1. Drake has all of the top three on the Hot 100 this week — just the third artist to ever do that, and the first to do it with all three debuts. Does this him notching this achievement say more about Drake, about these three songs, or about the Hot 100 in general in 2021?
Josh Glicksman: It’s a combination of Drake and the Hot 100 in general. In 2020, there were more No. 1 debuts on the chart (12) than in any other calendar year — and thanks to “Drivers license” and “What’s Next,” half of the No. 1s in 2021 so far have debuted atop the chart. The steadily ascending No. 1 hit certainly still exists — “Mood” first reached the pinnacle last October in its 10th week on the chart — but splashy debuts, particularly from household names, have become commonplace. Speaking of which, “What’s Next” marks Drake’s eighth number one. Few other artists across the industry can generate the hype that he can surrounding a new release.
Jason Lipshutz: This one is all about Aubrey Drake Graham, the most bankable Hot 100 artist of the past decade. It’s only natural to question Drake’s chart supremacy after he’s been on top for so long — even the biggest artists eventually stop scoring automatic hits after a certain amount of time spent shaping the zeitgeist — but anyone inspecting for slippage certainly won’t find it this week. Debuting at Nos. 1, 2 and 3 on the Hot 100 is the equivalent of Drake not just dunking on his doubters but calling a technical foul that removes them from the game entirely; those Donovan Mitchells will have to fight another day.
Joe Lynch: I think a lot of people will chalk this up to changes in the Hot 100 tabulation, and the increasing importance of streaming is undeniably part of it. But the same could be said for any new release from any A-lister these days, and the fact remains that Drake has consistently proven himself to be the top dog of the digital era, bar none. This latest astonishing feat is first and foremost due to the ongoing, inexhaustible appeal of Drake’s music. As for these particular songs? I think it’s fair to say had he dropped a 20-track project the streaming bump might’ve been spread around more, preventing him from so handily taking the top three spots (although he’d certainly have nabbed another No. 1).
Andrew Unterberger: It’s mostly 2021. The general lack of simultaneous overlap between radio and streaming — and perhaps slightly smaller audiences for both formats since the pandemic started a year ago — means that it’s easier than ever to enter at or near the peak of the Hot 100 with a much-anticipated new song than ever before. If you’re Drake, the most consistently chart-successful artist of the past decade-plus, and you release a new three-song pack to generally positive reception, then yeah, you’re gonna have a pretty good shot at going three-for-three up top.
Christine Werthman: Drake explains this win best on “Wants and Needs”: “People need some content.” We’re a year into the pandemic, we need some new music to get excited about, and one of the biggest rappers alive has delivered a curated appetizer leading into what will surely be one of the most dominant albums of the year. To his credit though, these songs sound a touch better than content for content’s sake. Scary Hours 2 finds Drake reaching for his most reliable tools: low-lit production, heavy-is-the-head rhymes, a hot rapper feature and a collab with Mr. Wingstop himself. It’s a familiar recipe, and it works — even without a bundle.
2. The three tracks fall on the Hot 100 in the order they appear on the Scary Hours 2 songpack. Which of the three do you think will ultimately be the biggest hit, and which are you rooting for the most?
Josh Glicksman: It’d be tough to bet against “What’s Next” at this point. Drake merges fully-fledged flex rapping – with a menacing, supposedly “throwaway” beat to boot – with a few bars that he knows everyone will latch onto (“And Valentine’s Day, I had sex, okay?”) and loop back repeatedly. That said, I’m pulling wholeheartedly for “Lemon Pepper Freestyle.” The Drake/Rick Ross tandem remains fierce as ever, and anytime that Drizzy wants to abandon a chorus in favor of an extended verse on top of a brooding beat, I’m first in line. Plus, how could you possibly root against Drake rapping about parent-teacher conferences?
Jason Lipshutz: All three serve a different purpose in the context of Scary Hours 2: “What’s Next” is the must-hear table-setter for Drake’s long-awaited new era, “Lemon Pepper Freestyle” is the extended introspection that longtime lyric decoders can lap up, and “Wants and Needs,” I’d bet, becomes the surefire hit single. With a monster performance from guest star Lil Baby and a natural hook, the middle track sounds like rap radio catnip, and I’d be more than happy to be bombarded with it well into the spring.
