Drake has often dropped major projects with relatively little notice over his last decade-plus of superstardom, but never quite this big this soon: Honestly, Nevermind, billed as the rapper’s seventh studio album, announced on Thursday (June 16) and released just hours later.
The surprise project, an unexpected turn towards the house and Afrobeats sounds currently lighting the global dance scene, debuts at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart this week, moving 204,000 first-week units and becoming his 11th Billboard 200-topper — albeit with a debut performance well down from the 613,000 units moved by 2021 predecessor Certified Lover Boy in its first frame. Meanwhile, the set’s closer — the more conventionally hip-hop-leaning (and 21 Savage-featuring) “Jimmy Cooks” — bows atop the Billboard Hot 100, marking Drake’s 11th No. 1 on that listing as well.
What should be the takeaways from Honestly, Nevermind‘s first-week performance? And how likely is Drake to take over the all-time No. 1 marks for Billboard‘s marquee charts? Our staffers discuss these questions and more below.
1. Honestly, Nevermind debuts atop the Billboard 200 with 204,000 first-week units — a strong number, though almost exactly 1/3 of the first-week total posted by his Certified Lover Boy album last September (613,000). What do you see as being the biggest reason for the steep drop-off between the two first weeks?
Katie Bain: I think it has to be that this isn’t quite standard Drake fare, so fans who’d normally play a new Drake LP on repeat have been bit more lukewarm. Meanwhile, electronic music fans hearing about “Drake’s dance album” and giving it a whirl out of sheer curiosity have perhaps not put any of these songs on repeat. (I am eager to hear the inevitable remixes, and how they themselves track in the dance scene.) So, this seems like a case of the biggest two demographics this album was designed for showing curiosity in it, but not entirely falling in love with it.
Carl Lamarre: Drizzy announced the album six hours before its midnight drop with no single or rollout in sight. The fact he notched a No. 1 album — the third-highest debut for any rapper so far in 2022 — isn’t a feat to sleep on. Let’s not forget he also just scored another No. 1 Hot 100 record, along with two additional debuts inside the chart’s top 10. It’s all still a win in my book.
Cydney Lee: I feel like this disparity is due to the lack of rollout for Honestly, Nevermind. Few artists can pull off a successful surprise album, and while I don’t think this is album is necessarily unsuccessful, I do believe it might’ve performed (and been received) better if it was teased a bit. Especially since the house/dance elements make this such a feel-good album for the “back outside” crowd, the anticipation for this record would’ve been crazy had we’d gotten a single or forewarning. However, Drake always seems to provoke mixed feelings when he gets to experimenting with different sounds (and accents), and while his true fans seem to attribute it as Drake being Drake, he’s always got some tasteless, jobless haters who love to debase him for sport.
Jason Lipshutz: The two Drake albums were released under completely different circumstances, as Certified Lover Boy was Drake’s long-awaited (and long-delayed) album return aimed at his core hip-hop audience, whereas Honestly, Nevermind was a surprise release and hard left turn towards dance music. Although Drake has referred to the latter as an official album, Nevermind functions more as a detour in his discography, akin to something like Care Package or Dark Lane Demo Tapes. Accordingly, it hasn’t posted the same type of equivalent album units as something like CLB, but I wouldn’t have expected it to, either.
Andrew Unterberger: The surprise release is probably the biggest factor: While some artists benefit from the inherent mystery and intrigue in an out-of-nowhere drop, Drake seems better served by a short rollout where he can get folks buzzing with some attention-grabbing marketing tactics, controversial cover art, maybe a viral video and/or a petty celebrity feud or two. The sonic left turn and lack of star-studded guest list also no doubt contributed; a lot of rap fans no doubt gave this a curiosity listen and then decided thanks-but-no-thanks on making a return visit.
2. The Hot 100-topping “Jimmy Cooks” is an obvious aberration on Nevermind, as both the only song with a featured guest (frequent Drake collaborator 21 Savage) and the only song to follow in Drake’s more established hip-hop mold. Does it having the strongest debut of any track on Nevermind say more to you about the song or about the rest of the album it comes from?
Katie Bain: “Jimmy Cooks” is a fine song, but its success has got to be a statement on the rest of the album more so than it being a new essential of the Drake oeuvre, with Drake fans just opting to play the only Nevermind song that sounds like a Drake song in his more traditional mold.
Carl Lamarre: I think the debut speaks to fans clamoring for Drake’s rap side more than anything. The tiniest morsel was enough for fans to take a bite at, especially with it being the last track on the album. The fact they feverishly searched for a rap-centric song and clung to it says how much they still adore the bars.
