One of the most hotly-anticipated albums of the fall hits store shelves both real and virtual today. Drake’s Take Care is already the top-selling album on iTunes and promises to find its way to the head of the Billboard chart despite its high-profile leak last week.

The walk-up to Take Care has been a little unusual, as a handful of the tracks from the album have been unleashed for free online in the months prior to its release (though a handful of those tracks didn’t end up on the final version of the album). It primed listeners for what was to come, though the results were even more dramatic than even first expected.

Check out the EW review of Take Care, a version of which will be appearing in the issue of the magazine hitting newsstands this Friday.


Take Care

(Young Money/Cash Money/Universal Republic)

On his platinum-selling 2010 debut, Thank Me Later, Drake managed to blend his special brand of understated Canadian ­swagger with surprisingly vulnerable ­reflections on the opposite sex. It didn’t reinvent the wheels of steel, but it acted as both a statement of his vast potential and a titillating wake-up call for hip-hop.

Unfortunately, his second album, Take Care—the bulk of which made its way online over the past several months via individual leaks by Drake himself—spends most of its 17 tracks hitting the snooze button. The ­battle-rap savagery that electrified his ­mixtapes is almost entirely absent here, and gone is the confidence that let him get away with smirky lines like “She call me the referee because I be so official.” Instead, Drake half-bakes his woozy rap-croon and glazes it with sluggish keyboard hums, ­stalling the album’s momentum even when Nicki Minaj does her whirling-dervish act on the disjointed “Make Me Proud.”

Take Care presents itself as one overlong woozy monologue, with Drake constantly holding his hungover head and wondering where his life went. Thank Me Later wasn’t exactly a fun night on the town, but Take Care is a total downer, overflowing with complaints about getting involved with too many women and scoring too much success. It’s such a funereal atmosphere that when Lil Wayne stops by to liven things up (as he does on the rugged, confident “HYFR”), it only causes jarring discomfort where it should supply welcome relief.

Drake saves all his chest-thumping bluster for “Lord Knows,” an impossibly huge track built around a bug-eyed gospel choir and a heroic victory verse care of Rick Ross. But that pride is fleeting; soon it’s right back to drumless bouts of existential doubt and post-coital tristesse. It’s possible to lay out all your psychological issues on a commercial rap album—Kanye West does it all the time. What Drake needs is a few more punchlines to brighten up his monochromatic therapy sessions. Surely Canada’s excellent healthcare system can underwrite that. C+