Joe Lynch: For me, the answer to both is “Wants and Needs” feat. Lil Baby. Drake has maintained an aesthetic fealty for some time now; while that ensures the reliable consistency of his music, it can also mean that Drake songs from 2021 don’t show a massive evolution from Drake songs in 2016. The addition of Lil Baby — whose tense, jumpy flow makes his one of the most interesting voices on mainstream radio these days — goes a long way toward making “Wants and Needs” spicier than “Lemon Pepper Freestyle” and more forward-thinking than “What’s Next.”
Andrew Unterberger: I’m both betting on and rooting for “What’s Next.” You could find fault with Drake opting for an obviously Playboi Carti-inspired beat from Supah Mario rather than just going directly to Carti’s longtime producer Pi’erre Bourne, but the blaring production certainly seems to have snapped Drake to focus, and the result is his most locked-in-sounding single in years. It might not have been the most obvious hit a decade or even half-decade ago, but we’ve all learned our lessons from “God’s Plan,” and won’t be caught by surprise by such future Drake successes.
Christine Werthman: Drake and Rick Ross never miss (she writes while listening to “Lord Knows,” though “Lemon Pepper Freestyle” has more of a “Gold Roses” vibe). But six-plus minutes is a stretch for a breakout hit, so I’ll go with my personal favorite, “Wants and Needs.” Lil Baby goes off, it’s got a chorus, and it’s half the length of the Rozay special. We have a winner.
3. Right below Drake’s top three this week is another debut: Anderson .Paak and Bruno Mars’ superteaming as Silk Sonic, “Leave the Door Open.” On a scale from 1-10, how frustrated would you be as Anderson and/or Bruno to have three simultaneously debuting Drake songs separating your new song from the Hot 100’s peak, when things had been so relatively slow-moving near the top of the chart over the previous month?
Josh Glicksman: 2 for Bruno, and a low-end 4 for .Paak. Aside from the suave “Leave the Door Open” being a song tailor-made to dance and snap along to as it gets delightfully stuck in your head, the Silk Sonic collective has done a stellar job of promo thus far – be it a music video, their performances at the Grammys or some mock outrage Twitter banter. This song isn’t going anywhere anytime soon: once it has some time to settle in at radio, get ready to hear it a whole lot. The only reason I’d be more than a single loud exhale’s level of frustrated if I were .Paak is because his first No. 1 hit eludes him presently, while Bruno has already compiled seven.
Jason Lipshutz: My frustration level would be at a 3. Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak are playing with house money when it comes to their Silk Sonic team-up: based on the retro chill of “Leave the Door Open” and their giddy Grammys performance, they seem to be treating the duo as a low-stakes, just-for-fun side project after years of individual success. That makes a No. 4 Hot 100 start all the more impressive, and I’d suspect that they have something slightly more uptempo in the holster that could compete for No. 1 as we approach Song the Summer territory.
Joe Lynch: I’d say a 4. I’m sure it stings a bit to think that one release made the difference between No. 4 and No. 1 on the Hot 100 (perhaps in particular for Anderson .Paak, who would have earned his first topper on that chart). But a top 5 debut for an act’s debut single is, as Vincent Vega once said of a milkshake, pretty f–king good. Considering how well their styles and voices gel together, there’s surely an embarrassment of earworms these silkworms are waiting to deploy, making a potential (dare I say eventual?) No. 1 for Silk Sonic all the smoother.
Andrew Unterberger: I’d be at like a 6. It doesn’t matter grand-scheme, and No. 4 is probably the highest any song that sounds like “Leave the Door Open” has gotten since Thom Bell, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff were running the game out of Philadelphia in the mid-’70s. But these guys like to make a splash, and they seem fully committed to this project, so you can bet they would’ve fully milked a No. 1 debut for all it was worth — and they almost certainly would’ve gotten one if they’d released “Door” in any of the three or four frames prior to Drake’s historic week.
