Opinion: Drake Shines, Stumbles With New Singles

Drake has a big hit with “Girls Love Beyoncé,” airballs on “No New Friends”

The warm months of 2011 were soundtracked by a peculiar summer anthem: The smooth, mid-tempo spinner “I’m On One,” DJ Khaled’s three-the-hard-way collaboration with Drake, Rick Ross and Lil Wayne. The track wasn’t the typical summertime staple; it doesn’t puff out its chest like a street record (see: Ross’ “B.M.F. (Blowin’ Money Fast)”) or sweat out weaves like club DJ faves (see: Nelly’s “Hot In Herre”). But its slow-burning, torrid radio stickiness is a testament to Drake’s hit-making ability, from his sing-songy intro (“I’m getting so throwed…”) to its Styrofoam-cup-clutching hook.

Nearly two years later, the first single to Khaled’s upcoming Suffering From Success LP, titled “No New Friends,” stays true to it’s title, reuniting the three rappers over a smooth Noah ’40? Shebib and Boi-1da production. Dubbed the remix of Drake’s “Started From The Bottom,” the song sonically sputters closer to the territory of “I’m On One,” with those horror-flick synths and sluggish pace. Yet it’s not nearly as much fun as it’s predecessor. It feels regressive and a bit boring, immune to Khaled’s magical pixie powder. Aside from its cynical, droning hook, it lacks the fluorescence, lacks those sing-along entry points that Drizzy is so good at carving out for listeners to fall into. Drake’s bravado is sharp, while Ross and Wayne both fly on autopilot—to be fair, their contributions to “I’m On One” are secondary. Yet the record feels like a lazy stumble in Drake’s sterling track record of singles.

There’s more smarts to this week’s B-side, the honest vent session “Girls Love Beyoncé.” Here’s where we see Drake’s brilliance shine, as he employs James Fauntleroy to interpolate the familiar chorus of Destiny’s Child classic “Say My Name” (reminiscent of his spacey flip of Juvenile’s “Back Dat Azz Up,” for Take Care bonus cut “Practice”). An obvious pander to his stiletto-wearing listeners, Drake touches some pensive topics over a bassline that sways like a pendulum. He treats 40’s instrumental like a page in his journal, questioning everything from his fear of commitment to his boys’ misogynistic ways to the futility of his own love life. “Girls Love Beyonce” has the honesty of “Marvin’s Room” (without the liquid courage), and that frankness is Drake’s most effective attribute.

If his upcoming album Nothing Was The Same is going to be that polished, great LP of which Drake is capable, he’ll have to balance conceit and candidness more effectively than the two-piece combo of “No New Friends” and “Girls Love Beyoncé.” We get the feeling he will. —John Kennedy (@youngJFK)

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