‘For All the Dogs’: Drake’s identity crisis makes for a bloated album
Luke Foley | Tuesday, October 10, 2023
Are there two words more synonymous than “Drake” and “mid”? Despite still being immensely successful, Drake’s music has started being criticized more in recent years. People say he has “fallen off,” become complacent and exerted little effort into his predictable albums. But when he actually did something risky and fresh by experimenting with house music in last year’s “Honestly, Nevermind,” his efforts were widely derided. So what could the “6 God” do to win back acclaim? Drake decided that he would acquiesce to the people’s frequent pleas by explicitly billing his new album, “For All the Dogs,” as a return to the “Old Drake.” Was he successful? Somewhat. “For All the Dogs” features some stellar production and great performances from Drake and guests but is bogged down by its bloated tracklist and embarrassing lyrics.
The album starts strong with the opening track, “Virginia Beach.” Drake both sings and raps over a wonderful beat with a warped, sped-up Frank Ocean sample and glittery synths. From here, the tracklist oscillates between chest-thumping bangers and more somber and reflective tracks. On the high-energy side, there are highlights like the heavy bass “Daylight” and “First Person Shooter,” which features a stellar guest verse from J. Cole and is the best song on the album. “IDGAF” has a trippy, maximalist beat that shows Drake impressively performing outside his comfort zone. While sometimes repetitive and safe, the album’s production is consistently catchy, crisp and well-mixed.
The album also has a solid selection of somber tracks. “Slime You Out” is a melodramatic ballad with a great feature from SZA. In “Amen,” Drake mixes religion with his usual Drake musings on relationships and features a very soulful hook from Teezo Touchdown. “Tried Our Best” sees Drake lamenting a toxic relationship in one of the album’s rare moments of vulnerability instead of aggression. “8am in Charlotte” is another entry in Drake’s trademark “Time in City” series, and here he commentates on a wide range of topical issues. The song features many hilarious, corny lines. Some of my favorites are “Knowin’ they gon’ sell another citizen ’caine, they think they Orson Welles,” “And now it’s silence in the Lamb’ like the horror film” and “Feel like I’m bi ’cause you’re one of the guys, girl.”
The biggest issue with the album is the bloated runtime of nearly an hour and a half long. No Drake album should be longer than “Toy Story.” While I’m sure it helps Drake rake in more streaming money, it seriously hurts the album’s overall quality. You forget that there’s a great selection of songs in the album when you have to drudge through Drake crooning about the same relationship woes over beats that eventually sound homogeneous. This brings us to another issue: Drake’s tiresome, spiteful lyrical focus. The staying power of classic Drake songs like “Marvin’s Room” and “Highlights” is due to Drake’s heart-on-his-sleeve lyricism that endearingly expresses both pride and pain. But Drake’s maturity has regressed with age, for in recent albums, he has ditched this style that propelled him to fame, instead donning a toxic, bitter, self-aggrandizing persona. This results in pathetic songs like “Fear of Heights,” where he insults his ex of seven years, Rihanna, and calls their sex life average. This toxic, petty Drake can be entertaining in moderation, but when combined with a 90-minute runtime, the incessant tendency of slighting women, rappers and the world gets old and obnoxious.
I think “For All the Dogs” is a good album despite its problems, but I am in the minority with my positive opinion, as both audiences and critics don’t seem to like this album very much. Thus, Drake’s candid attempt to recapture the success of his old music has failed. Before the album’s release, he announced he’d be taking a one-year break from music. During this time, he will have to reflect on where his career goes from here. People don’t know what Drake they want, and now, I don’t think Drake himself knows either.