Pop some bubbly and pass the cigars: It’s a Certified Lover Boy! More than two years after Drake began teasing fans with hints about its creation, his sixth studio album is finally here. At 21 songs and nearly 90 minutes, there’s a lot to enjoy and debate. Our full review is on its way. In the meantime, here are six observations from our early listens to Certified Lover Boy.
Drake’s Sample Budget Is Bigger Than Yours
Certified Lover Boy opens with a big, shiny loop of the Beatles’ “Michelle”: “I love you, I love you, I love you…” When you’ve got a chipmunk-soul version of Paul McCartney playing the Pips to your Gladys Knight, you know you have a good sample clearance lawyer. Sampling the Beatles is the kind of flaunt that outshines any number of brand deals; putting it at Track One sends an unmistakable message about where you see yourself in the canon of pop music, and how much money you have to back that up. (Later songs feature prominent samples of Right Said Fred’s 1991 hit “I’m Too Sexy” and Bun B’s mid-2000s Texas rap classic “Get Throwed,” among many other successful liner-note stunts.)
UPDATE: Closer listens suggest that Drake’s track actually samples a 1972 cover of “Michelle,” not the original Beatles recording of that song. Still, quite a flex.
Drake Still Sounds Like Drake
Some of his onetime peers seem like they’ve lost their way lately, searching aimlessly in the dark for the qualities that once made them brilliant. (Cough.) Not this guy — Certified Lover Boy is a Drake album that will remind you why you like Drake. It’s a showpiece full of luxuriously floaty 40 beats, emotionally resonant samples, and that trademark unfadeable self-confidence with a side of wounded resentment. There are songs here that recall his championship run circa Nothing Was the Same, his moody fan-favorite Take Care, and even his young and ambitious 2010 debut, Thank Me Later. It’s been more than a decade since Drake started reshaping music. Are you thanking him yet?
Drake Has a Lot of Friends
Drake albums packed with guests are nothing new, but he truly goes all-out on Certified Lover Boy, sharing the mic with 15 featured artists, according to the official tracklist, the most of any Drake album. (That number includes Future twice, though not Yebba, who joins Drake for the gorgeous “Yebba’s Heartbreak” but was technically not listed as a featured artist.) Many of the guests are hip-hop royalty — Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, and more — but he also makes room for up-and-comers like Nigerian singer Tems. Drake has always been fascinated with regional sounds, and the day before CLB hit, he teased the guest spots with billboards in the artists’ hometowns, including one that read “Hey Atlanta, Slime, Pluto, Savage and Baby Are on CLB.” (That’d be Young Thug, Future, 21 Savage, and Lil Baby, respectively.) So many huge names is a flex, but Drake also makes the most of his guests musically: “You Only Live Twice,” to name one feature-heavy standout, is a brassy shot of energy that brings Ross and Wayne along for the ride and sounds like 2008, in the best possible way.
Jay-Z Brought His A-Game
Twenty years ago, getting a Jay-Z feature on your song was an instant upgrade that made radio programmers tear up their playlists and fans hit Limewire with alacrity. Time passes, generations shift, and seeing his name on a tracklist doesn’t always have the same effect on today’s listeners; when he popped up on Kanye West’s Donda recently, he sounded listless and half-hearted. But Jay can still bring the old magic when he’s in the right mood. He’s dialed in on “Love All,” rapping with the effortless ease that made him a legend, tossing out internal rhymes and threatening puns: “This ain’t the same Shawn that you knew once/I don’t shine shoes, uh.” “Only thing we respect now is violence/Anything besides this, we playing violins.” “You know the price of everything, but the value of nothing.” His verse is a lyrical highlight and a reminder that he’s still an all-time great.
Drake Likes Yacht Rock
Drake knows summer is wrapping up, so he pours one out by sampling some yacht rock on “TSU.” He sings about a sex worker trying to make a better life for herself — “She used to dance, but she want a loan to start up a business” — over ‘NSync’s cover of Christopher Cross’ “Sailing.” The boy band covered the soft-rock classic on their self-titled debut album in 1997. It’s a totally obscure and forgotten track that only Aubrey Graham would remember, and it’s definitely a welcome addition to Certified Lover Boy — one that almost makes you forget R. Kelly is credited for a sample on this song as well.
Drake Is Still Good for a Quotable Lyric
“They tried to label me mean, I say what I mean.” “I’ve been losing friends and finding peace/Honestly, that sounds like a fair trade to me.” “Not sure if you know, but I’m actually Michael Jackson/The man I see in the mirror is actually going platinum.” “I’m still working on me/And I’m coming back better for you.” Certified Lover Boy is absolutely teeming with lyrics that are guaranteed to show up in dating-app bios, Instagram captions, green-bubble texts, and bicep tattoos by this weekend. Would it be a Drake album any other way?