Saturday, February 25, 2017

Take Care (2011)

Brought up on vinyl, I'm still often surprised to realize that many albums in the CD era and later are actually equivalents of the old double-LP gatefold packages, which were unusual markers of ambition (and/or live sets) and a very big deal for most artists back in the day. (With the possible exception of recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Chicago, who released them like they were hawking up phlegm.) Take Care, Drake's second full-length album, runs over 83 minutes, which is easily four vinyl sides. I was curious about this album because a list I saw on the internet said Drake was the world's greatest rapper in 2011 (also 2010, if I recall). In a way I think Take Care could have stood some pruning as playing it always puts me through a familiar drill. I love it for about half an hour and then it starts to feel like it's been going on too long. Shuffle only confirms this: it's not just the first seven tracks of the 19 on Take Care that I like, but more or less whatever first seven I happen to hear. So maybe it's best all shattered into pieces and dropped into mixes. As a matter of approach, Drake is more or less a bedroom heartthrob—the tunes are soft and pretty, and the raps are majority smoov talk from a sad boy alone in his room. Something about this album reminds me constantly of Prince or maybe that's the song by Smog, "Prince Alone in the Studio" (which is more like the opposite of both Prince and Drake). Take Care feels deeply insulated, emanating from gentle personal regions. Listen too close and you start to understand better—the themes are often focused on the tribulations of fame, which I'm sure pose difficult and annoying problems but they're also alienating for most of the rest of us. "They know, they know, they know," Drake sings in the chorus of "Headlines," perhaps the biggest hit of a handful spawned by the album. It appears what they know is that Drake is famous now, because "the real is on the rise / Fuck them other guys." Thus, as far as his words go, I prefer the punning tangles he can toss off, as in the album opener "Over My Dead Body," where he goes, "Shout out to Asian girls, let the lights dim some." But it's hard to miss that usually his preoccupation is with celebrity—a natural enough response for anyone who has had their long dream of fame suddenly thrust on them. But also a natural enough reason on our part to skip listening too closely. Many songs here have killer hooks lurking somewhere in and around the bedroom intimations and cloistered hush of the production, and there are lots of happy surprises that came of obviously working so hard at this. But it's long and uneven and the celebrity focus can torpedo the whole thing if I'm in the wrong mood. Mix it up in a shuffle with a few other albums, however, and it steals the show over and over.


  1. You know, he does a hilarious impression of A-Rod, too. Saw it once on SNL. And his song, "The Motto," gave the world YOLO, a phrase that seems to have faded some but was ubiquitous w/ teens there for awhile. It's this one or the next one, Nothing Was The Same, that I've played the most but they always wear me out quickly in a manner not dissimilar to the one you describe. I remember this line from Take Care ab how he'd finally figured out he wasn't going to find love in a strip club. He can be corny but I swear by a small handful of his singles, although even there it's shameless and annoying the way they throw everything he does onto the charts, good ones and nothing. Try "Hold On, We're Going Home" or "Energy" or "Controlla" or "Pop That" (first time I noticed him, I think) or ASAP Rocky's "Fuckin' Problems," which is another funny one. In his way he's the quintesential post-Kanye rapper/crooner, w/ one foot in hiphop and one in pop. But, right, he doesn't have much to offer in the social commentary department.

  2. Also, Drake is to poptimism what Kendrick Lamar is to rockism; in case you were wondering. I mean by this, for instance, the former has done nothing like Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City, but has several times as many good pop songs as the latter. All this exists, of course, only in a place where Beyonce equals the new rockism is a given. (And where Ringo was neither mod or rocker but a mocker, too.) Okay?