Drake has long seemed irked by the concept of the “old Drake”. “She says they miss the old Drake, girl don’t tempt me,” he famously mused on 2011’s ‘Headlines’, despite only being two albums deep at the time. His 2018 album ‘Scorpion’ even came with an all-caps note attached, venting at a sentiment he perceived from a section of his fans: “DRAKE IS FINISHED. I LIKE DRAKE’S OLDER STUFF… YEAH YEAH WE KNOW”.
Obviously Drake is far from finished – any album he releases will undoubtedly see people listening in record-breaking numbers once again. But following a series of misfiring records, namely 2021’s half-baked ‘Certified Lover Boy’ and 2022’s divisive moody-house detour ‘Honestly, Nevermind’, it’s understandable that you might think the rap mega-star is stuck in a creative rut.
Maybe Drake himself has sensed this too, seeing as his eighth studio LP ‘For All The Dogs’ had been billed as something of a return to this mythologised “old Drake”. Quoting the aforementioned ‘Headlines’ line in his initial album announcement, Drizzy also assured the crowd at a recent live show: “If you ever loved anything I’ve ever done in the past, I promise you, this album will be for you.”
But if this inspired hope that the Toronto native was finally set to deliver another classic to top up his enduring mega-stardom, you’ll leave feeling short-changed here. ‘For All The Dogs’ – sadly, frustratingly and perhaps predictably – sees Drake succumb to many of the same worst habits that have marred his most recent records.
Rather than vintage Drake on display, ‘For All The Dogs’ is instead, for lack of a better term, painfully mid, an uneven affair that rarely sees the artist reach the heights that we know he’s capable of. Sure, there are moments where it sparks, but all too often the songs on ‘For All The Dogs’ feel like derivative, energy-less or not fully formed: from the forgettable ‘Bahamas Promises’, which feels like a mopey off-cast from ‘Views’, to the one-note ‘Drew A Picasso’, which never quite comes to life.
Lack of quality control on a Drake album is no new news. Latter-day Drizzy records have often been criticised for being stuffed full of filler as a way of maximising streaming figures and spamming the Top 100, and unfortunately nothing’s changed here. At 23 tracks and almost 85 minutes in total length, ‘For All The Dogs’ ends up feeling at times like a slog, a feeling not helped by the artist feeling obliged to pepper the albums with long-winded intros, needless interludes and various faux-radio show skits.
But it’s a record that’s curiously short on bangers too. Drake albums are always guaranteed to serve up at least one hit that penetrates the zeitgeist and sparks endless memes. But when your album’s lead single is a languid slow jam like the SZA-featuring ‘Slime You Out’, you know there can’t be too many highlights to cherry-pick from. Even the Latin-infused ‘Gently’, basically Drake-doing-Dembow, feels like a cynical marketing ploy that not even Bad Bunny’s effortless cool can save.
Lyrically, Drake’s most toxic traits are wholly on display here. In the early days of his career, these things might have been easier to overlook due to his self-effacing tendencies or underdog schtick. Any boyish charm has abandoned him on ‘For All The Dogs’ though, instead replaced with bitterness, pettiness and finger-pointing at the supposed flaws of women in Drake’s life. “I’m tryna fuck all the bitches that look like my ex,” he spits on ’Daylight’, while on ‘Tried Our Best’ he tells his former flame: “Leave you at home if I wanna have a good time”. On ‘Rich Baby Daddy’ comes the particularly grim line: “You ain’t even know how to suck it right, I taught you right”.
Controversy is never short around a Drake release. He appears to make a jab at Rihanna on ‘Fear Of Heights’, referring to their rumoured on-off romance: “Why they make it sound like I’m still hung up on you? That could never be”. Elsewhere, he’s been accused by Pet Shop Boys of sampling 1984 hit ‘West End Girls without permission on ‘All The Parties’.
It’s not all a disaster, there are definitely some gems to sift through for. Opener ‘Virginia Beach’ brims with stream-of-conscious bars set to a Frank Ocean sample, followed by the Teezo Touchdown-gracing ‘Amen’ adding blissful gospel to Drake’s signature production palette. Elsewhere, SZA and Sexyy Red steal the show on the bouncy club number ‘Rich Baby Daddy’, which at least tries to up the tempo, while the latest in Drake’s long-running timestamp tracks, the soul-infused ‘8AM in Charlotte’, is one of the rare times that he actually sounds fired up. His hallmarks remain, like the IG caption-ready one liner on closing track ‘Polar Opposites’: “You tried to grease me, but we’re not in Mykonos.”
In the hours shortly before the album dropped, Drake announced that he would take a break from music to focus on his health. “I probably won’t make music for a little bit,” he told fans. “I’m going to lock the door on the studio for a little bit.” Hopefully he returns revitalised and renewed, because ‘For All The Dogs’- his third solo LP in as many years – not only feels tiring, but sounds tired too.
- Release date: October 6, 2023
- Record label: OVO, Republic
The post Drake – ‘For All The Dogs’ review: banger-less, bitter and deeply mid appeared first on NME.
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