Beyonce, Drake, Controversy, and Rollout
By now, you might be well aware, unless you’ve been living in a fantastic tunnel with boundless amenities that two of the biggest names have dropped some new albums recently. In a much ballyhooed and nail-biting roll out which manifested into an HBO special broadcast, Beyonce dropped Lemonade, her sixth studio album, and second visual album since her self-titled album three years prior. In the days of any press is good press rollout, she dropped visuals for “Formation” which already revealed a much more daring and defying Beyonce, one that instead of dipping toes to feel out more experimental sounds and textures, went head on into experimenting mode, with a cartoonish-boing percusive elements and some sinister, devilish synth-work, Beyonce unloads on several fronts regarding her southern upbringing, motivational leadership, and warped beauty standards, and that’s just the song itself, while the video unloaded way more.
Meanwhile, bubbling under the periphery of the watchful public for many months, Drake was running through the aforementioned six, recording and plotting for Views, his long awaited follow-up to Nothing Was the Same. It was coming off the heels of a pair of surprise mixtapes If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late and What A Time To Be Alive, the latter being a team up with Future, and followed up with a beef with Meek Mill that spawned one of his biggest hits with “Hotline Bling” and an eviscerating duo of tunes that effectively made whatever chatter about Meek Mill drowned out by the unanimous cheering for Toronto’s golden child.
Listening to both albums consistently over the past weeks, who the advantage should go to is pretty easy for the most part, but its also complex due to reasoning. People listen to both Beyonce and Drake for different reasons, and with Lemonade and Views, both are very polarizing listens. Beyonce’s recent experiences (and the experiences of those in her familial circle) help shape the narrative heavy on Lemonade, where she comes off talking about relationship trials and tribulations, spending the bulk of the album talking about family and personal relationships, and intertwining that narrative with a very off-the-cuff and varied genre twist, which allows Beyonce to make the magnum opus she was destined to make, bending and mixing several genres into a consistent and fantastic album.
Take for example a song like “Daddy Lessons,” which gives the country genre new life with its insert of second line horns to make it feel like a French Quarter throwdown, or how Beyonce and Kendrick Lamar manhandle “Freedom” with a Just Blaze backing that would have you think she took it from a certain person’s stash just to show you how to do this, son! Elsewhere on Lemonade, “Don’t Hurt Yourself” gives a trap twist on garage rock, and Jack White’s hook doesn’t hurt either, while “Sandcastles” is a vengeful ballad with Bey singing “Bitch I scratched out your name, and your face, what is it about you?” with an intensity that hasn’t been seen since “Rather Die Young.” Regardless of all the scorn and hurt, there is a slight tinge of forgiveness that resonates through the album, such as the whispers of “come back” during “6 Inch Heels,” or on the stunning closer “All Night.” During the 45 minute duration of the album, Beyonce fully immerses herself in various soundscapes and structures that are varied, but play nicely into the narrative and presentation of the album itself, and the visual presentation only enhances that fact tenfold.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, Views is largely a narrative of trading industry war stories and playing the jilted ex who doesn’t see what he’s done wrong. “Feel No Ways” has Drake sates very emphatically “I had to let go of us, just to show myself what I could do, and that just didn’t sit right with you,” trying to paint it more as a chase for success narrative. On songs like the upbeat and hazy “Child’s Play,” the superior levels of petty reach a fever pitch once a fight at The Cheesecake Factory reaches its climax, with Drake stating “you wildin’, you super childish, you go to CVS for Kotex in my Bugatti,” or delivering veiled threats like “don’t make me give you back to the hood,” leaving her to wonder “how many women have slept in this bed” only for Drake to say “say a different number than the one that’s in my head.” If it’s not being super petty or jealous of a woman’s life post-Drake, there’s certainly subdued celebrations and triumphant war stories, such as on the song “Grammy” which has a show-stealing verse from Future who’s able to show the difference between him and Desiigner with relative ease, or on the haunting backdrops of “Hype” and “Still Here,” however, its “Weston Road Flows” that has Drake adapting a confident and cool demeanor that is largely lacking on Views. If its not missed opportunities like “Faithful” which has an out of place Pimp C cameo, or “Pop Style” missing The Throne, its the lazy balladry of “Redemption” or fumbled dance floor jams like “With You” (“Too Much” with Rihanna proves to be a better dancefloor jam) that hinders Views being the classic it exclaims. It’s too bloated an affair to digest at a staggering 82 minutes, and that’s with “Hotline Bling” being tacked on as a bonus.
In the end, the advantage here proves to go to efficiency and overall mission statement building, and Lemonade has that in spades. It proves to do in 45 minutes (65 if you’re viewing the visual presentation) what Drake’s Views is tasked to do in 82 minutes. Even with the roles and narrative each chooses to build, Beyonce’s Lemonade still holds up wonderfully, especially for being how varied and well traveled in genres it toys with, while Drake’s Views is more like Nothing Was the Same 2.0, it’s good, but not great, and that’s largely due to its bloated factor and off focus message. Proof that more bang for your buck doesn’t always equal better quality.
Stream Beyonce’s Lemonade HERE
Stream Drake’s Views HERE
— Ali, @egyptoknuckles