Playlist vs album: Drake proves there really is a difference with 'More Life'
In this day and age it seems almost axiomatic that anything new from Drake will break records. His album 'Views' shattered previous streaming records last year and his latest project 'More Life' seems set to dwarf his own record.
Project is a more appropriate term to use because More Life isn't exactly an album in the traditional sense. In a time when artists are trying to subvert customary formulas when it comes to releasing music (such as Beyoncé's "visual album"), the Toronto-born rapper has opted to drop a "playlist" - and, as playlists go, it is better than a lot of what people would get if they pressed shuffle on their iPhones.
Sampling musical styles from the US, UK, South Africa and beyond, More Life is an impressively eclectic mélange of cool from across the globe. It runs the gamut from more orthodox rapping through a Black Coffee-produced house track all the way over to pop-style JLo-sampled love songs - and that is the magic trick he has performed by calling the project a playlist rather than an album.
Full-length albums are generally constrained by a certain need for cohesiveness and length. By opting to go the playlist route Drake has given himself the freedom to squeeze cute Caribbean dancehall songs in between menacing bass-heavy hip-hop tracks, and draw it all out over a time frame that would be too long for a traditional album.
What is also striking about More Life is how we are seeing yet another incarnation of "The 6 God". Over the years Drake has adopted a number of personas depending on his mood at the time. What started as Toronto Drake morphed into Atlanta Drake, Memphis Drake, Houston Drake, and South London Drake. With each incarnation he has tried, not always successfully, to imbibe the lingo, culture and musical influences of those particular areas.
The result of having one of the biggest stars in the world go through this kind of musical multiple personality disorder is the ratcheting up of exposure for those he is imitating. It is not hard to imagine that, off the strength of being on a Drake project, Black Coffee may now get the crossover appeal to build a name in pop music and be able to do so without altering his sound too much.
It may perhaps be a little early to call but More Life feels like a game changer, not because it is particularly stellar (it is good), but because Drake has done something very few have thought of and it's worked brilliantly. His natural musical ability and powers of curatorship will have many a lesser artist contemplating a similar strategy. Whether any of them come off this well remains to be seen.
Watch the music video for Passionfruit from Drake's More Life playlist
DRAKE'S RECORD-BREAKING TRACK RECORD AT A GLANCE
When Drake says his work is what keeps the lights on in the building, it's hard to argue with him. Everything he's touched in the past 18 months breaks records and causes waves in pop culture. Here are some of his highlights since his $19-million deal with Apple Music in June 2015.
• In May 2016 the Toronto-born rapper released his fourth studio album, Views, which sold a million digital copies in its first week and broke first-week records, being streamed more than 250 million times. The record was held by Justin Bieber's Purpose, streamed just over 200 million times in its first week.
• More Life, released last Saturday, got just under 90 million streams in its first 24 hours and a further 61 million streams on Spotify.
• Drake's radio show last Saturday on Apple Music's Beats1 was the biggest the radio service has had to date.
• 'More Life' is available on Apple Music.
• This article was originally published in The Times.