Drake is the #1 rapper alive right now, and he’s never had a #1 hit. Fortunately for him, that’s not horrible company to be in at this stage in his career. Jay Z was on year 13 before he and Alicia Keys teamed up for his first chart-topper, “Empire State of Mind,” and Snoop Dogg was 11 years in before he and Pharrell snagged the top spot with “Drop It Like It’s Hot.” Still, neither rapper was ever as dominant on the radio waves as Drake has been in the last two years, and neither rapper “went Pop” out of the gate like Drizzy Drake did. It’s a pretty cruel reality. The guy’s doing numbers like he’s pop, but can’t reach the pop promiseland. For context, the first song MIMS–remember him?–ever served to radio went #1. Yeah, the “This Is Why I’m Hot” guy.
Achieving a #1 record is part talent, part luck, and part being savvy with the landscape, and the latter two parts have given Drake fits in the last couple of weeks. Just as “Hotline Bling” shot up to to the Billboard Hot 100 Top 5, The Weeknd released two remixes to his smash hit “The Hills,” featuring two of the biggest rappers in the world–Eminem and Nicki Minaj–ensuring that, despite the song having been released 5 months ago, it would remain near the top of the charts, maybe even at #1, which it did.
Still, Drake’s “Hotline Bling” not yet reaching its peak became apparent when the Toronto rapper announced that there would be a music video for the song, which would surely give it the boost it needed to upend The Weeknd, whose “The Hills” bumped his own song, “Can’t Feel My Face,” out of the top spot. The “Hotline Bling” video was a ridiculous success, got meme’d and gif’d to death, and became the talk of the internet for a solid week. However, as Billboard points out, the video itself is a moot point, and Drake’s deal with Apple Music probably hurt him.
That’s the savvy with the landscape part that Drake didn’t excel at here, but this next part is just downright bad luck.
Enter Adele, the queen of this sh*t. She and Taylor Swift are the reason your kids learned the meaning of the word platinum. Her latest album, 21, is still in the Billboard 200 chart. It came out in 2011. So, when she announced that she’d be returning with her comeback single, “Hello,” the owl on Drake’s jacket did a little shiver. When “Hello” actually came out, it went into cardiac arrest. The soul-snatching exercise in vocal prowess and songwriting superiority sent the music world into a frenzy, and likely the charts. Unlike Drake’s Apple Music tallies, Adele’s YouTube and Vevo views directly count towards her Billboard chart standing. Not to mention, she may have broken a first-week record for digital single sales (that will be officially confirmed or denied at the top of next week). There’s a pretty darn good chance Adele debuts at #1 next week, and stays there for a fortnight at the least, which means if this week was the only window for “Hotline Bling” to give Drake the last accolade he’d like to have in his pocket–which may very well be the case–he may have missed it.