Cydney Lee: Not to undermine the track, but I think it’s popularity has more to do with the album it comes from. Drake and 21 pair well together, and “Jimmy Cooks” is a clever nod to his Degrassi days. But because it is more of a traditional Drake rap song, it appeals to the people who expected the entire album to sound like this. Its placement as the last track also feels intentional, as if Drake knew people were going to skip through the tracklist to find what sounds familiar. Fans might’ve also just been excited to hear the two on a track together again, but I’m still firm on attributing its success to familiarity.
Jason Lipshutz: One can deduce that the No. 1 debut of “Jimmy Cooks” means that Drake has a larger faction of fans of his traditional hip-hop, as featured on Certified Lover Boy, than of his dance forays… but it’s also worth pointing out that “Jimmy Cooks” is a stellar Drake single, and would arguably be the best song on CLB had it cracked that track list. Not only does Drake land some nice lines himself (gotta love a Yellowstone shout-out), but 21 Savage is absolutely ferocious on there, stealing the song with one of his greatest guest spots to date. “Jimmy Cooks” works as a commercial entity on paper, but in practice, it’s even better.
Andrew Unterberger: It’s probably a little more about the album. Drake and 21 Savage have long proven a winning combo — as recently as last year’s Certified Lover Boy highlight “Knife Talk” — and “Jimmy” is another fun teamup for the duo. But on most Drake albums, this collab would’ve been a slow-burn favorite if anything, not an immediate commercial standout. But the listener base that made Lover Boy one of the biggest albums of the decade so far clearly wanted more of that Drake, and the rest of Nevermind was none too enthusiastic about giving it to them. It’ll be interesting to see if the song sticks around as long as “Knife Talk” or the other CLB hits.
3. Fan and critical reception to Nevermind has been largely mixed, but Drake has mostly dismissed any chilliness towards the set as a consequence of him just being ahead of the curve and listeners needing time to catch up. Fair or unfair?
Katie Bain: I mean, it’s easy to dismiss criticism with the old “critics just don’t understand yet,” but maybe there is something to that, given that this album is a curveball. It’s not hip-hop in its traditional mold, and it’s not even dance music as most average listeners probably know that genre, given that it so extensively features underground house. It’s obviously fair that this music just isn’t speaking to some people, but I also think that it’s an album that will grow on listeners over time — especially as it’s presenting a style of music that’s white hot in the dance world, but thus far less so in the mainstream.
Carl Lamarre: Fair. Drizzy’s decision to flip the switch sonically will ultimately require an adjustment period for his ardent followers. CLB came out less than a year ago and was a quintessential Drake project, headlined by bars and bops. Veering into dance — a first in his career, at least to this degree — without a lead single or proper rollout isn’t something anyone was ready for. I’m curious to see if the Drake Effect will strike again, and prompt rappers to cross over to dance and find similar success.
Cydney Lee: Fair. It’s such a tired concept, but I feel like music listeners get so used to artists having one sound that when the artist decides to try something new, fans are shook. You obviously don’t have to like everything your favorite artist puts out, but when it comes to Honestly, Nevermind specifically, I think the real question here is why people don’t like it.
Drake has experimented before and people thought it was corny, but it seems like a lot of the distaste for this record has come from the idea that he tapped into a genre of music that his core fans most likely aren’t keen on/think is “white music” to begin with. The common theme of the Honestly, Nevermind discourse seems to be Black people reminding other Black people that house music derived from Black people, which to me implies that people aren’t allowing themselves to like this album due to their limited beliefs of pinning certain music genres on certain groups of people. And if that’s the case, then yes, listeners need to expand their music palates and catch up, or else they’ll never get it.
Jason Lipshutz: Honestly, Nevermind is a great vibe-out album – the beats thump, the warbled singing is pleasant enough, it doesn’t overstay its welcome. Does it have any top-notch hooks or arrangements, outside of the outlier “Jimmy Cooks”? Probably not, but that’s not what Drake is going for here. I’m higher on the album than the critical consensus, but I can also understand why some listeners are left cold by the weightlessness of the majority of the tracks here. Who knows — Drake has been ahead of the curve before, and maybe these structural experimentations will grow on us in time.
