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Review: Certified Lover Boy Finds Drake Buying Too Much Into His Own Mythos

Drake’s Certified Lover Boy is a distended confessional wherein the rapper attempts to reaffirm his image as a sweet-talking power player.

Drake, Certified Lover Boy
Photo: Republic Records

On his sixth studio album, Certified Lover Boy, Drake comes across as an artist who’s bought into his mythos and persona a bit too ardently. “Countin’ up my bodies, damn, the thing just start to pile,” he gloats on “In the Bible,” in reference to his “body count,” or the number of women he’s bedded. It’s a statistic that appears to be the rapper/singer’s driving motivation, as he details the various reasons that the opposite sex finds him so irresistible across the album. This constant emphasizing of his sexual proficiency makes it feel like he’s trying to prove something to us but maybe also to himself.

The production on Certified Lover Boy is svelte yet airless, filled with lots of solemn piano lines and muted snares but absent of big flourishes or attempts at pop crossover. It’s an approach that’s likely aiming for tasteful restraint, but the effect is languid and directionless. The album might have been more diverting had Drake found a more clever or subversive way to illustrate his lothario bona fides. Instead, he’s content to just adapt his Instagram handle into the first two songs, “Champagne Poetry” and “Papi’s Home,” and then curiously try to align himself with the lesbian community on the nonsensical “Girls Want Girls.”

On “Fair Trade,” Drake muses, “I hold no resentment in my heart, that’s that maturity,” but it’s clear that he’s not as evolved as he thinks when, on “The Remorse,” he asserts, “Y’all music gets watered down when you love ‘em back,” suggesting something would be lost artistically if he cared for one of his partners. It’s an even stranger claim when one considers that the best Drake songs already mix heart-on-sleeve vulnerability with cocksure posing.

Certified Lover Boy is a distended confessional wherein Drake tries to protect his reputation and reaffirm his image as a sweet-talking power player. That makes “Way 2 Sexy,” on which Future and Young Thug goof around with a riff on Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy,” feel like a refreshing, and necessary, break from all of the poker-faced libertine anthems.

Given that freestyle, and the impression of it, is still king in rap, the album’s carefully written verses are also welcoming. Drake occasionally leaves out a word or two that fit a rhyme scheme, prompting us to fill in the blanks: “Got a little candy in her pocket/She gon’ take off like a—,” he says pointedly on “N 2 Deep.” But nothing on Certified Lover Boy comes close to the breezy self-awareness of last year’s “Laugh Now Cry Later,” which was curiously left off the album. “Far as the Drake era goes, we in the golden ages,” he boasts on “7am on Bridle Path,” and with his best work apparently in the rearview, you wonder if he really believes that.

Label: Republic Release Date: September 3, 2021 Buy: Amazon

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