Drake made such a quantum leap forward, both in sound and in substance, on his sophomore album, "Take Care," that all eyes are on his follow-up to see if he would be able to do it again.
Well, he doesn't.
While "Take Care" shook up hip-hop with its introspective lyrical tone and its use of moody, synthesizer-driven backdrops, "Nothing Was the Same" (Young Money/Cash Money/ Republic) finds him falling back to the pack a bit and, often, repeating himself.
The singles from "Nothing" stake out the album's extremes. The midtempo dance number "Hold On, We're Going Home" is as pop as it gets, with Drizzy crooning as sweetly as "Run It"-era Chris Brown. On the other side, the crew anthem "Started From the Bottom" has Drake acting so tough that he seems to have forgotten how to use his words.
Neither song captures what "Nothing" is really about, since the bulk of the album finds Drake using a mix of humblebrags and oddly chosen regrets about past relationships to make himself seem like a regular guy, which he clearly isn't.
During the introspective "From Time," he boasts, "She started telling me how I'll never be as big as Trey Songz -- boy, was she wrong" one minute and then declares, "Learning the true consequences of my selfish decisions."
"Nothing Was the Same" is a good album, with special credit due to the inventive beats from collaborator Noah "40" Shebib, but it doesn't come close to "Take Care." For Drake, it feels like another case of unfulfilled potential.
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"Nothing Was the Same"
THE GRADE B
BOTTOM LINE A step back for the hip-hop phenom