The greatness of Drake's second album didn't start at a single, or with a long, slow tease out, but really, with the moment Thank Me Later officially dropped. Drake's major label debut album was a high-fidelity, high-production affair, filled with a murderer's row of A-List producers (Kanye West, Timbaland, Swizz Beats) and guest stars (Alicia Keys, Jay Z, Young Jeezy), and songs that were glossy, radio-ready hits. In other words: It delivered on the promise of Drake's universally loved mixtape, So Far Gone, but maybe moreso for the music industry than Drake's fans.
While it felt like a lot of things changed the moment Take Care dropped, nothing changed more than that dynamic between Drake and his fans. Take Care was the album that they—and anyone who knew what Drake was capable of—had truly been waiting for. Even the way Drake responded to the album's leak was hugely telling: By acknowledging the leak with a Tweet telling fans to enjoy the album, and to "take care." Even the cover—of Drake, sitting at a table with a golden chalice, looking down—felt like it added up to an Important and Intimate Moment with Drake as An Artist.
It was early November. The seasons were beginning to turn. Things were getting colder. So when you turned on Take Care, and heard in two seconds something that's essentially exactly the same sound that Thank Me Later started with—piano chords—and yet, heard something entirely different from the sound that Thank Me Later started with, you knew everything had changed.
Gone was the lush sheen of individual key drops, here was the warmth of deep, bassy chords. Gone was the studio-manufactured sound of fireworks, here was the trademark production that is hearing Drake collaborator Noah "40" Shebib in full control of the sound, that ever-so-slight and smokey sense of reverb, something like a fireplace-lit foyer, or a jazz club. Gone was the smoothed-over notes of global superstar Alicia Keys, here was the fuzzy, static-strewn sound of Canadian pop vocalist (and brief '90s hit singer) Chantal Kreviazuk. Gone was the any pretense of modesty ("Money just changed everything") and in its place, a blunt honesty, the kind that makes you realize someone respects you all the more for it, even if the message ("I think I killed everybody in the game last year/Man, fuck it, I was on though") is one of ego.
All of this takes place in the first 68 seconds of Take Care. And that's to say nothing of what follows: The sad-sack R&B slow jam kiss-off to an ex that is "Shot For Me." The manically fun bragadoccio of "Headlines." The Weeknd and Drake reverberating notes, perfectly sympatico in "Crew Love." The hypermodern soul of "Take Care," replete with Gil Scott-Heron vocals and white hot romantic tension between Drake and Rihanna. The peak-Drakeness of "Marvin's Room," the most triumphant song about being a drunk asshole to the women who want to love you that may ever be recorded. — Foster Kamer