Tue, 31 October 2023
For All The Dogs
Verdict: A poor, bloated mess from the superstar.
What’s the story?
After a bit of surprising and quite good genre exploration on his previous solo album, Honestly Nevermind, on For All the Dogs, Drake slides back into his usual M.O. of slow beats, alternately aggressive and morose rapping, and topics that range from how great Drake is to how rich Drake is to how misunderstood Drake is, with the occasional bit of misogyny added in to put some rotten cherries on top.
Worth a listen?
Instead of the possible future glimpsed on Honestly Nevermind where he wasn’t a one-note trap miserabilist with a bad attitude toward women, For All the Dogs brings to mind Drake at his self-defeating worst. He indulges in corny Scarface samples, takes tired shots at Kanye and Pusha T, drops so many names and cultural references that it sounds like an episode of Family Guy as written by AI, and almost every line revolving around women falls flat. Either he berates them for being liars, celebrates them for being of age, or criticises them for being educated, unsophisticated or not up to his exacting standard. Any hopes that Drake might have matured with age or thanks to being a father – his son drew the album cover and it’s one of the best things about the record – are dashed within a few songs.
Who’s Next famously has its origins in Lifehouse, the rock opera Pete Townshend intended as The Who’s sequel to Tommy. A concept in search of a narrative, the futuristic Lifehouse hinted at ideas that became part of the fabric of 21st-century culture. While it never came to fruition all those years ago, it sees some light of day here. The truly unreleased cuts – a lot of this amounts to new remixes of previously excavated bonus tracks – amount to variations on familiar themes, all of which is welcome but not a surprise.
The idea behind Bluegrass is as simple and self-explanatory as its title: the album finds Willie Nelson revisiting 12 songs from his vast songbook, delivering them with a bluegrass spin with help from mandolinist Dan Tyminski, bassist Barry Bales, banjoist Ron Block, fiddle player Aubrey Haynie, and dobroist Rob Ickes, among others. The new musicians keep Nelson on his toes throughout, allowing him to set aside his guitar and just sing, the first time he’s done so since acquiring his famous six-string ‘Trigger’ in 1969. The lively setting and empathetic harmonies help turn Bluegrass into an enjoyable detour.
Although it picks up a thread left hanging from - (subtract), which it follows by a mere matter of months, Autumn Variations represents a major break from tradition for Ed Sheeran in some important ways. The first of his albums to not follow a mathematical scheme in its title, Autumn Variations is also the first not to be released through a major label – he put it out on his own – and it also was made with one main collaborator, Aaron Dessner of the National. Many of these fresh starts are felt more than heard on Autumn Variations, which spends its 14 tracks in sepia-toned reflection. Sheeran’s ruminations are inspired by the plights of his friends and family, a lyrical distance that amounts to a distinction without much difference; his reflections here feel earnest. It’s a pensive soundtrack for a specific season, nothing more and nothing less.