RIP to new-music Tuesday, the old tradition of proper albums all coming out on the same, neat release date of the week. Following in the footsteps of titans like Beyoncé, Drake offered up his own eff-you to bloggers last night by dropping an album a little before midnight.
It was even titled, “By the Time You Read This It’s Too Late,” which, haha, even seems like a subtweet in itself: “Too late for the SEO content mines, bitches!”
You’ve got to love Champagne Papi for sticking it to everyone, though, and knowing that his fans would still be up and waiting for the album. Or is it even a proper album? “By The Time You read this It’s Too Late” is being billed alternately as a mixtape or a “precursor” to an album, even though it costs money to download.
That might be because Drake currently finds himself at the center of the Lil Wayne/Cash Money lawsuit. (Wayne pretty much owns Drake’s Young Money contract and lack of profit payout on that warrants an entire section of the lawsuit’s docket.)
All of that doesn’t really matter, though, because like most Drake albums, this one’s full of capital-F feelings. But unlike most internet jokers claimed when the album first droped, this record’s version of Drake isn’t actually super soft. Sure, there are plenty of lulzy, oh-only-you-Drake moments in the lyrics, but he seems more aggressive and short on time on this album than he does stuck on failed romantic dalliances.
So just how soft is each of the 17 (!) tracks? Let’s break it down.
(Oh, and the tl;dr conclusion? People complain Drake is a big crybaby but he’s not. This album showcases a mix of moody/atmosphere tracks, braggy bangers you could play in a car, and weepy-time lyrics you can drunkenly slur into a voicemail.)
Also, you can stream the whole thing here via Spotify as you read.
This album opener hangs on a spare, rattling beat, full of boasts about domesticating strippers and terrible braggy lines like, “Money taught me Spanish, make it andale.” Still, the entire thing hangs on the repeated refrain, “Oh my god, If I die I’m a legend.” Existential-ish Drake, we knew you were in there.
Softness level: Like a ripe melon, hard on the outside but squishy once you poke it enough
We’re on the second song already and we haven’t heard one sung hook that’s obviously ~for the ladies~? Drake’s not pining after women here, he’s throwing a lot of money (and technological tricks) at them so they’ll leave him alone: “Call your ass an Uber/I’ve got somewhere to be.” The taxi lobbyists of wherever will be calling you shortly, Aubrey.
Softness level: As hard and shiny as the outside of your Uber driver’s Camry
This is the song that had Twitter freaking out, and yes, it goes pretty hard. Takeaways: Drake has a lot of money! But he has to go and use “OMG” as an actual lyric, and then write a metaphor involving a Nike Fuel Band. L What a petit-bourgeoisie, health-conscious little reference.
Softness level: A memory-foam pillow — firm and keeping its shape, until you lean on it
It has to be said: The first few productions on this album sound like variations on each other. This is the point where Drake actually starts yelling, on some, “Haha! You thought I would sing and be sad!” But seriously, he talks about his “woes”—not even “problems,” but “woes,” like he’s a tragic Oscar Wilde fan. You’ve gotta love it.
Softness level: The inside of an onion, once you start peeling back those tougher layers
….This beat again? Anyways, this one’s peppered with all kinds of references to Drake being a bigger boss than Rick Ross, and eating pasta in a kitchen like a mafia don. But wait! At the end, here come those creeping feelings of self-doubt, and a mournful choir softly swelling in the background to underscore it all. Also, let’s award a lot of points for referencing “Tuesday” early in the song, and for making the word “suitcase” sound like something you’d really wanna yell.
Softness level: The pasta in that kitchen, but right when it hits the boiling water and still retains its original shape
This is the Drake that makes people super sad at 4 a.m. when they’re high. Just in time for your #foreveralone Valentine’s Day, this track’s got an echo of “Marvin’s Room,” with the late-night call’s sadness echoed by Drake’s slurring delivery here.
Softness level: The teddy bear that soaks up your tears at night
Here’s more yelling and that beat again, but you can catch some sense of creeping loneliness in here, with his insistence that all he “ever needed was a squad,” and doesn’t care what the rest of the world thinks. Is that really true, bb?
