(Staff Illustration; images by iStock and Getty Images)
Pop music critic

This new Drake album is way too long, and civilization might collapse at any moment, so we’ll make this quick.

First, if the arrival of Drake’s big, fat “Scorpion” hints at anything meaningful, it might be the terminus of artist-as-brand. Let’s say you’re in the business of bottling Coca-Cola. You’re never going to change that tasty recipe — which means you need to change the advertising incessantly. So voilà. Here’s an epic double-album, a colossal 25 tracks, an odyssey somehow even lengthier than Drake’s previous emo-quests. And when you pop the top? Same old fizz.

We’ve memorized the ingredients by now: melody-bruised grievances about how rap’s leading superstar feels resented for his success, and how he’s been done dirty by disloyal backstabbers, and how he’s building a legacy that only the smart people of the future will fully appreciate, and how the women in his life use their Instagram accounts to express the emptiness in their souls, and how Drake uses his Instagram account to lurk on them, and after sinking us 90 minutes deeper into our Stockholm syndrome, the album ends with our captor wistfully singing from behind a piano about how he’s “changing from boy to a man.” Drake is 31 years old.

The album’s other major selling point is that he’s also suddenly a dad — big news broken by rival rapper and scrupulous opposition researcher Pusha T last month. “You are hiding a child,” Push sneered back in May, surfacing secrets in what might go down as the most ruthless clapback in rap history. Drake’s reply? It appears roughly 10 minutes into “Scorpion” and kind of out of nowhere: “I wasn’t hiding my kid from the world,” he explains over a Mobius-stripped Mariah Carey sample. “I was hiding the world from my kid.”

So that’s new. Otherwise, Drake is content to rehash his familiar sorrows as he sleepwalks down the same melodic paths that’s he’s been following since 2011’s “Take Care.” The only moments he sounds truly engaged with the music on “Scorpion” is when he’s playing mockingbird — channeling 21 Savage’s sour grumbles on “Nonstop” or pantomiming Young Thug’s staccato chirp on “Mob Ties.”

And if we squint very hard, this might count as a new shade of blue for Drake. Hearing him do impersonations of more inventive artists is a specific kind of sadness that we usually see only on late night television.