“Certified Lover Boy” is the newest album from popular Toronto rapper Drake. “Certified Lover Boy,” Drake’s sixth studio album, was rumored to drop during the fall of 2020, but the actual date, January 2021, was announced in a teaser that same fall. Fast forward almost a year and several delays, and the album has finally dropped. Does it meet the hype?
To be brief, no. On the contrary, this album is anything but brief. A blistering 21 tracks in 86 minutes, CLB gives West’s “Donda” (108 minutes), released just five days prior, a run for its money. However, runtime is the only facet in which “Certified Lover Boy” contests its rival album. “Certified Lover Boy” is filled to the brim with bad singing decisions, questionable rhymes and less charisma than that one friend who thinks he can sing.
Drake starts out lukewarm on “Champagne Poetry,” a reflection on his place in the world amid social unrest and public pressure. Drake references the BLM protests as well as the George Floyd murder trial in passing, but the main direction of the song shifts into his perspective on fatherhood, rapping about the slights made toward his absentee parenthood of his own son. However, Drake’s lyrics remain noncommittal when he is not addressing disses towards him, a constant trend in this album.
Drake goes from mediocre to bad in “Girls Want Girls,” a song that ranges from groan-worthy to confusing. Drake pieces together an entire song fetishizing lesbian women, rapping the now viral line, “Yeah, say that you a lesbian, girl, me too,” presumably under the logic that both lesbians and Drake are attracted to women. However, Drake conveys all this through the same monotone drone, as if it might absolve him of singing this stupid song. It truly feels as if Drake’s mind wrote a parody of hip-hop songs in the early 2000s, only for his voice to not get the memo and keep singing in the same two-note register.
“Fair Trade” is the first highlight of the album for me. The track’s delicate but catchy background is sung by Charlotte Day Wilson. Drake’s vocals, while not explicitly loud and energetic, build off the sensual energy from Wilson’s intro, as he half-sings, half-raps about the fake friends that he’s made and lost on his way to the top of the entertainment industry. Travis Scott’s trappy instrumental blares loudly in the background as Drake defiantly claims that the friends he has lost are a fair trade compared to the peace he has gained. Although the lyricisim is not impeccable, its strength lies in the personality that Drake lets shine through, rapping that “Mama used to be on disability but gave me this ability / And now she walkin’ with her head high and her back straight.” Truly inspiring words for any listeners going through injuries right now.
The album falls right back down on its face with “Way 2 Sexy,” a less offensive version of “Girls Want Girls” that sounds basically like what you’d expect a song titled “Way 2 Sexy” to sound like. The Future and Young Thug features are painfully dull and basically get lost in the song’s repetitive instrumental. If you must listen to this song, watch the music video for a five-second clip of Kawhi Leonard dancing that will make your pain go away.
“Yebba’s Heartbreak” is a pleasant interlude halfway through the album that features Grammy-award winning singer and songwriter Yebba. Yebba’s crooning “I do, I do, I do” is enough to break your heart, as the passion in her voice crescendos and comes back down again, resembling the phases of pain after heartbreak.
“Race My Mind” is a lowkey jam that sees Drake in his feelings, knowing deep inside that the girl he’s with is unfaithful, but begging her to change his mind. From the onset of the intro hook, Drake is musically revived, singing with far greater emotion than the entirety of his performance so far. This track is a banger, with Drake doing it all, singing over a comfy beat that culminates in volume and intensity as he begins rapping.
The second half of the album is markedly less embarrassing than the first half, but that’s also its downfall. I may have enjoyed the latter batch of songs more, but I also don’t remember them. There is nothing special in the lyrics, the content or the vocal delivery that jumps out at me, no matter how many times I listen to the album. Even the features start to become stale; Kid Cudi’s part in “IMY2” sounds like an outtake from “Man on the Moon 3.” My most common reaction to a song on “Certified Lover Boy” was neither hype nor disappointment, it was boredom.
If you’re looking for a good sad jam from Drake, look no further. Put on “Take Care,” because the next good Drake album may be a long time coming.