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Nonstop Pop Machines

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Drake performs in Toronto this past summer.  

Drake’s critics might call his approach overemotional, sad-sack, or wimpy, but his version of masculinity is simple, and can be observed anywhere young men are hitting on people: First you act grave and sensitive; then you convey how weighty and fraught with complexity your life is; then you chin up and demonstrate how stoic and manly you are about it. This can be attractive, and Drake isn’t exactly duplicitous about it. “Having a hard time adjusting to fame,” he says, drunk-dialing an ex on “Marvins Room”—quickly followed by “I need someone to put this weight on.” (Calling him a sad-sack just adds weight; now he’s misunderstood, too.) Drake, it has to be said, is fantastically compelling in this role. Self-presentation isn’t just his great topic; it’s also his great strength.

Plenty of fans would follow him for that alone, in the same way you might follow a personal blog by someone you found charming. What really stuns, though, is Drake’s ear for sounds. Take Care is full of gorgeous tones: atmospheric, moody, muted music that can turn suddenly gushing and lavish. And the lyrics surrounding them can be rich with meaning, like on “Look What You’ve Done,” which begins with Drake rapping about taking care of his ill ­mother—the big moment wherein even the cynical may admit that his masculine burden-shouldering might be for real. But that moment works because we all have families, or something like them. It works so well that you might start wondering about the rest. We spend a lot of time now watching stars whose whole performance is how they react to being watched and made famous. It can make for good entertainment, even good art, but there’s not always a lot of invention involved. A record like Take Care only hangs together if you’re ready to stipulate that the fact of Drake making a record is fascinating in itself.


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