MORE LIFE by Drake
Genre: Pop Rap, Contemporary R&B
Favorite Tracks: “Passionfruit,” “Jorja Interlude,” “4422 (featuring Sampha),” “Gyalchester,” “Portland (featuring Quavo and Travis Scott),” “Fake Love,” “Ice Melts (featuring Young Thug)”
It is a very real fact that MORE LIFE: A PLAYLIST BY OCTOBER FIRM needs to be a playlist in order to function properly. It is an overwhelmingly conventional, poorly written, yet well-produced and composed album—neither that criticism nor praise should be exaggerated. MORE LIFE shows that Drake and OVO labelmates are keeping up, but aren’t necessarily at the forefront of their genre. Even a good moment can be ruined by Drake’s input (of all people!) as on “Get It Together (featuring Black Coffee and Jorja Smith),” a track that only needed Black Coffee and Jorja Smith in order to be pristine in the first place. Then, recalling the wide stylistic scope of MORE LIFE and its collaborators, I have to ask, why not have Drake step back more often? Now that the industry has agreed that his album lengths are a product and staple of the new direction of streaming music, can the compromise for listening to 81 minutes of Drake be that it isn’t all actually Drake?
MORE LIFE: A PLAYLIST BY OCTOBER FIRM comes so, so very close to meeting that compromise. Drake’s lyrical prowess fluctuates between emotionally stunted and tacky, but his production team tend to churn out gorgeous tracks that make some attempt at cleaning up, resulting in hits like “Get It Together” and “Fake Love.” The rest of the record then tends to fall somewhere in a triangle made up of moments that can be described as either Good Drake, Bad Drake, and Not Drake.
Good Drake tends to appear on tracks like “Passionfruit,” “Fake Love,” and “Gyalchester,” among some others, carrying the majority of the record with conventional, quality instrumentals and features that in their total effect, rarely feel specific to Drake, but remain the most enjoyable of the bunch. Bad Drake manifests in the most quintessentially Drake moments: forced patois, excess braggadocio, and instrumentals that teeter beyond convention into sheer redundancy. See: “No Long Talk,” “Nothings Into Somethings,” “Teenage Fever,” “KMT,” “Lose You,” “Can’t Have Everything,” “Since Way Back,” and “Do Not Disturb.” Do not fear! The best part about Drake’s MORE LIFE: A PLAYLIST BY OCTOBER FIRM is that last little bit—it might not all actually be Drake!
At its strongest, MORE LIFE is a springy, aching dance, where Good Drake might stumble too far into convention, becoming Bad Drake, and Bad Drake may sometimes push into being so Drake that it isn’t even Drake anymore. The run from “Passionfruit” through “Sacrifices” falls between Good Drake and Not Drake, excelling in experimentation with juxtaposition and flow between samples, styles, and genres, and is at the very least, unexpected music. Even beyond this streak, “Teenage Fever” is so softboy it’s effectively a Weeknd B-Side; Kanye shows up for his own tribute on “Glow,” and Young Thug’s feature on “Ice Melts” could just as easily be a track from JEFFERY! In essence, to enjoy Drake on MORE LIFE is to enjoy what he surrounds himself with, and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It isn’t all actually Drake if you just tell yourself that!
MORE LIFE as a collaborative “playlist” is an album with a change in operational directions, asking instead to “do whatever you want with these songs,” over the more common, “listen to my album.” To Drake and OVO’s advantage, platforms like Spotify will place a shuffle button at the top of the “album” page. It’s called a playlist anyway!
When treated as a playlist and shuffled, the forgettable tracks that clutter the latter half of MORE LIFE’s journey to “Fake Love” are then intermingled with the playlist’s stronger tracks—and in a more balanced fashion than the original tracklisting. Drake has a history of topping streaming markets via critically ambiguous music, considering VIEWS‘ awkward reception on one hand and its actual popularity on the other; MORE LIFE reflects a similar process, but is transparent in how it operates. Shuffling every time one listens reveals a new comparison of the parts that compose MORE LIFE; skipping tracks might even be encouraged! You can spend hours streaming MORE LIFE, studying the geometry of its 22 tracks and their relations, their networks of power. Or, more likely, let the album be shuffled and forgotten about—left to reverberate through atmosphere of BBQ season. It’s really just alright after all.