Softness level: The firmly inflated basketball he brags about hogging in the lyrics
Wait, are we really supposed to believe Drake would brandish a “brand-new beretta” and then possibly demand money from his label? Is this whole lawsuit thing even worse than we think? If so, how’d he manage to get this thing out? So many questions. Also, shout-out to an outdated technology related to land lines.
Softness level: Except for some minor-key synth/choral sampel swabs here, this is Drake’s attempt at being really, really hard, like the metal of his beretta (lol)
You know how Drake basically dragged the Weeknd and IloveMakonnen into the super-mainstream for people who weren’t that good at the music internet? Here he does the same favor for PARTYNEXTDOOR. This is an ode to clubs and “messy” girls, so where does the song take place? Miami, naturally. This is like a post-party song, though, because for all the pill-popping referenced in the lyrics, even Drake notes it’s time to “do some reflecting.”
Softness level: Firm but springy, like the cushions in the bottle-service seating at LIV
This is another moment with PARTYNEXTDOOR, so you know it’s all about moody production and big feels; it’s basically all PARTYNEXTDOOR, too. This song is literally all about being lonely on a Wednesday (as opposed to going up on a Tuesday, I guess).
Softness level: The mushiness of lukewarm delivery food you eat sadly on the couch, alone
Seriously, why can’t YMCMB just be a happy family again? (Try to watch the Rich Gang video for “Lifestyle” and not get a little dejected about the scene where Birdman comes home alone to the platinum plaque for “Tha Carter III” on the wall.) This song, though full of swagger and toughness on the surface, is also full of implicit references to beefs and sadness. “They don’t love you like they used to,” Drake repeats over and over.
Softness level: The outside of a Styrofoam cup full of the lean Wayne name-checks int he song — firm but soft and delicate if you squeeze it
So, there’s a lot more bragging and yelling, and then boom, at the end, he wins us over by interpolating the Roots classic “You Got Me.” That’s basically a musical hyperlink—all kinds of kids are gonna go back and research that song now. Yay, Drake.
Softness level: Some tightly balled up socks
Oh, here’s classic In His Feelings Drake. The production on this one starts out with some ghostly synths before he explains for four minutes why he’s leaving his woman. Singing Drake reappears here, too, if only to mournfully repeat, “No more, no more, no more.” The spell is broken by a moment of pure First World Drake-ness, though, when at one point he intones, “I don’t wanna sit in coach.”
Softness level: The pillows he packed up into the box of stuff he took with him
You know when an ex asks to hang out, tries to pretend he’s happy you have your act together, but then gets super salty and the whole thing gets really weird and emo? That’s basically what is happening in this song. An alternate title could be, “Heyyyy stranger.” This one gets more exciting about halfway through when the track turns even more ominous and Travi$ Scott shows up to toughen things up a little.
Softness level: That wadded-up jacket your ex “accidentally” left at your place to invent an excuse to come see you again
Here is where we learn that many of us have something in Common with Drake: tech-connected parents who keep tabs on us via Google Alerts sent to their phones. (Hi Dad!) Actually it’s really cute that Drake talks about his mom so much.
Softness level: Drake’s childhood blankie
Why is this one buried practically at the end? Out of character with the rest of this precursor/album/mixtape/whatever, this is a pretty classic bump-and-grind slow jam over a practically soulful beat. This is classic romantic/sad/fixable project Drake, complete with begging a lady to get off her smart phone: “Fuck what they’re saying on your timeline.”
Softness level: The backpack you dumped in the corner of your middle school cafeteria to grind to earlier songs like this
This one should have gone earlier, too, for its swaggy boom-bap and for the fact that this track has Drake actually setting off a beef. “You need to act your age and not your girls’ age,” goes one line at the nameless subject of this song — but the blogosphere says it’s Tyga, and that reference is to Tyga’s maybe-girlfriend. Though Drake vs. Tyga and a Jenner makes for the lulziest rap beef in a really long time, you’ve gotta hand Drake credit for coming out with what’s actually a proper dis track.
Softness level: This is as hard as the phone case covering the device he uses to communicate with the “bitter women [he’s] overtextin’” early in the song
Arielle Castillo is Fusion's culture editor, reporting on arts, music, culture, and subcultures from the streets on up. She's also a connoisseur of weird Florida, weightlifting, and cats.