Despite receiving mixed reviews from music critics, Certified Lover Boy was a commercial success, debuting atop the US Billboard 200, with 613,000 album-equivalent units, 46,000 of which were in pure sales. The album broke Apple Music and Spotify records for largest streaming debut within a single day.
In April 2019, Drake announced at a concert that he had started to work on a new album. In June 2019, he teased the album via Instagram, where he captioned a post with "Album mode". On December 10, Drake made a guest appearance at DaBaby's concert in Toronto, where he revealed that he was working on the album: "I'ma go back to the crib and try to finish this album up so we can turn up in 2020". In March, on Instagram Live, Drake confirmed a finalized version of "Not Around", a leaked song later retitled to "TSU", would feature on Certified Lover Boy. That same month, frequent collaborator Boi-1da previewed two snippets of songs with Drake during a Verzuz with Hit-Boy. The two snippets were dubbed "I Did" and another snippet with Roddy Ricch was dubbed "In the Cut". Drake officially announced his sixth studio album just hours before the release of Dark Lane Demo Tapes, and scheduled for release in late 2020.
Drake later previewed two new songs, one an unreleased track titled "Lie to Me" and the other a demo version of his 2020 DJ Khaled collaboration "Greece", on Instagram Live. On July 29, 2020, Drake's recording engineer Noel Cadastre revealed the album was "90% done". On August 14, 2020, Drake announced the title of the album. In October, Drake announced that the album would be released in January 2021, but it was postponed once again due to Drake suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury.
Certified Lover Boy was dedicated to the late models Nadia Ntuli and Miss Mercedes Morr. Ntuli, who was a close friend of Drake's, was killed in a motor vehicle accident in Dubai in early 2021. Morr, born Janae Gagnier, was found dead in her Texas apartment on August 29, 2021. She was believed to be the victim of a murder–suicide.
Craig Jenkins of Vulture called Certified Lover Boy a "patient trickle of Drake lore and fan service that could have come out as is at almost any point along the last decade in his career". "We worry not about the shaky present and the unknowable future but about the recent past, the objects of our scorn and the ones who got away", Jenkins notes.
Release and promotion
On May 1, 2020, Drake surprise-released his mixtape Dark Lane Demo Tapes, which was announced mere hours before its release. In the mixtape announcement shared on Instagram, Drake revealed that his sixth studio album, then untitled, would be released sometime in the third quarter of 2020. Although the album was not released that summer, the non-album single "Laugh Now Cry Later" featuring Lil Durk was released in August. On October 24, a teaser trailer for the album was released, revealing that the album was to be released in January 2021. American football player Odell Beckham Jr. later said it would be released on January 1, 2021, which later went unreleased. The teaser referenced covers of Drake's previous albums and mixtapes: So Far Gone (2009), Take Care (2011), Nothing Was the Same (2013) and Dark Lane Demo Tapes (2020). Drake announced in January 2021 that the album would no longer be released that month, due to a leg injury he sustained which required surgery.
On March 5, 2021, Drake released an extended play titled Scary Hours 2, a sequel to the 2018 EP, to generate further anticipation for the upcoming album. The EP included three songs, and includes guest appearances from Lil Baby and Rick Ross. The music video for the EP's lead single, "What's Next", premiered on the same day. All three songs from the EP respectively debuted at number one, two and three on the Billboard Hot 100. In April, Drake appeared on the YSL Records song "Solid" with Gunna and Young Thug. The song was originally intended for Certified Lover Boy, but because the album was postponed, Drake gave the song to Gunna.
During an appearance on Fri Yiy Friday in August 2021, a radio show supported by OVO Sound, Drake revealed that Certified Lover Boy "is ready. [I'm] looking forward to delivering it". On August 27, the album's release date of September 3 was revealed during a teaser aired on ESPN's SportsCenter. Drake later confirmed the date and revealing the album artwork on August 30. That same day, billboards featuring lyrics from the album were plastered around Drake's hometown of Toronto.
