After weeks of rumors and subtle hints on Instagram, the Canadian rapper Drake finally dropped the music video for his latest single, “Hotline Bling.” The song, which peaked at number 2 on the Billboard 100 chart, has garnered attention for some time as it is the latest song he’s released after the success of his freestyle “Back to Back,” a diss-track aimed at rapper Meek Mill. While the date of his upcoming album Views from the 6 has yet to be announced, Drake has managed to sustain the hype surrounding his next work by selectively releasing new tracks throughout the year, one of them being “Hotline Bling.”
The music video, directed by Director X, differs greatly from many other of Drake’s music videos. Despite the new direction Director X, whose real name is Julien Christian Lutz, has worked with Drake on many of his other popular music videos, including “Worst Behavior,” “Started from Bottom” and “HYFR.” Compared to his other music videos, Director X took a more simplistic and minimalistic route. Unlike other Drake videos, which have featured scantily clad women and an admiring male posse, this video strives for minimalism.
The video opens with rows of women at their desks, dressed in pale pink form-fitting shirts with even tighter jeans as they talk on the phone, each one asking for sexual favors in sultry voices, implying that these women are sex phone operators. The scene cuts to Drake, dressed in a puffy orange jacket, slowly dancing an awkward cha-cha in a dark yellow room, the lighting giving the entire surface a soft glow. The video continues in the same pattern as Drake dances to the beat of his song, as the room begins to change to various colors from a muted white to soft pastels of lavender, pink, and turquoise. Although the women in the video are presented to the viewers to ogle, they don’t dance or grind around Drake. Instead, they stare at the camera. The rest of video mainly features Drake’s flamboyant dancing as he moves confidently with his hips swaying while wagging his finger to a low-down boogie, like an old man on a dance floor who no longer cares what others have to say. Although the video had no serious plot, it has managed to become one of the most talked about music videos on the internet, specifically for the dance skills that Drake displays.
The song has sprung several discussions online about the misogynistic tone of the lyrics themselves, and the video has not pacified any of these concerns. The song describes feelings of bitterness that the singer has for an ex-lover who has seemed to embrace a more pleasure-filled lifestyle (“Started wearing less and goin’ out more/Glasses of champagne out on the dance floor/Hangin’ with some girls I’ve never seen before”) and lamenting how much this woman has changed since they’ve broken up. Yet, the video itself seems devoid of this central plotline. Yes, there are girls in sexualized clothing in the music video, and yes, they have been clearly cast for their conventionally attractive appearance, but it’s not the stereotypical rap video we’re accustomed to. They don’t gyrate; they stare at Drake. They sit together or walk together, but are never near him. It’s not only the pastel aesthetic that grabs the audience’s eyes; it’s how different and goofy the video itself is. The image of Drake, dancing like a drunken uncle, can make you forget the lyrics altogether; instead you may find yourself simply humming along and moving your head to the beat.
Overnight, several Vines and pictures of Drake’s flamboyant dancing have become an internet sensation as fans have rushed to replace the original audio with bachata, merengue, and even Bollywood music. Others have used Photoshop and other video-editing software to give Drake a lightsaber to wave around, while another individual gave Drake a tennis racket as if he were playing Wii Tennis. A question that has arisen among fans and viewers alike is whether Drake’s dancing was really that bad or if he was simply exaggerating. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Director X stated that Drake is a great dancer, but in the video he was goofing around and having fun and didn’t attempt to take the video seriously. Choreographer Tanisha Scott, who has worked previously with such artists like Beyoncé, Rihanna, and Alicia Keys, was also featured in the end of the video dancing alongside Drake. In an interview with Business Insider, Scott said that none of the dancing was choreographed and that Drake knew that people would joke about it, but that they would also be simultaneously sparking conversations.
This isn’t the first time that Drake has been the butt of an internet joke. Both his albums Take Care and Nothing Was the Same have been edited to make fun of the rapper and used to portray him as overly sensitive. Drake himself has even poked fun of his persona, itself an anomaly as most rappers strive to present themselves as tough and hardcore. For Drake, the difference is clearly paying off.