When Drake dropped three new tracks out of nowhere, comparisons were hastily made to Beyoncé’s surprise release of her self-titled album last year, which the Toronto artist was featured on. Although the seemingly new trend of surprise releases might have affected his decision, Drake made the move to cement the autonomy he possesses on his own career. The actor-turned-musician is past the point of novelty, and he’s ready to take the rap crown on his own terms. Now that the hoopla of the release has receded, Drake has left us with a catchy pop-rap track, “How Bout Now,” that attempts to step up his game in the eyes of his peers.
What Drake really seems to have a handle on is his use of pop-inspired beats to enhance the music. The monster single, “Hold On We’re Going Home,” from his last album was a perfect infusion of this technique. The state of hip-hop has changed ever since 50 Cent got famous. No longer is it about fitting as many syllables into a verse as possible; now it’s about an MC’s relationship with his beats. We’ve seen Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar perfect that formula, and Drake seems to realize this paradigm shift as well. He uses a 90s R&B hook to carry the track, and to great effect. It keeps the listener focused and helps flourish Drake’s vocals.
However, there is a feeling of cliché with the lyrics and content that seems to hold the rest of the song back. Drake is describing all of the things he did to help an ungrateful love interest who isn’t supportive of his career. He says “remember I deleted all my other girls numbers out the phone for you,” but it feels like we’ve heard that already. He complains “I had no money left from acting, I was focused on the music,” a trope straight from Drake’s own life.
The last time he shared songs out of the blue, in 2011, none of them made it onto his LP from that year, Take Care. Regardless of whether or not it’s included, “How Bout Now” is vintage Drake: catchy beat with a dose of platitudes and clichés.