On September 1, two days before the album's release, billboards were placed throughout the United States, Canada, and Nigeria revealing the album's featured artists according to their hometown. An Atlanta billboard announced 21 Savage, Future, Lil Baby, and Young Thug, a Chicago billboard announced Lil Durk, and a New York City billboard announced "the GOAT", which was assumed, and later confirmed, to be Jay-Z. A Memphis billboard announced Yebba and Project Pat, while Tems was announced on a Lagos billboard. Both Giveon and Ty Dolla Sign were announced on a California billboard. As the reveal continued, a Cleveland billboard announced Kid Cudi, a Miami billboard announced Rick Ross, cited as "the biggest boss", a Houston billboard announced Travis Scott, referred to as "the hometown hero", and another Toronto billboard announced Lil Wayne, who Drake coined as the "best rapper alive".
The album's artwork features twelve emojis of pregnant women in varying clothing colours, hair colors and skin tones. It was designed by English artist Damien Hirst. The artwork was met with a negative reception from fans and critics alike, who called the image "lazy" and "ridiculous".
Certified Lover Boy was met with mixed reviews. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from professional publications, the album received an average score of 62 based on 17 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Aggregator AnyDecentMusic? gave it 5.7 out of 10, based on their assessment of the critical consensus.
Reviewing the album for Pitchfork, Matthew Strauss stated, "With much of Certified Lover Boy, Drake seems to be doing what he thinks Drake would do, and ticking the box is taking its toll". Brandon Yu of Variety praised the album, stating, "Certified Lover Boy is a perfectly fine record – it's expensively well-produced, like all of Drake's albums, and easily likable with a decent batting average for a nearly hour-and-a-half record". Okla Jones of Consequence said, "Drake's new release may lack some of the variety of his previous albums, but its concepts and musical structure make for a solid body of work". Mikael Wood of the Los Angeles Times wrote a glowing review of the album, defending Drake's usage of an R. Kelly credit as a "thoughtless error", and saying it "expertly displays his strengths" while showing a new tendency to understate his accomplishments by merely predicting in "You Only Live Twice" that the album would go platinum when previous albums have been certified platinum several times. Wood described the album as being "enjoyment even at its bleakest".
In a lukewarm review, The Guardian's Alim Kheraj wrote, "Personally, sonically and thematically, Drake seems resistant to change. It's frustrating: the songs aren't bad, and in some cases they're excellent, a reminder of the unflattering emotional honesty that initially set him apart from his peers. However, they also hew to a formula that works for him". Nathan Evans of Clash said, "Aubrey Graham hands over his fifth project to cross 80 minutes, an hour and a half smorgasbord of all-new tracks. In his defence, the Drake cuisine is far too extensive and varied at this point, but this dilemma has been around for a number of years now and some sort of sacrifice for a better, more cohesive project has to be made if he wants to release another classic".
Writing for The Independent, Sam Moore stated, "Certified Lover Boy's greatest crime is just how bland and boring it is. There's very little here that Drake has not done better or more emphatically elsewhere; his album is deprived of any kind of experimentation or insight. He rose to the top baring his soul. Now it feels like there's no soul to bare". In a mixed review, The Arts Desk's Harry Thorfinn-George stated, "A lot of CLB feels rehashed, but the way it captures Drake at an awkward junction in his life is intriguing". Gary Suarez of Entertainment Weekly said, "The new album is like watching the eighth season of a sitcom and growing hyper-aware of all the recycled jokes and actors' laugh lines".
In the United States, Certified Lover Boy debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart as Drake's tenth consecutive chart-topping album in the country. It opened with 613,000 album-equivalent units, which consists of 46,000 album sales, and 562,000 streaming units calculated from the 743.7 million on-demand streams of the album's tracks. The 613,000 tally marked the biggest debut-week units of 2021, surpassing Kanye West's Donda (309,000), and the biggest opening week since Taylor Swift's Folklore (2020) debuted with 846,000 units. Drake became the eighth artist in the Billboard 200 history to accumulate ten number-one albums. Certified Lover Boy also marked the biggest week for an R&B/hip-hop album, a rap album, and an album by a male artist, since Scorpion.