This is Part 2 of our four-part series on visual albums. Next week, we take a look at Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D City. ------------------------------------------ 2016 has been an eventful year for Drake. Despite releasing an album that was poorly received by both critics and fans, his album Views managed to break streaming records. In a year that saw him emerge as arguably the biggest male artist in the world and as the global ambassador for his hometown Toronto, Drake set his sights on a unique project: a short film that would serve as a visual album for Views. Drake did something similar in 2015, with his short film “Jungle.” “Jungle” was a great experimental and largely instrumental film, making it a welcome companion to his mixtape If You’re reading This It’s Too Late. However, Drake’s latest venture, Please Forgive Me is uninspired, redundant and pointless. The project is inconceivably stupid and disappointing for an artist of Drake’s caliber.
Visual albums do not serve any one particular purpose. In the past, artists such as Prince and The Doors utilized the visual album format to create feature-length films. More recently, Beyonce's Lemonade served as bold showcase for both women’s liberation and black empowerment. All visual albums are have two components to them: the music and the story. In Please Forgive Me, Drake aims to be the action star of a 26-minute long film. Given that the rapper played Jimmy on Degrassi before becoming a platinum-selling rapper, it was disappointing to see how poor his acting was in the film. Drake has experimented with plot-driven music videos in the past, but Please Forgive Me does not live up the rapper’s previous work.
Please Forgive Me shares its storyline with 1993's Indecent Proposal. A mobster offers Drake's girlfriend a million dollars to sleep with him. While his girlfriend initially balks at the proposal, Drake decides they should take the offer. However, this agreement proves to only be a ruse to steal the cash and more from the mob boss. It's a flimsy plot, which caused me to write it off when the idea was introduced in the first five minutes. The film’s archaic themes of chivalry and revenge stand in sharp contrasts to the recent visual albums by Beyonce and Kendrick Lamar, which have both explored social issues and contemporary problems in innovative ways.
Though Hollywood blockbusters, such as Michael Bay’s Transformers series, ring hollow thematically, it is generally understood that these films are made to entertain and make money. While they may not be very good, they tend to be the result of studios wanting to rake in a huge profit and actors wanting to have fun on set. Even analyzing Please Forgive Me, in these terms rings pointless. There is nothing fun about the setting or tone of the film. The only redeeming quality is how good the film looks. The film contains choreographed scenes for Drake's "Controlla" and "One Dance,” which are essentially roaring parties. However, I would imagine Drake could have just as much fun at a real life party, without having to exhibit the scene on a set for cameramen and technicians. Other songs featured in the film include the eponymous track "Views" and "Still Here," fit poorly with the plot and act as testaments to the sloppiness of the production.
Perhaps most egregiously, the film does not offer any reflections of Drake's own life and story. Rather, we see a vision of what Drake wants to be, and in many cases, the future is not as interesting as the past. I personally have no doubt that Drake will attempt to transition into a feature film actor at some point in his career. The man has potential and talent, as evidenced by a few great skits during his last turn hosting Saturday Night Live. At the very least, Drake has incredible charisma and enchants crowds of people everywhere. Although he may find success as an actor in the future, Please Forgive Me only proves that no matter how hard Drake tries, he simply is not an action star. Drake is at his best when he embraces his true self, the one that can be parodied and meme'd across the internet. A visual album is a very personal, yet expansive, mode of expression, and it’s important to stay true to oneself as an artist. We can only hope that Drake remembers this the next time around.