On his third full-length outing, Grammy-winner Aubrey Drake Grahm boasts personal growth and aural expansion on an LP that does not feel like he has ventured past his “Take Care” days of 2011. He revisits his bitter obsession of love lost on many tracks like as he did on “Take Care” only to intersperse them in a presentation characterized by his other struggles, such as financial and family troubles. While there is a noticeable improvement in Drake’s clean singing, the more noticeable lack of focus, both lyrically and in songwriting, marks “Nothing Was the Same” as the Canadian rapper’s weakest effort to date.
The single “Started from the Bottom” grabs listeners with its piano loops and tinned snare that lay nicely under its sample of ambient artist Bruno Sanfilippo. The arguably un-Drake aspect of the track is where Drake ventures lyrically; a passionate lyricist presents arguments with his uncle over who is driving the car as his struggle. A listener must wonder, “Do other lines about getting into squabbles with his mother ‘every month’ depict a man who started from the lowest of lows?” His past two records were acclaimed for his honest lyricism, and other cuts from “Nothing” depict the bitterness of breakups like “From Time,” where Drake namedrops an ex named Courtney in a move that is more than sure to mortify her.
However, other cuts like “Tuscan Leather” feel like nothing more than Drake belting his own buzzwords like “yolo” about the new, self-proclaimed Dizzy Drake which meanders about, never achieving a lyrical focus.
Many of the tracks struggle from an interesting exposition only to find themselves lacking development. “Own It” finds Drake’s singing greatly improved from past endeavors, sounding fuller and richer than ever, but his progress is cut short by the composition’s inability to find a solid cadence. “Connect” has Drake rap-singing like a Pink Friday era Nicki Minaj, minus the British cockney, of course, but suffers the same simple fate of feeling like it never goes anywhere sonically. As a whole, much of the album is marred by generic beats and an almost skeletal sense of instrumentation. This would appear to place a focus on Drake’s voice and lyrics, which would not be an issue if he maintained a consistent focus not so much on himself, but of himself, as he falls folly to the indecision of exactly what image he wants his listeners to have from him. Is he honest and heart-broken, or is he jaded from his start from the bottom? “Nothing” leaves that question unanswered.
While the man himself is stuck on the past, the main weakness of “Nothing Was the Same” is not the honest lyrical content, it is the flat instrumentals that fail to captivate Drake’s listeners. The image of a clean-cut, sentimental man spitting game from his heart and not from his head or wallet is enough to pique the interest of a new listener’s ear, but the generic trap-esque beats in conjunction with the little-to-no variability in composition and perfunctory songwriting will drive them away shortly afterward.
Jeffrey Holmes is a second-year student majoring in Secondary English Education. He can be reached at JH791223@wcupa.edu.