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Regardless of the original intent behind More Life, it’s a better Drake album than Views was. Leading up to the release of the project, which Drake has dubbed a playlist, he gave the impression that it’d focus on the rest of what OVO Sound has to offer and introduce the world to some new artists. Now that it’s here, it’s clear that this isn’t really the case. There are appearances from artists like Young ThugSampha, and Giggs, but More Life refuses to lend much of the spotlight to anyone but Drake.

It is unequivocally an album regardless of what Drake has labeled it—just look at the way it’s structured. Other artists are given time, but Drake wants listeners to know that he’s in charge. This new album recalls Take Care in the way artists come and go, offering standout moments without stealing the show. It’s a significant shift, considering his recent history: Following the surprise release and success of If You’re Reading This, Drake began to settle into a pattern. Success, for him, had become a formula rather than labor of love.

Fast forward to More Life, and Drake has come to the realization that formulas can only take you so far when it comes to music. That’s why this is the best album we’ve heard from him since Nothing Was the Same. Sticking to what’s safe isn’t what propelled Drake to superstardom, but that was rapidly becoming the case through 2015 and 2016. More Life breaks the pattern. Drake toys with a lot of different sounds in a surprisingly well-paced 80 minutes, but it also raises concern with how he chose to present the release.

What does Drake mean when he says it’s a playlist? There aren’t enough appearances from other artists to warrant this being called a compilation. It could be that he’s trying to prevent criticism for heavily borrowing from other artists, choosing to distance himself from the growing opinion that he’s a culture vulture. This, too, would be a shift—he’s been open about his use of influences in the past, going so far as to brag about it on tracks like “Wu-Tang Forever” with lines such as, “It ain’t about who did it first / It’s ’bout who did it right.” There is a distinct sense that he’s framing certain guest appearances as giving these artists a bigger platform, especially with both Jorja Smith-featuring tracks.
It could also be that Drake is looking to label the release as a playlist because it’s a genuine exploration of the way streaming and playlists are becoming the dominant form of music consumption for many people. Instead of artificially inflating the length of an album with filler tracks to ensure chart dominance and as much revenue as possible, he’s made something that explores lots of moods and sounds—just like a playlist.

Playlists have become increasingly popular in the streaming era, with songs handpicked to match a mood or classification. Drake wants to be on all the playlists, with a song for every mood. So it makes sense to deliver something that presents variety rather than a cohesive vision. Albums aren’t dying by any means, but how we consume them has changed a whole lot.

From a business perspective it makes sense to make each release as long as possible, with songs that will fit the bedtime playlist, the morning playlist, and the club playlist. Perhaps this is Drake’s way of exploiting that without compromising his music, choosing to base his process on that of a playlist rather than an album—regardless of whether the tracks are original or not. It’s smart, but it’s also a little bit confusing.

More Life will likely restore faith for many fans who felt a little let down by the dirge that is Views. But did Drake call it a playlist because he’s unwilling to take more creative risks with a proper follow-up to Views? Here’s hoping that’s not the case, although it is hard not to feel a little cautious going forward.

More Life represents a lot of what Views was missing, especially when it comes to the production side of things. With a sample from one of worst video games of all time (Sonic the Hedgehog ’06) on the Giggs collaboration “KMT” and an audacious J-Lo sample on the peak Drake “Teenage Fever,” More Life throws a lot more surprises at the listener than its predecessor. The Kanye Westcollaboration “Glow” even sees the pair trading places stylistically, and it’s beautiful.

It’s not clear if this is Drake reacting to the lukewarm reaction Views received critically, but he’s definitely made more of a point to keep things varied on More Life. Considering just how successful Views was, More Life could have been nothing more than a number of loose tracks meant to keep fans happy, but instead it sees him vowing to keep his tastemaker status while delivering a number of potential hits at the same time.

Despite concerns over whatever it is Drake wants to call More Life, there’s a lot here to remain hopeful about. “Passionfruit” probably won’t dominate the charts in the same way “Hotline Bling” did, but it’s the prettiest thing he’s released in about four years. “Blem” sees Drake in full roadman mode, and yet it somehow feels far more genuine than any other of his attempts to invite his influences into his own music. “KMT,” XXXTENTACION controversy aside, is as harder than anything on What a Time to Be Alive.

If listeners get a little bored by one track, the next is bound to bring in something different, and that’s what makes this so much more of an essential release than his last two full-lengths. If You’re Reading This got by on having so much filler because it was officially labeled a mixtape, but Views wasn’t so lucky. It was his moment to shine, and instead he merely recycled and chose to present a dim glimmer. After dominating the news cycle leading up to the album, fans expected a lot more.

Drake’s popularity has run parallel to the dawn of streaming dominance, and Drake seems to respect that blueprint. It has made for predictable but prolific run. He was more relevant than ever back in 2015, but a reduction in quality was inevitable. Like Nothing Was the Same, however, More Life offers a little bit of everything.

There are hilarious “that’s so Drake” lines, and there are also lyrics that only Drake could ever deliver sincerely. The true beauty of Drake’s best music focuses on this duality, sitting somewhere between corny and cool without ever truly committing to either. Views didn’t quite get this balance, and it definitely leaned a little too much in on the, “I’m in on the joke” aspect that he’d begun to show from the Meek Mill beef onward.

More Life successfully walks the line, making it something of a return to form. Obviously he’s still self-aware to an extent, but there aren’t any lines about Cheesecake Factory, thankfully. Some will undoubtedly lament the abandonment of his streak, but More Life is more Drake than we ever thought it would be. All signs pointed to Drake either taking a backseat or delivering something unworthy of the album tag. Instead, we’ve got the sequel Nothing Was the Same deserved.

Drake is simultaneously a little embarrassing and also on the cutting edge of popular music, and that’s what makes him so unique as pop star. There’s plenty to laugh at and criticize on More Life, but when things get a little silly it’s still fun in a way Viewswasn’t.

Drake is moving away from a successful formula that was drying up, and making that move at the height of his popularity is commendable. We still didn’t get a proper Popcaan feature, but at least Skepta and Sampha got substantial appearances. As much as More Life may be inflated to gain Drake more streams and give him another No. 1 album, he has genuinely made a compelling use of the running time, making a case for it outside of chart impact.

What Drake chooses to call his projects is ultimately up to him, obviously, but for all the ways More Life imitates a playlist and shields Drake from criticism, at the end of the day, it’s a well-paced album, and a very good one at that.

This article can be found on pigeonsandplanes.com