Drake — Honestly Nevermind — OVO
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by M.G. Mailloux Music What Would Meek Do?

Drake — Honestly, Nevermind

August 1, 2022

Honestly, Nevermind is Drake’s best record in a half-decade, a monumental work of pop music-making and a welcome disruption of his grab-bag approach to album construction.

For a few years and however many album cycles now, Drake, that enduring icon of Canadian excellence x pettiness, has been floundering, really doing just enough to stay in the conversation and nothing beyond. Operating on a release schedule that’s favored ubiquity over everything, the projects that have followed 2017’s More Life (Drizzy’s last great album, and also probably his best) — the Scary Hours EP duology, fan service compilation Care Package, failed quarantine release Dark Lane Demo Tapes, and his worst studio albums, Scorpion and Certified Lover Boy — have largely been tepid, mind-numbingly corporate offerings. None of which has necessarily done much to hinder the general public’s enthusiasm for this guy’s music, with Scorpion and CLB going platinum and gold (respectively) after all, and those EP- and non-album-delivered charting singles that will outlast the flimsy projects that housed them, but it’s been hard to see this continued success as more than a product of inertia. Undoubtedly, this is a pretty common tale of streaming-era music making, but for Drake, who has thrived in this context his whole career, and arguably defined what a long-form project could look like in it with the aforementioned More Life, it’s hard not to assume something more dramatic, particularly in the wake of the hidden child saga and eyebrow-raising reports of friendships with various underage female stars. But Drake is nothing if not a smooth operator and brand genius, and also totally spiteful, so it was inevitable that he’d find a way to confound the haters yet again, and in the process has delivered his most satisfying album in five years.

Signaling Drake’s play with a borderline self-parodic title, echoing the passive-aggressive brattiness of debut studio album Thank Me Later, Honestly, Nevermind takes Drake back to basics in one way, while finally, thoroughly exploring musical territories that had only been briefly surveyed previously. Basically acting as if streaming sample platter duds Scorpion and Certified Lover Boy never happened, Honestly, Nevermind acts as a worthy follow-up to the vibey, dance music globetrotting of Views and More Life, albeit more streamlined and traditionally constructed (i.e. something of an Album album). Following in the footsteps of perpetual hits “One Dance” and the Moodymann-sampling “Passionfruit,” the 14 songs on Honestly, Nevermind operate in a space somewhere between those two tracks, an aesthetic masterminded by South African DJ Black Coffee, Gordo (the artist formerly known as Carnage), and #1 collaborator/Virgin Suicides star 40. Despite all these cooks in the kitchen (Congolese singer TRESOR also receives a fair number of writing and producing credits), the production on Honestly, Nevermind achieves aesthetic specificity, running through a number of regional and global permutations of house music in just under an hour to create a sort of composite that also maintains individual idiosyncrasies. Arguably almost too cohesive (songs after the midway mark really start to flow into one another until 21 Savage interrupts the reverie on closer “Jimmy Cooks”), Honestly, Nevermind is at the very least a welcome disruption of Drake’s grab-bag approach to album construction, and a more artful, focused effort than one might have assumed him still capable. And at its best, Honestly, Nevermind is pretty monumental pop music-making, album centerpieces “Sticky” and “Massive” delivering career-best material that, for a moment, convincingly sells Drake as a slick MC. 

Though if there’s a harder-to-ignore sticking point here, it’s the Drake persona, for which present-day mileage will vary wildly. Mining romantic martyrdom and aggrievement more aggressively than he has in ages (pre-fatherhood, at least), Drake trudges his mopiest depths for these tracks and comes up with classic tales of persecution by duplicitous modern women and all that. He spins such narratives with a fervor that translates into occasionally inspired lyricism, but one can’t deny that each year he continues to play this role (which he perfected, to be fair) brings with it the possibility of crushing embarrassment. Pardoning that maybe significant dealbreaker, Honestly, Nevermind is an irresistible work of danceable melancholy, whether or not you take it at face value.