knows will play well with his fan base. My only thought for why Drake would have only one feature was he wanted to prove himself and test his limits as an artist.
Fujimoto: It’s cool, but Aubrey should’ve opted for some bars from Teddy Perkins.
Sayles: The cynic in me says this was simply to juice the streaming numbers, à la him tacking “Hotline Bling” onto the end of Views.
Baker: I respected its placement at the end, made it feel like a fun encore at a festival set. As for it being the only guest vocalist, I feel like this just makes Honestly, Nevermind a blank canvas for tons of remixes and reimagining this summer. Maybe this isn’t so much an album as an API …
Comer: I would’ve rather Drake cut “Jimmy Cooks” and committed to continuity (for once) on this album. It’s a solid song but it should’ve been a stand-alone single.
Harvilla: When I order onion rings from Burger King there’s always one solitary fry in there, and I’ve always wondered if that’s accidental or if it’s deliberate marketing/a psychological ploy. Anyway “Jimmy Cooks” is like if that single fry had started rapping shit like, “If I was Will Smith, I woulda slapped him with a stick.” I make no value judgment about this.
The Honestly, Nevermind lyric you’re most likely to see as an Instagram caption this weekend is …
Davenport: “HOW DO I FEEL.”
Blakely: “A Keeper” has a few options but “Why would I keep you around” or “You don’t like the way I talk? Say something,” from “Jimmy Cooks.”
Baker: Definitely has to be from “Sticky” and there are a lot of good contenders, from the “mama wish I woulda went corporate” (van-lifers) to “ringin’ like I got engaged” (people who just got engaged) to “you know how sticky it gets” (lip-syncing momfluencers wriggling around on Reels, wielding Clorox spray bottles #boymom #blessthismess #spon).
Harvilla: Lots of “Bitch don’t tell me that you model / If you ain’t been in Vogue” under loving photos of lounging dogs.
Fujimoto: “I found a new muse, that’s bad news for you.”
Comer: “Texts go green, it hits a little different, don’t it?” I’d be surprised if the answer to this question isn’t unanimous.
Sayles: Can we just agree to never reference the Scrabble line again?
If you had to guess, how do you think Honestly, Nevermind will be remembered in the historical record?
Davenport: “Hey, remember that night on Twitter when Drake dropped that random sad house record? That 21 Savage record was hard!”
Sayles: Hopefully better than the current reaction would indicate, but Drake should stay out of his mentions for the rest of the weekend.
Fujimoto: Buried deep beneath a loop of Klay Thompson saying “holy cannoli.”
Baker: I think it will be respected. I already like it more with each listen. Sure, it may sound like a dressing room at first, but that’s fitting: There will be a lot of people listening to it this summer while getting ready to get ready, alternating between feeling absolute frustration and absolutely feeling themselves.
Comer: The public’s response to Certified Lover Boy was lukewarm, at best, and I’m expecting much of the same with Honestly, Nevermind. After releasing arguably his two least-liked albums in consecutive years, it’s possible this era will be remembered as when Drake’s hype train started entering the station.
Blakely: Other than debating whether it’s better than Dark Lane Demo Tapes I don’t think this album will be talked about much when we talk about Drake’s career.
Harvilla: It will be remembered as a less significant counterpoint to whatever Beyoncé does, with a smattering of residual goodwill due to the fact that (a) there was no arduous monthslong rollout and (b) the record itself is not three hours long. If we’re stuck getting more of Drake, at least we got less more than usual.