Donda vs. Certified Lover Boy

Reviewing and comparing two of 2021’s most anticipated albums

More stories from Ryan Zach


Kanye West and Drake are two artists who need absolutely no introduction. Two of the most known names in the music industry at the moment, both have also been involved with the release of some of the most anticipated music of 2021. Kanye’s Donda and Drake’s Certified Lover Boy released nearly alongside each other and broke records on streaming services for this year. Donda became the second biggest global Spotify debut in history, based on album streams, and Certified Lover Boy became the most streamed Spotify album of 2021 eight days after Donda’ debut. But how do these albums compare? 


Going into the album, I personally didn’t expect it to be as long as it was. I had heard both this album and CLB were pretty meaty experiences, but this album is nearly two hours in length. Despite this, the album really only feels “bloated” at certain points, in no way the whole time does it seem like a grating experience. One of the other things I noticed quickly about this album is how bleak it is. Having not listened to much of Kanye West’s music, I expected an uplifting album about Jesus and how he can help you through hard times or whatever Christrian rap is about. Instead, this is more of an album exploring Kanye’s personal faith in Jesus, and how his faith plays into different aspects of his life, including how it helps him with the death of his mother, who the album is named after. The album sometimes leans more toward sounding preachy; this is a very spiritual experience either way. The record also features an abundance of multiple-part songs; The two-part “Jail” is a pretty interesting song. I think of the two part songs on this album, “Jesus Lord” has some really beautiful parts and the second track of that song is probably my favorite track on the album. I liked parts of “Remote Control,” mostly because I adore the sample that Kanye added into the end. I am the globglogabgalab. The two-parter “Junya” on this thing is pretty weird, I didn’t really enjoy it, nor can I understand why it got a second part. Overall, this album made me feel a way that a lot of albums don’t make me feel; it gave me a sense of uncomfort that never really rubbed me the wrong way, in fact, I think it uses this to the advantage. The album is a somewhat emotional experience, and the dark beats and sparse production really go with the stark black album cover to create a unique vibe. The album is overall pretty good, and I was excited to see how Certified Lover Boy compared as it seems like a much brighter album in terms of tone. 

Certified Lover Boy

This album was a bit of a letdown, honestly. And listen, I don’t typically seek out this variety of music too often, but listening to this was quite the experience. This has the essence of Drake dripping all over it; The beats, the sound of it all, everything feels so Drake. So, if you’re a fan of his spacey, meager style, you will immediately notice this. I noticed fast on this album that whenever you aren’t really paying attention to this thing, it sounds pretty good. I’ve come to the conclusion that Drake gets exponentially better when you aren’t paying attention to his music. I found myself getting into a song, finding my place in the song, starting to enjoy myself… and then Drake comes in, and I get bored. Some of the features on this thing are so good, and then it just dilutes back to Drake. Some notable songs include the ridiculous “Girls Want Girls,” which features a line about Drake being a lesbian because one of his girls is. My favorite song on here is probably “You Only Live Twice,” the sampled and semi-muddy beat sounds strikingly authentic and cool, like an exhilarating drum and bass song. It just feels overall to me like if everyone working on this album had managed to lock Drake out of the room for a few extra hours and lessened his influence over the whole thing, maybe it would have been better as some sort of various artists compilation. I think Drake and Kanye West have very different styles of music and niches they’re trying to fill in the music landscape, and for whatever reason, I personally cannot get as into Drake. 


After listening to both of these collections of music, they almost feel incomparable. They have a lot less in common now that I’ve listened to both one after the other, only one really feels amazingly cohesive and sensical as such a long album. Donda takes its runtime in stride, having only some weak songs and every song contributing to a noticeable central theme, whereas Certified Lover Boy feels like a collection of songs thrown onto an album. What Certified Lover Boy lacks in emotion and meaning Donda almost takes too far, being too heavy with its own message for its own good at some points. And if we want to be picky here, the album cover that Drake chose for Certified Lover Boy is just so ugly. At least Kanye couldn’t go wrong choosing just a black square for Donda. So, overall, I think Kanye West came out with the stronger album here. I’m not as big of a hip hop fanatic as the next guy, but there were points on both of these albums where I found myself bobbing along to the music and I can see why someone more into the genre would be all over these albums. They’re not the masterpieces that a lot of people are claiming them to be, Donda is just pretty… alright.