Given his tenure as one of pop's most dominant artists, it's stunning that Drake only had his first No. 1 single as a lead artist last year with "One Dance." By the end of 2016, the album had smashed traditional and digital records. For more than a year "Hotline Bling" became a cultural phenomena, seeping its way into internet culture in pure Drake style.
As if he's appearing to dictate another year of music, Drake returned on Saturday night with a stunning new 22 songs. And these aren't the clinical pop tracks of Views. This is a "playlist"—something that hardly carries the pressure of a full album, but at the same time feels like so effortlessly and uniquely Drake. The thing about Drake is every album has at least one cheesy R&B song. And this song always tends to be the best song on the album—if only because it feels so authentic while leaving you wanting more. But here, with an album that's almost shameless heart emojis—highlighted by "Passionfruit," the previously-released "Lose You," and "Glow" with Kanye West—Drake doubles-down.
More Life, his new playlist (not an album goddammit), is almost exclusively the R&B Drake. It's the guy who will stay up all night talking, who will insist on making breakfast, who will go out and "not even know it was a date." There are no intentional club bangers that were so intentionally the bulk of Views. These are the smoother, romantic, and dorky songs that make an artist of Drake's status feel suddenly real. Of course he wrote the most Drake-ish titled "Passionfruit."
So Drake arrived with the sound of the summer. He plays it off like he's not even trying— the term playlist implies something fleeting, as if Drake is just trying to get this hour-and-half of music off his mind. He even says, ironically "I don't have time to be no Romeo" on album closer "Do Not Disturb." It's also, interestingly enough, following in the style of Chance the Rapper's mixtape style. If this year is to be defined by anything it's free music. (Drake has also partnered with Apple on this release, something that Chance revealed last week made him $500,000) More Life falls under whatever Drake means by a "Playlist." It's a determination of his own, and one that he can do whatever he wants with, which gives him the freedom to incorporate and play with a breadth of styles.
Views might have been the album that fans were waiting for—the big pop, proper release—but More Life is the album fans deserve.