Feature Editor reviews Drake’s “Certified Lover Boy” Thursday, Sep 16 2021 

By Tate Luckey

Among the various pop and hip-hop albums released throughout the year, the album-of-the-year conversation arguably boils down to a few artists: maybe it’s Tyler The Creator’s Call Me If You Get Lost, or Olivia Rodrigo’s Sour; perhaps J-Cole’s The Off-Season? Kanye recently dropped Donda, which I did a review of here. And now Drake enters the fray, with his album “Certified Lover Boy’ coming out just a week after Donda. Is the 6God back? Was the Champaign Papi right in his hype over the album, going all the way back to 2019?

Short answer: No. Longer answer: Kinda? But he dropped the ball.

The Artwork

I would be remiss not to first address the album art. Designed by Damien Hirst, on a blank background features 12 pregnant women emojis in various clothes and skin tones. Contrast this with Scorpion, a clean, almost vintage-looking black and white photo of Drake looking serious, or even Views, in which he is (photoshopped) atop Toronto’s CN Tower. It’s an extremely jarring, almost immature contrast to what listeners are used to. 

The Songs

Drake and Kawhi Leonard Reunite in the Video for "Way 2 Sexy"

Drake and Kawhi Leonard Reunite in the “Way 2 Sexy” Video

Yet somehow that is about the most exciting thing on the album. The songs aren’t necessarily bad. They’re just, not notable. Listening to the near 90-minute album I could name two, maybe three songs total that stand out, the first one being his lead single “Way 2 Sexy” featuring Future and Young Thug. That song is classic Drake. It’s catchy. Future and Thug’s verses are great, and it’s now being taken over by TikTok as a “sexy boys anthem.”

“Champaign Poetry” is actually a nice intro song, sampling Masego’s “Navajo” (which in turn, samples a cover of the Beatles classic “Michelle”), with Drake discussing his conflicts of fame and his true self in a very “stream-of-consciousness” type of flow. 

But beyond that, the other 80 minutes are just kinda….there. 

Girls Want Girls? Just kind of weird. “Yeah, say that you a lesbian, girl, me too” he playfully sings. What does that even mean? Heck, what does the title even mean? Most of the lyricism is just discussing Drake’s lack of loving, about the heartbreak and hardships he’s encountered.  The number and notoriety of the artists featured here can’t make up for the same rehashed subjects. It’s like Drake has fallen into a formula, and here we see an album emblematic of the question “where will he go from here?” but for the wrong reason. 

It’s just not exciting. 

The Bottom Line

Again, the album is not bad. It’s very well produced, and for casual Drake listeners, there’s stuff to enjoy. But you can’t help to think that given the musical deluge this past year, there should have been more. 

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Features Editor highlights Kanye West’s “Donda” Friday, Sep 10 2021 

By Tate Luckey

After months of delays, 3 listening parties, and a bunch of controversies, Donda, Kanye West’s 10th album, is finally out for the masses to listen to. His last album, Jesus Is King (2019) combines Christian overtones and gospel elements with his repudiation from sin. Donda expands upon this, interlacing the previous point with Ye’s family and childhood. It’s an expansive album (27 whole songs, just shy of 2 hours), with an equally expansive catalog of features (by comparison, Jesus is King clocks in at 27 minutes, and The Life Of Pablo goes on for just over an hour). Because there is so much here to unpack, here are a few songs that really stand out. 

Hurricane 

Featuring vocals from “The Weeknd” and a verse from “Lil Baby”, this song actually popped up in 2018 as a demo West posted on his Instagram and Twitter. Now as a fully finished song in 2021, this is definitely one of the standouts of the album. Kanye has a real knack for realizing what sounds fit and which don’t; The Weeknd’s harmony with his Sunday Service Choir on the first and last “Don’t let me down” is powerful. This song’s transformation from an arguably lofi sound to more grandiose is perhaps emblematic of Kanye’s musical transformation, too. 

