Every new season of The Bachelor is the most dramatic season of The Bachelor ever, because every season Chris Harrison, the show’s oddly self-aware host/producer, says it is so. What Harrison mostly means is that they’ve cast crazier, drunker, and eminently more watchable women to park in the fabled mansion. Our Bachelor himself stays more or less the same: agreeable, presumably wealthy, sensitive to a point, with a fondness for tight heather-gray henleys and an urgent demand for a hot wife. The show’s been running strong for 14 years and 20 seasons, not counting The Bachelorette and various spin-offs, over the course of which only two Bachelors have successfully coupled. Not great odds, for those keeping score at home! It’s hard not to wonder why a financially stable, conventionally attractive man in his late twenties/early thirties can’t just find love in that big, wide, shallow world out there, or slide in the DMs like the rest of us, instead of hashing it out every Monday at 8 p.m. Eastern for some 8.5 million strangers. You’re left to come to one of two conclusions: (1) they simply like the attention, or (2) the problem is very much them.
And hey, we’re all human, even the Bachelor, who naturally arrives with his own set of (exceedingly manageable, narrative-shaping, probably monogrammed) baggage. For Ben Higgins, the good-natured software sales account manager from Denver (turned on yet?) who served as the most recent Bachelor, it was his vague, nagging fear of being unworthy of love. But when it came down to it, Ben — like the rest of his Bachelor brethren — grasped at intimacy like a toddler might grasp at a fork. He and his myriad girlfriends hover over untouched dinners, gushing at how psyched they are to get to know one another without ever actually getting to know each other. They talk past hang-ups and future goalposts — I’ve been cheated on, I want four little white babies named after Twilight Saga installments — but never grow much closer to bridging the gap in between. They fall in love, and then they fall out of love, and then a new season of The Bachelor begins — the most dramatic one ever.
If you like Drake albums, there is another Drake album in the world. It has the things we tend to like about Drake albums: sexy, detached productions; hooks that are fun to yell in public; simp quotes for tweeting and deleting. There are four or so good-to-great songs on Views, as there tend to be on Drake albums — unanimously, here, the tracks where the
6 God 9 God looks to Nigerian pop, soca, and dancehall for cues. But the reception, so far at least, has been unlike any Drake album since his iffy 2010 studio debut. It would seem that the unusually lukewarm critical response rests on Drizzy’s unwillingness (or inability) to significantly evolve beyond his time-tested signature sound, clinging to the comfort of the same frosty 40 beats, zingy aphorisms, and perennial trust issues. The proximity to Lemonade certainly didn’t help, but this is beyond Beyoncé. Something has shifted.
The less-cited reason for Views’s shaky landing is that Drake, as a character, is indisputably a giant prick. On “Childs Play,” he’s peak Petty Drake, hiding his Bugatti keys because he’s pissed his girl borrowed the car to buy tampons. “Feel No Ways,” meant as a spiritual sequel to the breezy “Hold On, We’re Going Home” but really just a chillwave song, snarls at an ex, “Who is it that got you all gassed up?” and derides her for not being able to keep up with his lifestyle. (News flash, Aubz: When you’re broke, there really isn’t that much more to life than sleeping in and getting high, actually.) By its title, you might have imagined “Redemption” as an act of contrition, or maybe just a little self-examination; instead, Drake continues the creepy possessive streak of “Hotline Bling,” pouting as he demands acknowledgment and apologies from his exes, baffled that they’ve made a life without him.
But I’m not convinced that Views is all that much different in quality or ambition than any given Drake album, in hindsight; nor does it seem that Drake is significantly more of an asshole than already proven. We deemed 2011's Take Care, whose bloated grandiosity is the obvious model for Views, an instant classic. Revisit that album and see how much of it holds up today, or find out how deep the roots of his supposedly newfound entitlement stretch. We embraced 2013's Nothing Was the Same, its productions often barely distinguishable from those of Views. Nobody seemed too stressed in 2014 on “How About Now,” when Drake guilt-tripped an ex’s dad for not saying thanks for his Christmas gift. And are you really going to tell me that If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late was any better than this? Views gave us exactly what we signed up for. It just doesn’t feel the same.
Being the same age as Drake is weird. You’ll read a think piece that’s like, “Drake: Voice of a Generation!” and squirm for a way out: You’re a BuzzFeed-in-the-face-ass millennial fuck for relating, or an un-poptimistic contrarian for opting out. “Relatability,” we were told, was the reason for Drake’s unexpected reign — the rapper who was just like you! That theory never really had legs to stand on (as though no one had rapped transparently about their feelings before Room for Improvement), but it persisted, through some combination of self-fulfilling prophecy and critical laziness. Drake songs became prisms through which our own issues were refracted, transparent and manipulative at once. Like Drake’s favorite mode of expression (memes, I should clarify — not gym selfies), we used his songs as symbols and turned his dating woes and existential micro-crises into modern-day folktales. I still remember reading a 2012 Drake tweet about dropping his phone in a glass of wine, “just to give you an idea of where my life is at these days.” “Fuck, that’s so me,” I thought, and hit retweet. If Drake was a mess like me and doing OK, then I was doing OK.
Drake, and myself, and a generation of people whose messy, confusing twenties were soundtracked by The Boy, are approaching 30 years old now. An iPhone dropped in a glass of Malbec, or a shouting match at the Cheesecake Factory, or bragging that your house is “the definition of alcohol and weed addiction,” is exponentially less cute at 30 than it is at twentysomething. The Drake on Views whines that he’s underappreciated, that he’s settling, that the women he expects to wait around for him indefinitely have outright betrayed him. “You’re supposed to put your pride aside and ride for me,” he sing-songs on “Keep the Family Close,” as though that were a reasonable thing to ask anyone, be it an ex-fling or member of his OVO tent village brain trust. He turns dormant relationships into personal affronts, as though falling out of touch with people you once loved wasn’t simply a part of growing up. “You wanna walk around naked in the kitchen without running into one of my niggas — that’s not the way we living,” he scoffs on “U With Me?,” like any grown woman would be out of line to expect a grown man not to live like a frat pledge. But at some point, after all the late-night meltdowns and vain attempts at intimacy, it’s time to grow the fuck up, take a hard look at yourself, and take some accountability for your problems. When you’ve been doing the same thing for years with the same results, and have gotten no further in the quest for human connection upon which your entire career has been predicated, it starts to seem that the problem is you.