Andrew Unterberger: Half-fair. Certainly the sharp pivot is a primary factor in a lot of casual fans giving up on this Drake set seemingly within hours of its Friday midnight release — and certainly, his big bet on house music as the sound of the summer received valuable validation just days later from one of the few artists who could claim to be in his superstar class. But I think the set also suffers from just not having a ton of particularly strong songs on it. If there were a half-dozen songs here on the level of “Passionfruit,” “Blem” and “Get It Together” from More Life — which, lest we forget, was the original Drake dance pivot — I think we’d be having a different conversation about this album. (Slightly, anyway.)
4. Does Drake’s sharp turn towards dance music strike you as a meaningful shift in his sound that will continue to be reflected in future releases — or more of a one-off experiment that may not impact much of his music beyond Nevermind? (Or is it actually not as sharp a turn as it seems in the first place?)
Katie Bain: I don’t think this album means we’re going to be seeing Drake’s Tresor residency or anything. I can see him bringing back some of the producers who worked on Nevermind, but this album feels like more of a one-off dive into house music than a permanent shift in direction/permanent embrace of that world. That said though, it will be interesting to see how the production on this album influences forthcoming mainstream releases.
Carl Lamarre: I think this was just a one-off attempt and is something I can respect and appreciate. Pundits taunted Drake for subscribing to this nonlinear narrative of sappy love songs or braggadocious rap records. To them, his career has so far been very one-note. That’s why I think Honestly was an admirable attempt — because he proved, if needed, that he can still dole out hits regardless of the genre, and conquer the Billboard charts as if with a standard release. In the future, I think we can bank on a return to regularly scheduled programming for The Boy.
Cydney Lee: It only feels like a sharp turn because it was a full album with the new sound. I don’t think we’ll get another full-on dance album from Drake, but I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if we get another track or two like this, or from any other genre really. It’s what he does.
Jason Lipshutz: Drake has long gestured towards an interest in dance music – you can connect the dots from “Take Care” to “One Dance” to “Passionfruit” and draw a straight line to Honestly, Nevermind. The fact that he wanted to center an entire album around that interest isn’t too shocking considering those nods, but I would be surprised if he put out another dance album after this, as an extended motif instead of a one-off. That’s never been his style, and I would expect a return to his traditional sound after this one.
Andrew Unterberger: I was surprised enough to see him take a chance like this in the first place — Certified Lover Boy was such a consolidation of established strengths, and still so commercially successful, that I thought the risk-taking portion of Drake’s career might have been permanently in the rearview. I can’t say I think it’s too likely he’ll continue down this path now that it’s been met with such a relatively chilly fan response, but we’ll see what the rest of the summer holds: If his prediction of pop catching up to him happens sooner than latter, this might not be the end of Dancefloor Drizzy just yet.
5. With his 11th No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 and 11th No. 1 single on the Hot 100, Drake is now more than halfway to catching The Beatles’ all-time benchmark totals of No. 1s on both listings (19 and 20, respectively). Do you think he’ll ultimately match their records on both charts?
Katie Bain: With every Drake album doing as well as it does and Drake releasing said albums at such a fast clip, it seems inevitable that he’ll ultimately match them, if not ultimately surpass them.
Carl Lamarre: Singles-wise, yes. With how often Drake releases one-off singles, packs, or even features, he can probably skate past The Beatles within the next five years. Now, on the albums-front, things get “sticky.” I think 15 No. 1 albums should be his curtain call, and why not? That’s a nice round number to call it a career.
Cydney Lee: If not both, he’ll definitely match or surpass their record on one of the charts. He’s already at 11! Drake’s career momentum is fascinating to say the least, so I’m excited to see what else he’s got up his sleeve in the years to come.
Jason Lipshutz: My prediction is: Yes on the Hot 100, no on the Billboard 200. Drake is rattling off multiple No. 1 singles per year at this point, both as a lead artist and a guest star, which means he could break the record even if he becomes less active as a recording act, simply by providing assists to other big artists. Scoring eight more No. 1 albums, however, seems like a lofty task, unless Drake remains just as prolific (or even more so) over the next five years, before his professional run loses an ounce of heat. He could own both records if he tries, but I’m guessing he goes 1 for 2.
Andrew Unterberger: He’s certainly on pace for both — lest we forget, Drake didn’t even get his first Hot 100 No. 1 as a lead artist until “One Dance” in 2016; now he’s practically guaranteed a minimum of one per project. Albums might be a little tougher since it’s harder to top the Billboard 200 with archival compilations than it used to be — although Drake’s done it before — but when even his mixed-reception surprise releases break 200k in their first week, chances are he’s still gonna be coasting to No. 1 on the chart with every new album for the foreseeable future. He should be breathing down the Fab Four’s necks in the record books (again) soon enough.
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