There are lots of different ways to approach music nowadays, and people often find it very difficult to keep up with the latest albums and singles – but making time to listen to and properly understand the latest releases of Drake and Beyonce took more time than usual. 50 minutes of Beyonce and 82 minutes of Drake seemed like an insurmountable challenge at points, but only after giving them a listen did it become apparent that there’s one clear winner; and 90% of this victory was due to the method of album release.
Beyonce released Lemonade, a female- empowering album that tells the story of the emotions of a woman who is having doubts about her husband’s fidelity and the struggle she is going through in an attempt to understand him. This would be an entirely understandable and normal album theme were it anyone but Beyoncé, especially since her husband is Jay-Z, who owns the streaming service which the album was exclusively streamed on for a week. Lemonade (named to symbolize the bitterness of the album) was a complete surprise. No one knew it was coming, there had been no official announcement of any sort, and people were oblivious to the fact that Beyoncé was even recording music. Then, she tweeted a picture of the album cover, sending critics and journalists into a frenzy trying to connect the dots. There were rumors from various sources as to when this album would appear – there always is – but when it was finally released exclusively on Tidal, the world was united in its surprise.
This method of release has been tried before (Beyoncé did it originally in 2014, and was even more recently copied by Frank Ocean for his eagerly awaited album Blond) and it gives the artist a distinct advantage: there’s no expectations. When no one was expecting anything, anticipation couldn’t build and this meant that upon release, no one could possibly be disappointed. Anything that was released will immediately be seen in a more positive light. Audiences will also most likely give more time to the project, in order to understand it and to form an opinion on it. Beyoncé has only seen the positive side of a quick release the first time, so why would she do it any other way? She’s found the perfect way for her music to get the most publicity possible, and that is by saying nothing.
Drake, however, has had a very different approach. Drake announced his album Views From The 6 two years ago in a radio interview, and since then the name has been crushing him and leaving little room to breathe. The moment the title (a reference to his hometown Toronto) was announced, people started building it up into this mythical wonder that would rock the music world, and define Drake’s career. Since that announcement Drake has released two mixtapes titled ‘If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late’ and ‘What A Time To Be Alive’, a collaborative album with fellow Toronto rapper Future. In both these releases he referenced Views from the 6 and added fuel to the fire, leaving the album with an impossible mountain of expectation to climb. The album was given a release date two weeks before it was officially published, exclusively with Apple Music. Upon release people are calling it a disappointment, saying that they “expected more” from Drake, but of course it would be impossible to match two years’ worth of expectation and excitement, even if you made the album 82 minutes long. Drake let himself down, and let the music down. A solid piece of work has been graded as a failure all due to the hype, expectation and countdowns to its release.