Will TikTok make Drake’s ‘Toosie Slide’ go No. 1?
The record’s success will rely on the same formula as his past catalog, cajoling social media to his benefit
Drake plans everything. And in the age of the coronavirus, quarantine and social distancing, he has to.
Friday at midnight, the four-time Grammy-winning artist dropped his new rap-singing hybrid single “Toosie Slide,” named after the social media influencer Toosie, who created the TikTok-inspired dance that figures to take on a life of its own in the coming days. Within minutes, the song’s official video — the equivalent of a lost MTV Cribs episode — had received nearly a half-million views on YouTube.
Since mid-March, Drake has been on a self-imposed quarantine after hanging out with Brooklyn Nets superstar Kevin Durant, who tested positive for the coronavirus on March 17. Nearly 90% of Americans have been ordered to stay at home. On top of that, Drake’s hometown of Toronto canceled all city-led and permitted events through June 30.
Can Drake create a No. 1 record without even leaving the house? The short answer is probably yes.
On March 21, Drake became the Billboard king with 208 career Hot 100 entries, surpassing the Glee cast’s 207. The song that gave him the record was his appearance on Lil Yachty’s “Oprah’s Bank Account” alongside DaBaby. Lil Yachty’s comic relief single was just a portion of Drake’s 2020 surge in activity. Drake also released his own care package of records, “When To Say When” and “Chicago Freestyle,” a duo of collaborations with Future in “Desires” and the now awkwardly titled “Life Is Good.”
Last month, Vulture’s Craig Jenkins mapped out in vivid detail the coronavirus’ impact on the music industry, calling it “the nightmare scenario that calls the viability of this business structure into question.” Festivals and conferences — the Songwriters and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions, Governors Ball, Cannes Film Festival, the Met Gala, Coachella and more — are either postponed or canceled. Performances and tours from Justin Bieber, Queen and Adam Lambert, Camila Cabello, Khalid, Doja Cat, Elton John, Madonna and Pearl Jam, among others, are also either delayed or canceled. And with a huge chunk of artists’ revenue generated from touring, it’s tough to envision a world where an artist goes on tour outside of Instagram Live anytime soon.
“Of course, the business has slowed down because we perform in front of masses of people,” Quavo of Migos told Billboard. “Dropping music and all that, it’s at a standstill right now with us because we need to go out there and touch the people to push our albums to make our music work.”
This is new ground, even for one of the greatest hit-makers in music history. Because of Drake’s self-quarantine at his house — a palatial estate in a neighborhood where Prince used to live — and separation from his son Adonis, pictures of whom he posted on Instagram for the first time earlier this week, he’s as stationary as he’s been since emerging into the public eye, musically, more than a decade ago. He and fellow Toronto native Tory Lanez broke Instagram Live streaming records on Tuesday. Shortly after came Drake’s announcement of “Toosie Slide.”
Seemingly on cue, videos began emerging on TikTok with dances complementing Drake lyrics. Why Drake focused in on TikTok, the social media app that allows users to create short, lip-sync videos, is obvious. Many of his lyrics are social media mantras. His New Orleans bounce-inspired, City Girls-sampled supernova “In My Feelings,” largely thanks to the dance that social media personality Shiggy created, was elevated to colossal status with participation from the likes of Will Smith, Ciara and Russell Wilson, Odell Beckham Jr. and others. Within a month of the song’s release, the #InMyFeelings hashtag was used on Instagram more than 400,000 times.
Likewise, the #FlipTheSwitch challenge, inspired by his 2018 hit “Nonstop,” received more than a half-billion views on TikTok. The challenge features people changing clothes and dancing while orbiting around Drake’s lyrics, “I just flipped the switch.”
Now here’s “Toosie Slide,” a song released with the world at an involuntary standstill. “Do you wanna dance with me?” Drake asks in a question that feels more rhetorical than literal. Much like his last No. 1, Travis Scott’s “Sicko Mode” (though he wasn’t officially credited), the record’s filled with veiled shots at unnamed, but obvious foes with whom bad blood may eternally boil. “If it’s not the right time, there’ll always be another time/ I’m not even trippin’, we’ll just see ’em in the summertime,” he said nearly completing his house tour. “Heard a lot about you but we don’t know for real/ Next time, guarantee the truth’ll get revealed.”
Whether that’s true, with so much of the world in front of their phones and computers, why not have the most talked-about platform and its 524 million users promote the single for him? “Toosie Slide” isn’t Drake’s finest record, nor was it intended to be. Its success is going to rely on its ability to tap into the same formula of massive crossover records of his catalog’s past — cajoling social media and its obsession to be part of a moment to work to his benefit. It’s a business strategy that hasn’t failed Drake yet.
If music’s purpose is to satisfy the entire palette of the human existence, then file “Toosie Slide” under a similar umbrella as DJ D-Nice’s #ClubQuarantine. A reprieve, however temporary, from the outside world that’s closed off until further notice. Several artists, such as The Weeknd and Childish Gambino, have released music in the era of COVID-19 that speaks to the dystopia and self-isolation that has come to define pockets of life as we know it.
But then there’s Drake. Part emo, part life-of-the-party. Part recluse, part egomaniac. Full-time success addict. And undeniable and unavoidable hit-maker.