The Possibilities Were Endless, The Reality Was Limited
By Max Miller
Drake’ and 21 Savage’s collaborative album Her Loss exists in dualities; It is simultaneously exciting and disappointing, catchy and irritating, fun and dull, energetic and monotonous. For the most part, each song is at the very least serviceable. And yet, the album still leaves something to be desired.
My expectations for this album were fairly high. Every time Drake and 21 Savage have collaborated, they have demonstrated their own unique hit making abilities, playing off of each other’s strengths to consistently create highlights on whatever album the collaboration happens to appear on. Drake’s crooning and at times sing-songy delivery and strangely charming corniness matches seamlessly with 21 Savage’s Atlanta-bred deadpan delivery and tongue in cheek lyrics, creating fun, sonic environments that are sure to be played in nighttime car rides and frat parties alike. The combination of the polishedness of Drake’s image and the grit with which 21 Savage raps, as well as the pairing of an established music legend with a rising star, has tantalized what seems to be an entire nation. There have been so many glimpses of the potential the two have to create a classic project. It felt like it almost had to be excellent.
And, truth be told, it’s not. It’s ok.
This is not to say that the album isn’t enjoyable or that it lacks highlights; there are several fun songs on the project. The hypnotizing Daft Punk interpolation on “Circo Loco” is a personal favorite, and the energy on “Pussy & Millions” is endlessly fun. “Jumbotron Shit Poppin” has a bouncy Playboi Carti-inspired charm to it that plays to Drake’s lyrical strengths. (There is an adlib in “Jumbotron Shit Poppin” that never fails to make me laugh. Drake lets out a high-pitched, staccato, “Bih!” over the lyrics “Brr, brr, brr, brr, brr, brr, brr, brr / Brr, brr, brr, brr, brr, brr.” It’s funny to think about Drake in the studio squealing in the booth.)
There is nobody else that can say the things that Drake says and somehow get away with it. “Middle of the Ocean” has several prime examples of this, with lyrics like, “She could be givin’ me head and somehow you not toppin’ me,” and “Feel like an AMBER Alert the way that I can take her to the mall and she find Tiffany/I'm like a cup holder the way that these dimes stick to me.” What other artist could say that and somehow come away looking endearing?
It’s worth mentioning that 21 Savage absolutely shines on this project. Lyrically, he is as on his game as ever. His pen is proven, but his performance on Her Loss displays a continued progression as his career continues its ascent into stardom. Lines like “I don't show ID at clubs, 'cause they know that I'm 21,” and, “Two sticks in my hand like I'm playin' the Wii” are endlessly entertaining. Yes, they make the listener smile, but they’re delivered in such a deadpan manner that you can’t help but to don a stank face.
So if Drake and 21 Savage both do well on this project…what’s the problem?
The most glaring is the strange lack of variety throughout the album. There are several songs that share a similar sound primarily due to everpresent Drake-style trap beats that begin to clog the album the more you listen to it. You can only have so much moody trap with hooks that are effectively only repeated phrases before they begin to wear on the listener.
The issue with Her Loss is that it is so much more of a Drake album than it is a 21 Savage album. Everything about it exudes Drake, from the beat selection to the hook styles to the lyrical themes. It is not as collaborative as one might assume. Sure, 21 Savage and Drake are technically sharing the hypothetical stage. But they don’t exist in the space between their sounds. In short, it isn’t anything that we haven’t heard before.
Her Loss is good, but not great. It falls short of perhaps unrealistically high expectations, and for that, it is disappointing. I know that I will return to it every once in a while, much like the rest of Drake’s discography, nod my head, and fall in love with one song at a time. I am sure that I will grow to love this album in time. I will accept it for what it is. But right now, I am disappointed in the failure to realize what could have been.