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REVIEW: What is ‘Certified Lover Boy’ – Ballads of love and heart break, a diss track, or a bible for toxic love?

October 15, 2021

by : Alvin Ugo-Mgbemene

The Certified lover boy – who is he? A man set in his ways, selectively honest and beautifully heartless. Known to be loved well amongst the ladies, despised by his male counterparts, although revered as king among men – a rarity. A true lover boy.

This adequately highlights the centralizing theme behind Drakes sixth album which was rolled out just in time to fuel his ongoing feud with Kanye West. The nature of this album perfectly puts into perspective the state of mind of the artist following his rumored entanglement with Kim Kardashian west as well as continued diss with her former spouse which is followed by his recent of previous toxic love experiences.

The album cover is puerile and the strangest in his discography, as if he wanted to reach an iconographic nadir before his popularity waned, a wink that he can create seismic social ripples with just an iOS keyboard. In that way, the Hirst cover suggested a levity and even self-effacing irony that is not found on the album.

At various points on Certified Lover Boy, it feels like Drake is trapped in the empire he’s built and the narrator-character he’s created. Luxury and pettiness, common Drake themes, are persistent across the album and it frequently sounds like he’s tired of both. On “In the Bible,” he’s with a group of women who are taking shots at the Tao Nightclub in Las Vegas and murmurs, “You don’t know love, you don’t love me like my child.” Later, on “Pipe Down,” he sings, “How much I gotta spend for you to pipe down?” He’s not pining for a simpler life or even his own past, the way he might have on 2013’s Nothing Was the Same or 2016’s Views, but just something to enjoy, something to appreciate, a greater raison d’être than another trip on Air Drake with limitless tequila—seriously, he sounds forlorn when he repeats, “Lotta ’42 on the flights I’m takin’,” on the Jay-Z collaboration “Love All.”

Further communicating Drake’s opulent inertia is the album’s dark and cloistered atmosphere, a continuation of the cold Toronto sound that Drake and Noah “40” Shebib introduced to the world over a decade ago. There is broadly one tone across Certified Lover Boy—the sort of haze that could color a Monet facsimile—which, as ever, foregrounds Drake as the voice and instrument to shine through the mist. And while the album is his most musically cohesive since Nothing Was the Same, it’s also repetitious. There are pleasant, classic Drake moments, like “Girls Want Girls,“ “7am on Bridle Path,” and “Fair Trade,” but, mostly, the production hums along ably at best. Drake’s vocal performances, too, are mostly fine, the “Drake featurin’ Drake” that he could emote in his sleep. The mid-album cut “No Friends in the Industry” is particularly good, a rare song where he sounds animated and interested in what he’s saying, experimenting with a few different flows.

Are you a Certified Lover Boy? Drake's new album is available on all streaming platforms.

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