The beat is weak, tinny, repetitive; the copy and paste piano on auto pilot sounds like it was thrown together on Garageband; Drake’s ‘singing’ is snivelly and drab; Kyla’s voice is, to be put it lightly, really not good. Even the production and the mix are terrible. And yet here it is. Number one. Again. For the tenth time. It’s the most successful chart hit since Rihanna’s Umbrella and that was nearly ten years ago.
How can something so wilfully amateurish do so well? The melody is quite catchy, I suppose, and its simplicity makes it quite nice background listening, but that can’t be the whole story. The truth can probably be found in the fact that Drake is a great businessman, and he’s turned himself into the perfect brand. The adverse fact that he only has a handful of great songs (Hotline Bling, Energy, Started From The Bottom, Hold On) is less important. As long as he’s telling us that he’s the best in the game, we believe him, we soak it all up, we buy the song, the radio puts it on repeat, and then we buy some more.
The enjoyment we get from One Dance isn’t just in how the notes are arranged or how it’s performed, nor is it a positive quality in the song that can be pinpointed or accurately described. If that were the case, it would be no where near as popular. The success of One Dance is owed to the fact that in listening to it, we feel as though we are participating or buying into the Drake brand, and we gain cultural capital in doing so.
In this sense, One Dance is kind of like a cup of Starbucks coffee.
One Dance is a lazily produced, repetitive, colouring by numbers dancehall pop track. Starbucks coffee tastes like a hot cocktail of chemicals and wet cardboard. And yet the consumerist gratification we get in drinking (or listening to) it, outweighs the fact that it’s kinda mediocre, and we could be drinking (or listening to) a much better cup (or song).
Don’t get me wrong though, this is a hard thing to achieve. For Drake to fine tune his creative output and public persona into a marketable brand, of which a shortcut to chart success is an inherent part, he must be a kind of a genius. A cynical money grabbing genius, but a genius nevertheless. No one believes anymore that the Singles Chart is a measure of quality, it’s a measure of how good artists and record labels are at manipulating the music buying public, and in that respect, Drake is without a doubt the best.