‘Honestly, Nevermind’ review: Drake's most entertaining album in years

Canadian hip-hop star surprises fans by embracing house and techno music

FILE - In this June 27, 2015 file photo, Canadian singer Drake performs on the main stage at Wireless festival in Finsbury Park, London. Drake's “Scorpion,” the highly anticipated, 25-track album by pop music’s No. 1 player, was released Friday. (Photo by Jonathan Short/Invision/AP, File)
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After releasing a surprise album with only 90 minutes' notice and featuring a radically new musical direction, Drake has some explaining to do.

The Canadian hip-hop artist dropped the vibrant and divisive Honestly, Nevermind on streaming services on Thursday, alongside a poetic statement.

“I let my humbleness turn to numbness at times, letting time go by knowing I got the endurance to catch it another time,” he said.

“I work with every breath in my body cause it’s the work not air that makes me feel alive … no one knows what’s on my mind when I go to sleep at nine and wake up at 5 — unless I say it in rhyme.”

And with that begins one of Drake’s most introspective and intriguing albums to date.

Here are three things to know about Honestly Nevermind:

1. It is a much needed wake-up call

Continued success can lead to diminishing efforts.

Over the past few years, Drake fell into a creative cul-de-sac, with albums increasingly directionless and bloated to increase streaming numbers.

His previous release, 2021's Certified Lover Boy was symptomatic of that malaise, a 21-track collection about his professional and personal exploits that remains a more gruelling than exciting listening experience.

While his sizeable fan base took the album to the top of the charts, its success didn’t translate to shifting popular culture — something previous Drake albums did effortlessly.

Honestly, Nevermind shakes him and devotees from their collective stupor.

At 14 tracks, it is one of his leanest efforts to date and is characterised by a newfound urgency to explore dance rhythms.

The fact the album title is trending on Twitter, complete with confused fan emojis, means not everyone will be going along for the ride.

2. The production is stellar

Drake's greatest artistic contribution is to take hip-hop and pop music into exciting new sonic terrains.

While Afro-pop and dancehall is deservedly in the spotlight right now, it was Drake that helped pushed radio and mainstream clubs to fully embrace the sound courtesy of adventurous hits One Dance, Controlla and Hotline Bling.

With Honestly, Nevermind, Drake trains his ears to relatively more challenging sounds, ranging from Chicago house to techno.

The latter style is reflected in the pulsating Sticky, with Drake's forceful raps riding over ferocious kick drums and ghostly synths.

The exceptional Texts Go Green is one of three tracks co-produced by Black Coffee.

The South African's signature four on the floor rhythms, piano lines and percussion provides a brilliantly soulful backdrop for Drake to ruminate on.

Massive, with its heaving beats and choppy vocal samples, fully embraces Chicago House and is ripe for numerous remixes.

While the risk-taking is pleasing, that diversity is not matched by Drake’s vocal delivery.

There are many times, particularly in Currents and Flights Booked, where he sounds bereft of the bold melodic ideas the dazzling production demands.

3. It is lyrically played out

When Drake first came on to the scene, his lyrical vulnerability and emotional intelligence was a breath of fresh air in a hip-hop world dominated by gangster rap.

More than a decade later, it all sounds well and truly played out.

Honestly, Nevermind is full of lyrical tropes that have increasingly lost their potency over time.

Down Hill’s percolating percussion and finger snaps is let down by lyrics bemoaning the loss of yet another relationship.

And the aforementioned Texts Go Green finds Drake using the green message bubbleon Apple mobile phones as an example of the struggle of moving on from a toxic relationship.

Despite the well-trodden subject matter, Honestly, Nevermind is Drake's best effort since 2016’s Views.

It’s a welcome reminder that Drake still has a few tricks up his sleeve.

Updated: June 18, 2022, 5:44 AM
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