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Nothing Was The Same’ fails to deliver

Dan Brombach | Tuesday, September 24, 2013

After listening to Drake’s hotly anticipated new album, “Nothing Was The Same,” I sat at my desk feeling duped. Like a 19th century company claiming its cigarettes could cure asthma, or a Pizza Ranch convincing people its food doesn’t cause cardiac arrest or spontaneous combustion, Cash Money Records snared me in the sticky web of false advertising. Drake’s new album should not be named “Nothing Was The Same.” It should be titled, “Nothing Was Above Average.”

This review pains me to write. I thought “Nothing Was The Same” would be on par with “Take Care,” Drake’s most recent and wildly successful studio album. Maybe it wouldn’t be essentially golden from top to bottom but hey, it would still provide multiple classics to add to the iTunes library, right? Wrong. If it weren’t for its several redeeming tracks, “Nothing Was The Same” would have joined “Tha Carter 4” in the ranks of my all-time musical disappointments.

Drake has always tried to balance rapping and singing, bragging and introspection, fast flows and crooning over moody, piano accompanied beats. If I had to put my finger on it, I guess the main problem with “Nothing Was The Same” is that he let this delicate balance drop right on its head. Make no mistake, Drake did plenty of singing and moping in “Take Care,” but he always managed to blend it well within the broader flow of the album. This was simply not the case with “Nothing Was The Same,” the only noticeable exception being the well-executed change of pace exhibited in the song “Too Much.”

In songs like “It’s Yours” and “Connect,” it seems like Drake is sacrificing musical quality in a bid for sympathy, making “Nothing Was The Same” into a sob story rather than a hip-hop album. Drake slowing things down and delving into his personal life – giving us a glimpse of his struggles, successes and fears – gives the album an undeniably unique and attractive flavor at several points (as it does in “From Time”). However, this doesn’t change the fact that he took things over the top. If you want to tell your life story, write an autobiography called “Toronto Troubles” and go plug it on “The Maury Show.”

After listening to the album for a second time, I came to a sudden realization. With all his whining about relationship problems, give Drake cowboy boots and a curly blonde wig and he would be the undisputed Taylor Swift of rap. “Oh but it’s so refreshing to see a rapper in touch with his emotions. He’s so sensitive and versatile,” his supporters will exclaim. Well, Taylor Swift is versatile too: She can cry and play the guitar at the same time.  

Fortunately, “Nothing Was The Same” does have some songs that showcase Drake at his best: Delightfully arrogant with razor sharp lyrics and a smooth yet aggressive flow. If you want the Drake from songs like “Over,” “Headlines” and “We’ll Be Fine,” I can guarantee “The Language” and “All Me” will be right up your alley.  

I’m not leaving “Started From the Bottom” off the list of album-redeeming tracks because of some temporary bout of amnesia, I’m excluding it because I can’t stand repetitive rap. If you enjoy listening to the same line repeated 28 times over the course of a three-minute long song then be my guest. It’s a free country. Bang your head against a wall 28 times in three minutes for all I care.

I apologize that the beginning of this column turned into a Drake bashing session. Drake is one of my favorite rappers. If he keeps working and churning out music, he could end up carving out his own unique and enduring place in hip-hop. People can get carried away with their attacks on Drake’s toughness, saying things like “Drake is softer than wet tofu,” “Drake cries during Golden Girl reruns” or “Drake voted for Ralph Nader.” 

Let me remind those critics that Drake has the potential to blow the doors off any track he touches. He can make rappers look like preschoolers on their own tracks, just like he did with French Montana in “Pop That.” He’s also incredibly powerful and well connected, so if I go missing, it’s probably because he sent someone who looks like Huell from “Breaking Bad” to sit on me and break my legs.

Drake is still fiercely talented, so when he tells people not to “sleep on him,” I listen.  At the end of the day, I will never sleep on Drake’s ability as a rapper, even if most of the songs off his recent album made me want to take a nap.

 

Contact Dan Brombach at dbrombac@nd.edu
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.