Music Updates

How Much Longer Can Drake Stay Commercially Untouchable?

But as we gear up for the Friday (Sept. 3) arrival of Certified Lover Boy, Drake’s long-delayed official LP follow-up to Scorpion — after 2019’s loosies compilation Care Package and 2020’s mixtape-designated Dark Lane Demo Tapes — it’s worth asking whether Drake’s status is still as bulletproof at this point in a new decade. His star power remains unquestionable, but both statistically and anecdotally, dents in the armor have started to show, and challengers new and old to the throne have continued to pop up around him. Let’s look at the factors both supporting and working against his continued supremacy:

He’s still making chart history and scoring huge debuts…. 

While it might be easy to write off those Hot 100 records set in 2020 as lifetime achievement awards mostly based on his 2010s work, he entered the history books this year with three new songs — which happened to bow at Nos. 1, 2 and 3 on the chart in their first week. His Scary Hours 2 three-pack of “What’s Next,” “Wants and Needs” (featuring Lil Baby) and “Lemon Pepper Freestyle” (featuring Rick Ross) commanded the top three spots on the chart upon entry, respectively, making Drake the third artist (after The Beatles in 1964 and Ariana Grande in 2019) to occupy those spots simultaneously, and the first to do so with all debuts.

Meanwhile, two years into the 2020s, Drake remains a regular visitor to the top of the Hot 100. In addition to doing so with this year’s “What’s Next,” he debuted atop the chart in 2020 with the TikTok-oriented “Toosie Slide.” Those hits have also remained in good company within the top five — Drake’s also landed a trio of No. 2 bows this decade (with the aforementioned “Wants and Needs,” the Lil Durk-assisted “Laugh Now Cry Later,” and his own guest appearance on Future’s “Life Is Good”) and a pair of No. 3s (with “Lemon Pepper Freestyle” and a feature turn on DJ Khaled’s “Popstar”). He hasn’t bested the Billboard 200 yet this decade, as Demo Tapes debuted and peaked at No. 2, but as the man himself alluded to in his “What’s Next,” album bundles may have been the main thing keeping him out of that top spot.

…but his hits aren’t lasting like they used to. 

While “Toosie Slide” and “What’s Next” both made splashy debuts on the Hot 100, neither really had longevity on its side — both songs spent just one week at No. 1, and neither spent more than 20 weeks total on the chart. (Ironically, his three No. 2 hits of the decade — “Laugh Now Cry Later,” “Life Is Good” and “Wants and Needs” — all had longer Hot 100 runs.) That’s certainly nothing to be ashamed of, but compared to the combined 29 weeks (also a single-year record) that Drake’s three No. 1s of 2018 spent atop the chart, it does paint a somewhat stark contrast: While the rapper can still clearly drive interest as much as he ever has, his ability to sustain it at the same level remains somewhat unproven this decade.

He’s still helping to launch careers with collabs…

You might not have heard of Yung Bleu at the beginning of the year, but if he’s got some songs in your 2021 playlist now, pretty good chance Drake’s a big reason why: The rapper’s guest verse on “You’re Mines Still” helped the song become one of the year’s biggest breakout R&B hits — and with it, Yung Bleu one of the biggest breakout stars. Meanwhile, Lil Durk was already a pretty known figure by the time Drake invited him onto his own “Laugh Now Cry Later” — but he’d never had a hit anywhere near that big before, leading to Durk leveling up commercially and achieving his own chart ubiquity in the year since. Drake’s ability to collaborate with up-and-coming (or long under-appreciated) artists at just the right time, helping their own careers take off while re-juicing his in the process, has always been one of the biggest hallmarks of his superstardom, and that’s certainly continued this decade.

…but the music world may be changing around him. 

Drake was unquestionably at the center of the musical universe in 2018, the sun that the entire industry seemed to revolve around. But that was a long time ago at this point, and much has happened since. Emo-rap and pop-punk have merged and hybridized into the most urgent-sounding hits of the moment. The Weeknd and Dua Lipa have sped up the sound of top 40. Lil Baby and Lil Durk have emerged (and branded) as the new voices of the people in hip-hop. TikTok changed absolutely everything about pop marketing and virality. Drake’s always been exceptional at keeping up — introducing “Toosie Slide” via TikTok was certainly a savvy move, and Durk and Baby were given mutually advantageous guest slots on Drake’s last two No. 2 hits — but more and more that’s what he’s been doing: keeping up, not pushing forward. Whether he can still be the man in a popular music era defined by The Kid LAROI and Olivia Rodrigo remains a matter of debate.



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