Christine Werthman: Drake coming out of nowhere and whooping my certified smoke show of a song not once, but three times puts my frustration at a 6. But then I remember that “Uptown Funk” had even humbler chart beginnings, debuting at No. 65, and my ire drops to a 4 while I kick the dirt off my polyester shoulders.
4. What’s next for Drake himself at this point? How does the performance of these three songs change your expectations for either the musical direction or commercial potential of his upcoming (and oft-delayed) Certified Lover Boy full-length, if it changes either at all?
Josh Glicskman: Whatever he wants, really. Scary Hours 2 shows that Drake can pop in and out whenever he so chooses and can still expect the same massive audience awaiting him. Whether Certified Lover Boy arrives in full this week, next month or next year doesn’t matter a bit – there’s absolutely no doubt in mind that it’ll score a No. 1 debut on the Billboard 200. My expectations sonically don’t shift tremendously with the three-song release, either, though he does sound like he’s got a bit of a chip on his shoulder. And as an eternal Views defender, I’m always here for an angry Drake.
Jason Lipshutz: Scary Hours 2 doesn’t really affect my outlook on Certified Lover Boy’s commercial potential (it’ll be huge!) and creative focus (it’ll be full of all the lovable Drake touchstones!), but it does have me hoping that the track list isn’t too long. After projects like Views, More Life and Scorpion stretched to the 20-song mark (or beyond it), having three new Drake tracks to chew on and digest over the past week-and-a-half has been a pleasure. I’m crossing my fingers and toes for a 13-song sucker-punch, with highlights that don’t get lost in the expanded track list.
Joe Lynch: As I mentioned earlier, Scary Hours 2 isn’t a radical departure from the Drake we’ve heard for nigh on five years; you absolutely get a free pass for a three-song project that treads water, but if this is what we can expect from the full-length, I almost wonder if he’d be better off releasing the Certified Lover Boy material piecemeal like this. That way people can enjoy fresh material without the expectation of a creative evolution – although perhaps it’s old-fashioned of me to expect musical growth with each album. Then again, how could someone who uses the words “nigh on” be old-fashioned?
Andrew Unterberger: Well, I had been wondering if Drake’s momentum had begun to slow a little in the new decade after a relatively down 2020 to start — which of course still included two top-two hits, because, Drake — but it looks now like such concerns were premature at best. Certified Lover Boy might not be a game-changer for Aubrey Graham, but at the very least it looks well on its way to being a game-maintainer, which over a decade into Drake’s superstardom should be good enough.
Christine Werthman: Certified Lover Boy was always going to be huge because it’s a Drake release, but the sound and reception of the new songs show that it might just be the biggest album of the year. If Scary Hours 2 is a real indication of things to come, Drake isn’t going to reinvent the wheel on the upcoming album — because he doesn’t have to — but we will see him figuring out how to balance that parent-teacher-conference flow with his unceasing late-night aspirations.
5. Drake calling the Hot 100 the “hot one hundo” and then snarking “this one ain’t come with a bundle” on “What’s Next” — fair or foul?
Josh Glicksman: After Scary Hours 2, Drake now has 231 total Hot 100 entries. With that many visits, it seems more than fair to say that he and the chart are on a nickname basis at this point, no? And regarding the bundle gripe, as far as I’m concerned, when you have the most entries in chart history, you’re entitled to a little bit of snark every so often. No foul here; play on.
Jason Lipshutz: Fair! I appreciate Drake understanding the machinations of the Billboard charts! Let’s hope he can find a solid rhyme for “equivalent album units” on Certified Lover Boy.
Joe Lynch: Fair and I love it. First off, he can call it whatever he wants. It’s an honor just to be mentioned. Secondly, it’s about damn time a Hot 100 No. 1 includes a mention of the Hot 100 itself in the lyrics. Now the universe can swallow itself and we can all just be done. But if that doesn’t happen, I’ll also go on record supporting his jab about bundles – if ticket bundles are fair game for music industry execs and pundits to debate endlessly, why can’t a savvy businessman/pop star weigh in?
Andrew Unterberger: Fair, as a virtue of him calling his shot on “What’s Next” going to “numero uno.” If the song had debuted at No. 7 and slid shortly after, this would have to be a longer discussion.
Christine Werthman: Fair. Watch your back, Kenny.