BY ERIC SKELTON, JESSICA MCKINNEY, MATTHEW RITCHIE
Remember when Drake promised that his sixth studio album would arrive sometime this summer? Well, the official end of summer is only a month away, and we haven't even heard anything about a release date. Thankfully, Drake reemerged on Friday with some news.
The album will be called Certified Lover Boy, and it will include a Lil Durk-assisted song called "Laugh Now Cry Later." The new single came packaged with a Dave Meyers-directed music video that was shot at Nike's headquarters in Oregon and features cameos from athletes like Kevin Durant, Odell Beckham Jr., and Marshawn Lynch. Digging into the credits, we learn the song was produced by Cardo, GRy, Yung Exclusive, and Rogét Chahayed.
How did he do? Will this become as successful as previous Drake singles like "God's Plan" and "One Dance"? Or is it a misstep? We put together a short list of our first impressions and takeaways, which you can find below.
It doesn’t have typical lead single energy
For about five minutes after it dropped, "Laugh Now Cry Later" was devoid of context. All we had to go on was a music video full of Nike swooshes and the song itself. So at first, it felt like another warmup to hold us over until it's time for the album. Maybe Drake cashed a nice sneaker check and used the opportunity to flex on a laid-back song with Lil Durk?
Then his Instagram post went live: "'Laugh Now Cry Later' off my next studio album CERTIFIED LOVER BOY.” Oh. It's a single from the album. In this context, the song comes across a little differently. Unlike everything we heard on Dark Lane Demo Tapes, this isn't bonus material. "Laugh Now Cry Later" is the real deal, so why doesn't it sound as big and exciting as some of Drake's past pre-album singles, like "Started From the Bottom" or "One Dance"?
"Laugh Now Cry Later" isn't a by-the-numbers pop radio play or a hard-hitting club record. It's a mellow song with Lil Durk that patiently works its way to a mild conclusion. It's a vibe, but not an obvious hit record. It'll undoubtedly make its way on all our playlists, but it certainly doesn't feel like the kind of explosive lead single that would stand out on Drake's resume a decade from now. Who knows, though. Drake might know exactly what he's doing. Maybe he's been up in Toronto, conducting elaborate focus groups, and figured out this is actually the perfect single to release as America crawls its way out of a pandemic and most of us can't go out at night anyway. Remember Drake at night? Good times. —Eric Skelton
Lil Durk did his thing
Lil Durk's contribution deserves attention. The Chicago rapper slides in on the second verse with melodic bars about coming up in the trenches, seemingly taking a jab at 6ix9ine as he spits, "Can you not play that lil boy in the club? Cause we do not listen to rats." The only problem we have with Durk's part is that it's too short. We want more of this! Nevertheless, this feels like an important moment for Durk, and he did his thing. This year, in particular, has been really great for him. In May, he received positive reviews for his fifth studio album, Just Cause Y’all Waited 2, which peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart. Everyone should be watching closely to see what Durk does next. —Jessica McKinney
There’s heavy sports ad energy
"Laugh Now Cry Later" is giving off serious sports ad energy. The music video is basically a cinematic sports ad with cameos of NFL players Marshawn Lynch and Odell Beckham Jr. NBA star Kevin Durant is seen swinging from a basketball hoop, while Drake and Durk don oversized Draft Day suits. The whole video was shot in and around the Nike headquarters, but the song itself also feels like something that was designed to become the soundtrack for an upcoming sports ad. Has Nike already cut him a check? The beat, which is anchored by a horn loop, would work well as entry music in an NBA promo video. Knowing Drake's history as a rabbid sports fan, this all feels intentional. —Jessica McKinney
Drake still thinks about memes a lot
By now, it's fairly obvious that each of Drake's songs and videos are deliberately created to be used as source material for memes. We've seen the marketing genius of Drake's dance moves in the "Hotline Bling" music video and the "tiny Drake" Views album cover, which each spawned countless memes. Now, he knows the formula works, so he's sticking to it. The "Laugh Now Cry Later" video is full of short vignettes that center around Drake popping out of pools, crying, and doubling over in exaggerated laughter. None of these moments do much to advance the storyline of the video, but they do make for great reaction GIFs. Drake is thinking so much about internet jokes that he even invited Instagram comedian Druski to appear in the video. You can go ahead and make fun of the Certified Lover Boy album title on Twitter, but you should realize that's exactly what he wants you to do. I'm sure this will all pay off for Drake, but part of me wishes it wasn't so obviously choreographed at this point. Memes aren't as fun when they're planted by corporate machines. —Eric Skelton
He sounds above it all
For Drake's entire run at the upper echelon of rap, he's receiving subliminal messages and direct shots. 2020 has been no different. From vague and inane tweets from Kanye West, to Pusha-T's reported diss on the unreleased version of Pop Smoke's "Paranoia," the Canadian rapper has had plenty of opportunities to reignite the flames of beef from his past (and present). However, he makes it clear here that he's above shots like that. Are these feuds disinteresting to him now? Just look at the video: he's living out his dreams, getting cooked by Kevin Durant, and catching passes from Odell Beckham Jr. When he raps, "Tired of beefing these bums/you can't even pay me enough to react," he does it with the confidence of someone who clearly understands that he's untouchable at this point. In Drake’s mind, he's above it all. —Matthew Ritchie
"Laugh Now Cry Later" won't be a flop. It's already trending No. 1 on YouTube, and climbing to the top of the Apple Music and Spotify charts. It's a good, solid song that won't blow up in Drake's face or dampen excitement for his next album. Instead, it's an inoffensive single that will easily slide into major playlists and become a streaming monster without much friction. But it's also not very exciting. Drake doesn't take any big risks or evolve his sound in new ways. It's a little disappointing that his guest verse on Headie One's "Only You Freestyle" last month had more interesting creative choices than his own single. It's not a great sign that more people are talking about the music video than the song itself right now. "Laugh Now Cry Later" is fine, and it gets the job done, but let's hope Drake takes more risks on the rest of the album. —Eric Skelton