Favorite Track: "Champagne Poetry" Least Favorite Track: "Girls Want Girls"
Popular music is a mixed bag. Finding genuine talent usually isn’t hard; there are tons of artists incredibly prevalent in the mainstream who are fantastically talented and have no issue making good music. Unfortunately, Drake is not one of them. Canadian rapper Aubrey Graham, professionally known as Drake, is easily one of the biggest artists in the world, and he just so happens to be one of the most bafflingly mediocre faces in the public eye during the last 10 years. Drake’s music has almost always flown below the bar of passability, (save for his exceptional 2015 mixtape If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late), but his last few efforts have been especially atrocious.
2018 saw the release of his commercial opus Scorpion, with multiple songs charting high on Billboard and the album doing a collective 3.9 million in sales. Sitting at a painful twenty-five songs and almost an hour and a half of material, the album boasted little to no highlights and mediocre critical reviews. The album’s lead single “God’s Plan” spent a baffling 11 weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, with chart accompaniment from select album singles like “Nice for What” and “Nonstop”. Sure, the album was a commercial success, but the overall quality of the project was about as good as gas station sushi. Then in 2020, Drake released the Dark Lane Demo Tapes project, with yet another mixed bag of singles. While it may have been better than Scorpion, most of its upsides were due to it being a much more concise project. Drake’s features consistently outperformed him, the songs were mediocre at best, and with the record came one of the most miserable songs Drake has ever put to tape in the form of “Demons”. Then, just over a year after the release of DLDT, Drake announced the release of his sixth studio album, Certified Lover Boy.
If the title wasn’t giveaway enough, this album is pure, unadulterated douchebaggery. From the very idea of a 34 year old man dubbing himself a “Certified Lover Boy” to the line “Say that you a lesbian, girl, me too” on the track “Girls Want Girls”, it becomes incredibly hard to take Drake seriously from the get-go. His bars feel faux-soft most of the time, as if he is pandering to teenage girls in a sad attempt to gain pity points. His delivery on most of his songs is painfully croony and often misogynistic, pandering to an audience of insecure men who think that being left on read is an atrocity unlike any other. His lyricism, delivery, and subject matter is so painfully unaware most of the time it borders on senseless, and makes the hour and a half listening experience excruciating for anyone who can’t relate to his surface level woes.
The album begins with one of the few upsides of the record, the lusciously produced and surprisingly well-rapped “Champagne Poetry”. The track sounds the most like If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late era Drake on the record and it serves it well. His rapping is on point, the instrumental uses a well-placed soul style sample, and the beat switch around the midpoint of the track is well executed. The track, if nothing else, at least proves that Drake still has the capacity to make great music if he uses his rapping talent to his advantage. Unfortunately, the record takes a major nosedive after the first track. “Papi’s Home” is a tolerable, well-produced attempt at an anthem, but the shots at other rappers and holier-than-thou attitude feel completely unearned from someone who hasn’t dropped a half-decent project in nearly six years.
Then comes what may be the single worst track Drake has ever recorded in the form of “Girls Want Girls”. This song, while it is atrocious on its own, exemplifies everything wrong with CLB as a whole. From the unflattering and creepy opening line of “Staring at your dress because it’s see-through” to the painfully sleepy beat and comatose vocal performance from Drake, the track is a prime example of what Drake is unfortunately known for. The aforementioned “Say that you a lesbian, girl, me too” line is not only completely nonsensical, it has potential to be considered problematic for fetishizing lesbian relationships. The sentiment of the song, that “Girls want girls”, comes off like Drake is looking for sympathy for being rejected by someone of a different sexual preference than him, and the tone-deaf nature of the lyricism of the track is impossible to overlook and painfully easy to criticize. The only passable part of the entire song is Lil Baby’s vocal delivery on the latter half of the track, even if the line “She like eating pussy, I’m like “Me too”” is just as bad as the rest of the track’s lyrics.
From there, the album descends into forgettable mediocrity. The album’s highest and lowest points come within the first three tracks, and the remaining nineteen songs are so boring they are sure to make the most attentive eyes completely glaze over with disinterest. “Way 2 Sexy” is an incredibly generic pop-trap track with lackluster features from Future and Young Thug and boring performances all around. “You Only Live Twice” may be the only other track on the entire record that is somewhat enjoyable, with a decent beat and cold-blooded performances from Drake, Lil Wayne, and Rick Ross. “Get Along Better”, “F*****g Fans”, and “N 2 Deep” are all attempts at sexual bangers that fall flat on their faces due to cringey lyrics from Drake and boring production all around.
Across the board, the production on the record is relatively solid, mostly littered with simple trap beats and soul samples. The features Drake employs across the album are also relatively decent, outperforming him by miles. Whether it be to 21 Savage on “Knife Talk” or Travis Scott on “Fair Trade”, it is remarkable that Drake has the confidence and audacity to get features on his own record that so consistently outdo his every move. Remembering any of the songs more than five minutes after listening is a chore, and the tedious nature of the record is easily one of the worst things 2021 has had to offer musically. Certified Lover Boy is memorable for all the wrong reasons, and completely forgettable in every other aspect.