The release of Drake’s Views has been a long time coming. It was first announced way back in 2014 (under the title Views From the 6), centuries in the era of the shock album release. Anticipation has only swelled since then, as we’ve been left to judge his two amuse-bouche mixtapes against the gaping negative space that Views carved into our imaginations. But now it’s here, and we have some thoughts:
1. Music is now an attention economy. The album as a medium can flourish in 2016 — it just has to be big enough to make people crowd around a digital hearth to listen to it. Think Kanye West, who rented out Madison Square Garden to debut The Life of Pablo, or Beyoncé, who took over HBO for Lemonade. Drake did the same with Views last night (or at least tried to), and it feels like the next logical step after a period of exhausting surprise releases. Let the audience know it’s coming, but make ’em fork over cash — exclusive streaming deals ain’t cheap. Better yet, make them fork over something even more costly: time.
2. But our attention is fractured and fleeting. Ye and Bey had spectacles to fall back on. Maybe Drake thought he did, too, but an interview with Zane Lowe isn’t quite a postapocalyptic fashion show or a painstakingly crafted film. And when the album hit iTunes just before Drake hit the air for the already-delayed discussion, listeners had to choose between the two. The lesson: The live drop isn’t a science yet. (Though it’s not exactly a surprise that something Beyoncé made look simple is, in fact, exceedingly difficult.)
3. Which means that the album itself has to work twice as hard to hold your attention. And Views certainly has its moments — plush-carpet opener “Keep the Family Close” makes it clear that Drake’s ultimate destiny is to tour with Teddy Pendergrass’s backing band, and the dancehall tints on “One Dance” and Rihanna-featuring “Too Good” prove that Tropical Drake is a real force here to stay. But this is a long record, and the Live-and-Exclusive™ debut doesn’t do it many favors.
4. So maybe Drake just isn’t an album artist anymore? He drops singles and B-sides, memes and emoji, bits of slang, and sketches of tunes. It’s all fragmentary, but a Drake album doesn’t have to cohere in the same way we might expect another artist’s big release to. Mostly we need, like, three excellent jams and a fistful of meme-able bars. On that count, Drake delivers. (Looking at they first-week numbers like, “What are thoooose?”) But this is his Toronto album, and he’s been begging us for years to assign it major emotional weight. And maybe Views is that grand. But the all-at-once live-stream listening session? That’s not the way to find out. So I’m going to settle into a cushy chair, pour some whiskey into my Grammy, and listen to Views five more times. Hell, make it six.
This piece originally appeared in the April 29, 2016, edition of the Ringer newsletter.