Music Video Monday- Drake “Headlines”

Or why we can’t have nice things, or why it’s impossible impossible to talk about why you like something.

A dialogue in one obnoxious voice.

If you’ll allow me to wax post-modern in this post, I think we can really uncover a lot about Drake as an artist by examining the month-old video for “Headlines”, which is really just a way for me to freak out about how soon his new album Take Care comes out (Nov 15).

Here we go:

So basically there’s something about Drake’s self-awareness that is incredibly disarming and off-putting. At times he’s obsessed with who he used to be, who he is now, and who he is going to be. There’s a certain fracture that comes out in the way that Drake experiences himself as an artist and as an individual. The numbing emptiness he finds himself experiencing in the successful accomplishments of his goals despite the ego-boost he feels himself craving. These conflicts come out in spectacular ways lyrically on Thank Me Later, but on a different level there’s some pretty amazing ways that his tracks, musically, bring out the underlying contradictions in Drake’s persona/life. I’m thinking specifically of “Miss Me”, whose musical heart is a stuttering sample that sounds like a record skipping in the most obnoxious way: it’s just enough sound to be intelligible but that moment of recognition is always interrupted by the sequence beginning itself again. It’s a process of always instantiating itself without ever having content in its own right. In a way, Drake’s performance of his star persona follows this pattern. There are the flashes of pure pop brilliance, but pride in the mastery of his craft is almost always subordinated to anxieties over its reception. The moment that Drake makes music we want to hear, it’s snatched away; the same sound we want to hear is asserted anew. In this way, Drake creates himself as something that is identical to itself only in the fact that it is always in the process of rejecting itself in its manifestations. The formation of Drake’s sense of self as an artist/persona is always predicated on nostalgia for a lost simplicity and the rejection of that simplicity as something that is, now, no longer him. This is the egoistic conflict on Thank Me Later.


But even on Thank Me Later there is a sense that the rejection of the past is not a rejection of the past from which Drake emerged, but rather a rejection of the Drake that emerged from that past. Lyrically, Drake is obsessed with his friends and family on Thank Me Later and is always positing himself as in conflict with some critical other that is at times a ghost of a past relationship or a voice of authority in the world of hip-hop stardom towards which Drake strives. So Drake is caught in the present, left with the money and the fame but with nothing with which to ground himself. Surrounded by a social group constituting the core of his present identity, Drake is willing to “burn it all,” to engage in passionless and cursory sexual relationships, to “Do Right And Kill Everything” (DRAKE). The euphoric emptiness is contrasted with moments of agonizing, depressing fullness. Immersed again in the real world Drake finds himself haunted by ghosts of himself. Out of this emotional turmoil we get the video for “Miss Me”.

A cursory viewing of the video for “Miss Me” gets across the visual connection between violent, fiery destruction (Drake lighting a Molotov cocktail, Drake setting off firecrackers, Drake emerging from/dancing in the sparks from a flaming wall) with distorted, almost surreal images of strippers. In Drake’s enjoyment of the ends of his labors all of the hard-working and pro-social effort he put into attaining this position in his career is destroyed in moments of ecstasy and destruction. Visually, the video cuts rapidly and is rarely in good focus for an extended period of time, and the insistent, fractured sample that constitutes the heart of the beat chugs away, drowned out by Drake’s self-conscious musings on his own fame. Is Drake, like all of us, a fractured inner spirit, or is he the fractured inner spirit that he says he is. Can we give a name and form to our own unspeakable formlessness?

Drake can.

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