Drake Breaks Streaming Records & Changes the Expectation of What We Call an Album

I’ve always wanted to be More like Drake get rich off mixtape, expand my Views to a point where I’m So Far Gone that if you’re reading this it’s too late.

Drake released his newest project More Life in March 2018, and by May 2018, he had broken records at the BBMAs. His trajectory in the past two years, with the exclusion of What a Time to be Alive, has been interesting to watch.

The If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late mixtape was released in 2015. This project was voracious with each track having an amazing flow and cadence about them with strong memorable hooks.

Views is his fourth proper studio album. Almost every song is memorable and quotable and the ones that aren’t are still well done. I say this is his best album even topping Take Care because while Take Care had great production and tasteful samples Views does it in an even more masterful way. Even the very emotional ‘Drake-y’ songs on Views just seem more mature than than the ones on Take Care, and while I love tracks such as “Marvin’s Room” I would trade “Shot for Me” for “Faithful” almost any day. This album rightfully dominated the charts and airwaves of the summer of 2016.

Does ‘More Life’ Qualify as an Actual Album?

More Life is the playlist by October Firm and the project immediately following very successful Views. The most common criticism of More Life is that many of the songs sound like excerpts from his previous projects. In Drake’s defense he does call it a playlist. So maybe, if it’s a playlist of anything it’s a playlist of different Drake sounds i.e. IYRTITL Drake, Take Care Drake, Views Drake, and of course Caribbean Drake.

Tonally the project is all over the place. The first two songs, “Free Smoke” and “No Long Talk,” flow very well together but not so much with the next five songs, starting with “Passionfruit” and ending at “Blem.” However those same songs flow wonderfully and seamlessly together among themselves. This happens again with “Portland” and “Sacrifices,” but then the remainder of the songs to follow are the least cohesive. However, if this is just a playlist of the different sounds of Drake, maybe this is excusable, but this excuse is convenient not only for this.

IYRTITL was released shortly after his deal with Apple to debut all of his ‘albums’ through their streaming service exclusively. Then Views was released the next year becoming the most streamed album on Spotify to date only to be rivaled a year later by his own More Life. I would be hard pressed to believe that Drake’s decision to make this a ‘playlist’ isn’t directly a result of this. It would serve his best interest to do what is necessary to again produce those numbers on the streaming service. While knowing the movements behind the scenes help explain why these defining terms are being thrown around music discussion, the effects it has had on the norms of the industry are recognizable.

Where Should Artists Draw the Line?

Lil Yachty was asked in a Complex interview why he felt compelled to call his newest project an album and he says something akin to – as long as the projects are on Apple Music he’s still making money from them but calling the project an album will illicit a certain expectation. All of which is true. It has been mostly accepted in the culture that albums are collections of original music that have components such as overarching themes and a narrative, maybe even a consistent point of view. Mixtapes, playlists, etc. would not necessarily have the same cohesion.

Also, it would not hold to the same standard of originality. When artists release mixtapes they often take advantage of the opportunity to use samples, cover and/or remix the work of others. More Life itself uses whole songs and re-brands them: “Get it Together” and “Teenage Fever” are almost verbatim the original songs they sampled.

In the future it would be interesting to hear ‘More Chunes’ from more artists where the lines that separate these musical packages are played with and experimented with, but I also fear that it would stop being in the best interest of the executives behind the music industry to create real albums. If vibes and feels begin to outsell narrative and POV it will become more profitable to fund projects filled with catchy singles rather like a playlist prepackaged by the label distributing it.

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