“Certified Lover [Oh] Boy”
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Since the beginning of his career, Drake has been building himself to be the “Certified Lover Boy” of the music industry. From his notorious romantic life to parenthood, he’s been constructing this reputation from the release of “So Far Gone” in 2009, in which he discusses his struggles with women, fame, and relationships, to “Views” (2016), which covers his experiences with betrayal that resulted from his rise to fame. He became so dedicated to this “Lover Boy" character that he even cut his hair into the shape of a heart. Drake’s new album “Certified Lover Boy” certainly lives up to its name—for all the wrong reasons.
Described by the artist himself as a “combination of toxic masculinity and acceptance of truth which is inevitably heartbreaking,” the project is the retelling of a story listeners have heard dozens of times before: Drake in pursuit of love while battling his demons, whether they stem from fame, his insecurities, or his judgments of women. Yes, Drake may be lovesick, but the toxic masculinity in “Certified Lover Boy” lands front-and-center. With lines like “I remember that ‘I told you I miss you,’ that was more like a mass text,” and “I'm feelin' too sexy to accept requests,” Drake returns to his signature brand of braggadocio rap with minimal success on this record.
The album’s opener, “Champagne Poetry,” leads with a pitchy Masego sample paired with a dramatic, bass-heavy beat switching to a more upbeat rhythm. Though the production on this track is exceptional, Drake’s rapping isn't, as he drops a few underwhelming and mediocre verses. The next track, “Papi’s Home,” features more soulful production and some atmospheric Montell Jordan samples. Aside from the out-of-place Nicki Minaj interlude and somewhat questionable lyricism, the song lays out a strong vision for the rest of the album.
Unfortunately, listeners’ wishes remain unfulfilled on “Girls Want Girls,” which features one of Drake’s worst lines to date: “Say that you a lesbian, girl, me too.” This trend of lackluster and cringe-inducing writing is present for the new few tracks, but solace is found on “Fair Trade” featuring Travis Scott, a track containing some of Drake’s most melodic flows on the whole album and a particularly catchy beat.
The quality of “Certified Lover Boy” nosedives once again with “Way 2 Sexy.” The song features a substandard sample of “I’m Too Sexy” by Right Said Fred, cringey, repetitive lyrics by both Drake and Future, an uninspired trap death, and general ridiculousness. In “No Friends In the Industry,” Drake furthers his lone-wolf persona, as the name signifies. Despite the 15 featured artists on the album, Drake’s message of him being at the top surrounded by others who “love to start the beef” hasn’t changed since 2015.
Except for Drake’s verse shading Kanye on “7am on Bridle Path,” the next few tracks add nearly nothing to “Certified Lover Boy.” “Knife Talk” is an attempt at gangster rap, and while it’s a pleasant listen, it lacks impact, likely because of how disconnected Drake is from the subject matter of the song. “Race My Mind” sports an unenthusiastic flow, making it an easy skip on the tracklist. On “Fountains,” Drake revisits the afrobeat-inspired production that he explored on “Views” (2016), but the song feels unoriginal––it would do you better to just listen to “One Dance” (2016) instead. However, “You Only Live Twice” with Rick Ross and Lil Wayne is easily one of the best tracks on the album, toting lush instrumentals and powerful vocals, as well as great chemistry from the trio and an energetic beat reminiscent of “Take Care” (2011).
Unfortunately, the album ends on a weak note with Drake’s passable performance on “IMY2” and the flat, uninspired R&B record “[EXPLETIVE] Fans.” The final track, “The Remorse,” picks the album up with some of Drake’s better bars highlighting his rare introspection. The production is low-key, and the percussion is booming, but the track doesn’t do enough to save the project.
"Certified Lover Boy" feels formulaic—as if Drake were putting out music just to cash another check. From the lyricism to the production to the vocals, the album runs tired and indecisive. Jumping from serious to boastful to nostalgic to reflective with each song, “Certified Lover Boy” lacks not only the quality of Drake’s other projects but the cohesion as well. While Drake's commercial success has remained unfazed since he first entered the scene, his 2021 effort is evidence of the artist's creative stagnation, leaving listeners wondering what’s next for the “Lover Boy.”