“People like you more when you working towards something / Not when you have it,” Drake raps on the song “Lose You,” which is just one track off his new 22 song long playlist More Life. That’s right, playlist. A long-time partner of Apple Music, Drake has chosen to shift along with the digital age and release his new music in the form of a playlist – and he is the first major artist to do so.
In 2014, Billboard shook the music world when it was revealed that streaming would be taken into account when creating the Top 200 charts. Previously, the charts were created from album sales alone. However, with the rise of streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, it became clear that album sales were no longer the most relevant way to judge popularity. Now, if a song is streamed 1,500 times, then that is the equivalent to one album sale. Although record labels like Epic Records have capitalized on this rule change with the release of digital album compilations like Epic AF, no major artist has attempted to stray away from the traditional album format in this way. Until now.
The Canadian artist has always been an innovator in the hip hop genre, from his manipulation of the connotations surrounding rap music to his partnership with Apple. For the past decade, he has been constantly relevant – the New York Times wrote that he was the most listened to artist of 2016 “by all modern metrics.” By taking advantage of Apple Music’s promotional team, Drake showed his ability to predict and to adapt to changes in his industry and it paid off in a big way. The streaming service sponsored his wildly successful Summer Sixteen tour, gave subscribers access to his short film “Please Forgive Me,” made promotional commercials that partnered him with Taylor Swift, and gave him an outlet to release new music: the OVO Sounds Show on Apple Beats 1 internet radio station. Drake wasn’t the only artist to partner with Apple, but he was one of the first.
Now, he’s changing the game again. On More Life, Drake manages to take the center-stage, while also combining different voices to create a track-list that is based on sounds rather than on narrative. Even though the use of the term ‘playlist’ came as a surprise to many fans, it actually makes a lot of sense as the follow-up to Views. His 2016 Grammy-nominated album was long, boasting a track-list of 20 songs that total at an overall length of 81 minutes. Known for instant-hits like “Controlla,” “One Dance,” “Too Good,” and “Hotline Bling,” it proved that Drake doesn’t need to sacrifice quality for quantity. However, it also proved that the artist has a lot to say – his albums have always been on the longer side – and that the traditional album structure may not be able to accommodate that anymore.
With the playlist format, Drake delivers his usual dose of feelings, but with a twist: he often lets other people do the talking, while he controls the sound. In More Life, he is the mastermind behind what can only be described as a sonic experience. This isn’t to say he doesn’t make the most of his voice, which is heavily influential in tracks like “Gyalchester,” “Lose You,” “Fake Love,” and “Glow,” a duet with Kanye West. But he does take a noticeable step back, giving other artists like Giggs, Jorja Smith, and Sampha – which are just a few of many attached to the project – a chance to shine. In More Life, they sound like more than just features; they are collaborators.
Drake also incorporates a lot of moments from his life, giving the playlist a very intimate sound that contrasts with the distance that digitization is often linked with. His mother’s voice chimes in at the end of “Can’t Have Everything” in the form of a voicemail, telling her son, “I’m a bit concerned about this negative tone that I’m hearing in your voice these days.” The spoken word outro is a common thread throughout, another stylistic move more fitting to a playlist than an album. Playlists are what people play in the backgrounds of their lives: in the shower, on a run, in the car. The splashes of intimate life in the midst of More Life convey this idea. His samples remind the listener that there is a life and a world outside of the music.
The final track, “Do Not Disturb,” functions on a similar theme. After nearly an hour and a half of music, Drake gives his listeners one final message: “Maybe gettin’ back to my regular life will humble me / I’ll be back in 2018 to give you the summary.”