A track-by-track analysis of Drake’s most underrated album yet.
On April 28th, 2016, Drake tweeted out a thirty-second video compilation of him, his city, and his studio, with the caption “VIEWS Eve”, insinuating that he’d be releasing his highly-anticipated project titled ‘Views’ at midnight. As an album met with mixed reviews during its initial release, it’s quite interesting to look back on it five years later, and realize how close to perfect the album truly was.
In hindsight, the expectations for the project were far too high. Coming off of three perfect releases (and depending on who you ask, a classic record or two) in a row, fans and critics alike were expecting a masterpiece. “Views” was a love letter to Toronto. It wasn’t meant for everyone to understand, but it was meant for everyone to enjoy, and five years later, we have yet to see another album quite like “Views”.
The album kicks off with “Keep The Family Close”, a track that’s as dramatic as its title sounds. The song begins with Drake proclaiming that none of his failed relationships have turned into successful friendships, before he explains the importance of keeping his family closer. The track includes the perfect amount of sulking, an act only Drake can truly pull off well. “Keep The Family Close” sets the ambience for the rest of the album, and it’s at this point that we’re made aware that this album will not only be a love letter to his city, but to his past romantic conquests as well.
The album then progresses into “9”, a hyped-up track paying homage to Toronto, but it’s the following track, “U With Me?”, that really steals the show. The track relies on a slightly faded DMX sample to set the vibe, and Drake runs with it. The sample usage of “What These Bitches Want” is almost ironic in a sense, as Drake is questioning the intentions of his newest conquest, DMX is questioning the intentions of groupies.
The beat switch within the track is where “U With Me?” truly begins to shine though. Drake switches his flow and gets ultra-personal, ultra-quick. He’s no longer questioning the intentions of this relationship, he’s now in full reminiscence-mode and is no longer showing the mercy he previously was. His flow embodies a persona that makes the listener feel as if he’s speaking directly to them. By the end of the track, its title, “U With Me?”, begins to make far more sense.
On track 4, “Feel No Ways”, Drake lets up on the reminiscing and begins to look at things from a clearer point of view. The track is nearly apologetic in a sense with lyrics like, “I had to let go of us to show myself what I could do” making an appearance more than once. Listeners may notice a familiar production style, as Jordan Ullman, who did the production for Drake’s 2013 hit, “Hold On We’re Going Home”, took the role of lead producer on this track. In the following track, Drake kicks the tempo back up for another pumped-up track, titled “Hype”. From the Rihanna references to the talk about his enemies, it’s classic Drake. One-hundred percent in his bag.
In the background of “Weston Road Flows”, the sixth track on “Views”, a Mary J. Blige sample croons over a simple kick and snare progression provided by Drake’s longtime producer Noah Shebib, better known as “40”. It’s not long before Drake kicks into his signature bars and flow. Slightly braggadocios and highly retrospective, Drake’s aura is in full effect. He easily glides across the beat, almost a bit too easily. He’s comfortable in his success at this point and it shows throughout the track.
What comes next is a three-track stretch of Drake-style R&B. “Redemption” is heavy on the nostalgia and carries the feeling of a spoken iMessage conversation. It’s honest and it’s stripped; only forcing the listener to truly listen to the volume of what he’s saying. Drake then leans on label-mate, PARTYNEXTDOOR for assistance on “With You”. Party’s smooth vocals work almost too well with Drake’s flow. ‘With You’ is a perfect mix of R&B and Party’s style of Afrobeat/Dancehall.
On the following track, Drake is given access to a posthumous Pimp C verse “Faithful”, and while I personally could’ve gone without the verse, its short, concise, and doesn’t overstay its welcome. After the verse, Drake melodically sings about his promise to be faithful to a girl. The song is naturally catchy and with vocals provided by dvsn, the track is sensitive in all of the right areas.
A bit later in the album, we reach Drake’s two-track Dancehall run. Five years later, these tracks still sound just as fresh. You can’t help but bop your head a bit while listening to “Controlla”, no matter how many times you may have heard it in 2016. “One Dance” has a similar effect, but out of the two, ‘”Controlla” definitely aged better.
“Grammys” featuring Future is what follows and proves to be the only true ‘miss’ on this album. The song feels like a leftover from Drake and Future’s collaboration album released only a year prior in 2015, and while “Grammys” may have been a “miss”, track 14, “Child’s Play“, certainly wasn’t. The track opens with the now-iconic line, “Why you gotta fight with me at Cheesecake?”, and starts a flow that just. Doesn’t. Miss. It’s bar after bar in this song, and it showcases Drake’s ability to shift flows seamlessly. One of his greatest talents.
After “Child’s Play”, Drake hops into “Pop Style” and “Too Good”, both immensely great predecessors to what I consider the best track on the album, “Fire & Desire”. Let’s talk about the production quality of this track first. 40 seamlessly utilizes a pitched-down Brandy sample that creates an intimate feeling as soon as the electric piano sets in. “Fire & Desire” is the purest form of R&B on the entire album, it embodies a warm energy that is difficult to find elsewhere, and the warmth is 100% due to 40’s flawless production. Drake introduces a slower, singy-songy flow that just floats effortlessly across the beat, and the combination of the two creates a masterpiece.
The album’s title track follows and is another great example of how untouchable Drake and 40 are when they’re both on their A-game. This track would’ve been the perfect closer. Drake’s flow is unmatched and he blends in with 40’s production effortlessly. It gives a perfect glimpse into Drake’s “view”. The album’s title makes perfect sense because of this track.
This album is a snapshot consisting of the differing “Views” around Drake. His point of view on relationships (past and present), the way his family back home views him, the way his fans view him, the way he views the money, success, and fame, and lastly, the way women view him.
As I stated earlier, “Views” at its core is a love letter to Toronto, but it flourishes in the way that each track represents a different “view” on Drake. The last track of the album is “Hotline Bling”. As of April 2021, “Hotline Bling” is still one of Drake’s biggest singles to date. The hook is contagiously catchy, and the track is just downright creative. Down to the beat and its sample, its most innovative in that aspect. “Hotline Bling” was unlike any track out at the time, which absolutely played a part into its success.
It’s often said that hindsight is 20/20, and that sentiment is far from false when it comes to looking back on music. There are few bodies of work that can be universally considered “classics”, and even fewer that instantly reached that status. Looking back on an album like “Views” five years later, shows that sometimes a little growth with time can do wonders for an album, and that’s exactly what’s happened with “Views”.