In early 1985, Paul Simon was coming out of one of the lowest period in his career. Following a highly lucrative string of concerts with his former partner Art Garfunkel, audiences and critics clamored Simon to rekindle their relationship and include his old friend on his next solo record Hearts And Bones. Despite the immense fan turnout, the duo once again fell into old habits and began to clash just as they had fifteen years previously.
Hearts And Bones was a commercial and critical flop. Looking to shake off the whiff of failure, Simon took inspiration from an unlikely source. After hearing a bootleg demo of a group of South African singers, he chose to take his next album in a completely different direction, utilizing the sounds and voices of native South African musicians. The resulting work, Graceland, is widely considered to be Simon’s strongest solo effort, combining pop, zydeco, worldbeat, and South African street music in a kaleidoscopic affair that brought the world’s attention to the music of that country.
While Drake didn’t find himself in the exact same circumstance as Simon near the end of last year, there was a pervading sense that the 6 God had fallen off some. His last album, the monstrously long and frigid Views, was an unmistakable commercial success, but it also alienated many critics and some of his most ardent defenders. He needed to do something different.