Jail

Set up after “Donda Chant” and featuring a verse from Jay Z, Jail is my personal favorite song from the album. The chorus is infectious, and the minimalist guitar instrumental perfectly complements the restrained anger Ye and Jay-Z’s lyrics have towards the prison systems and their own personal heartbreaks. It’s the perfect song to display their lyrical chemistry. 

Moon 

Kanye’s ability to create both energetic and somber songs is on full ability display while listening to “Moon”. The lush, reverb-soaked vocals perfectly complement “Moon”‘s idea of ascension (which, knowing Kanye is likely spiritual). One can even make the argument that Kanye’s calling out to his mom, given the lines “don’t leave me so soon” and asking out “how can I get through” to reach out. 

Believe What I Say

Previewed during the 3rd listening party West had for DONDA, “Believe What I Say” is another standout. The grooving bassline, along with West’s laid-back vocals give off a Graduation vibe. Even Lauryn Hill is featured at the beginning! It’s a song that I think is underrated on the album, and fans of older Kanye may enjoy it more. 

Now, it’s tough to quantify a body of work from an artist, whether a film or painting or album, as a letter grade or star review system. I feel that that’s disingenuous to the idea of a review. So I’m choosing to grade this based on a simple question: would I listen to Donda again? Sure. Admittedly, a few of the songs go on too long (looking at you, Jesus Lord), but I encourage anyone reading to block out time to take a listen. It’s almost as if this album is meant to be heard at a live event rather than in your own home. Concept albums are nothing necessarily new, but Kanye does it again producing a moving, introspective experience.

File Graphic // Kanye West Twitter //

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Lana Del Rey has resounding return with greatest album yet Tuesday, Sep 3 2019 

By Blake Wedding —

It has been a long, winding road for Lana Del Rey, but it seems that after five previous studio albums, the titular singer/songwriter has finally found a signature sound.

In the past, I’ve had issues with some of Del Rey’s albums, but I could never possibly argue over the massive influence she has cast over her contemporaries as well as her appeal in modern music. Songs like “Videogames” and “Ride” are also undeniably sweeping, beautiful singles that absolutely excel where some of her full studio albums have missed the mark.

But with Norman F****** Rockwell!, Del Rey has pulled off something quite remarkable. After 2017’s disappointing and critically panned Lust for Life, the artist must have gone back to the drawing board completely and reevaluated herself; her unique qualities and strengths as a singer, and possibly reflecting on what could be improved and on what so many people took issue with on albums like Ultraviolence and Lust for Life.

Yet no less than two years later, Del Rey has shown incredible strives to try something new yet again; not only that, but something bold, and more than anything, something impressively authentic and sincere.

Norman F****** Rockwell is the culmination of all these ideas coupled with an artist at the height of their talent, focus and dedication.

So many of the songs on this album are standouts in Del Rey’s discography. Moreover, Del Rey embraces instrumental experimentation and a yearning to incorporate new styles of music and new sounds in a genuine manner.

Take the song “Venice B****,” which might actually be Del Rey’s single greatest song yet. It’s a long, instrumentally complex, emotionally powered and dense performance; one that single-handedly demonstrates Del Rey’s vocal chops and her talents as a performer and musician better than nearly any of her more well-known singles at this point.

Themes of heartbreak, infatuation, sensuality, love and summertime are at the forefront of this song, themes that Del Rey is no stranger to whatsoever. However, it’s the way that they are pulled off and come together on “Venice B****,” or other standouts like “Mariners Apartment Complex,” that make for a far more memorable listening experience than past songs.

All in all, it’s best to sum up Norman F****** Rockwell! by saying that it is one of the most important albums of 2019. It’s without a doubt the best work Del Rey has ever made, and even more so, it is proof that when an artist accepts constructive criticism and reflects on their art candidly, that hard work pays off. Del Rey has cemented herself as one of the greatest pop voices in the world at the moment.

Graphic by Shayla Kerr / The Louisville Cardinal

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