Drake is a meticulous editor. He always found ways to bundle the world’s sounds into familiar packages for stubborn listeners, like a parent tricking their child into tasting an unfamiliar fruit. His feature on WizKid’s “Ojuelegba” remix in 2015 and Views“One Dance” seems to anticipate Afropop’s rise to global domination, and “Only You Freestyle” featuring Headie One is one of his loosest and funniest rap performances in recent memory. Drake’s role on this album, however, is closer to a vibration master. In what makes for a looping moment, it allows South African house producer Black Coffee, executive producer of Honestly it doesn’t matter which was sampled on more life‘s “Get It Together”, to guide him through fourteen aerial tracks. Honestly it doesn’t matter is his “dance music” album – equally frustrating for dance fans, who think Drake is no good at this style of music, and for hardcore Drake fans, who have been looking forward to a normal Drake album . Its target audience exists somewhere in between, or none at all. This isn’t meant to be a galaxy puzzle game; Honestly it doesn’t matter is perhaps the simplest album he has ever released.
The album unfolds like a full DJ set with moody valleys and feverish temporary highs. After a brief saxophone solo on the intro, Drake immediately jumps into the album’s glitzy funk. It’s bold, and because of that, he tries to build trust quickly by showing he knows a variety of styles and skims through them quickly. Surprisingly, there’s not a lot of rap here. For most of the album’s 53-minute runtime, Drake is in disaffected pure talk-singing mode, crooning over clubby triplets and choppy vocal samples. He’s long flirted with regional dance styles, like on the South Florida jook-inspired “To The Max,” which samples Newark club producer Jayhood’s “Heartbroken” remix via “Get ‘Em Right.” Now he delivers a comprehensive summary of the Baltimore Club, Jersey Club and Afro-house influences that were once just samples and brief detours on other albums.
But as the album goes on, it starts to sound more like Drake wants to cry in the club, not dance. The production takes on that energy too, with mellow, mellow melodies and smooth percussion. “Flight’s Booked” and “Calling My Name”, for all their finesse, still manage to be hit by a desaturation filter. Although on the former, it’s to Drake’s advantage, painting gray skies as he sings about a long-distance relationship that’s been on the wane. Present everywhere is a restless boredom that never rises. Even when Drake tries to wipe the slate clean, he falls back into an emotional abyss.