The Song From Drake's "Views" That Every Woman Needs To Listen To
As the proud owner of a truly excellent set of ovaries and minus a Y chromosome, I feel uniquely qualified to tell you, reader at home, what Drake song you should embark on your audio voyage of discovery with. A song that'll compliment your blooming womanhood and that Ryan Gosling poster. That's right, Drake's fourth studio album Views has dropped, and you should probably give it a try, because it's juicy. It's got pretty much all the ingredients you expect from a Drake album: all the feelings, even more gossip, a whole lot of truth bombs and sniping at exes. But what it also has, and what's perhaps a little more surprising, is a song that partly works as an ode to that most millennial of lady-concepts: self-care.
Not self-care like Drake looking out for number one, self-care like Drake saying hey girl, take some time out to look out for you. Ignore the haters. The song's called "With You" and it's a catchy little number. I'm not going to lie to you: there's some problematic lyrics. But there's a few lines there that I'd happily print onto a t-shirt that I'd wear to death. "With You" starts off like one of Drake's happier tributes to romance:
It's about us right now, girl, where you going?/It's about us right now, girl, where you going?/I'm with you
Sure, he's a little needy. But given that he's one of the genre's foremost solipsists, the fact that he's saying "it's about us right now" rather than "it's about me, Drake" seems like a positive sign. The song goes on:
Yeah, I can't get enough of you, babeBottles open up so you can try and open up for me, babyM.I.A. in the M.I.A
Drake's lyrics have never been the most straightforward. They often tread the line between brilliant and complete nonsense. Case in point: second line, which I'd assumed was nonsense. After a few re-reads it suddenly made sense — it's about a shy girl drinking to give herself some Dutch courage and relax around Drake. But then things get really good:
You do you, girl, the haters gon' hateCut them off like you a sensei, girl
What's a sensei, you ask? A sensei is a Japanese term which is used after their name to indicate that they're a teacher, professor or some sort of high flying professional. Think: lawyers, doctors, clergymen. However, it's used more generally as a term of respect and indicates that someone's achieved a great deal in their chosen field i. e. also used for martial artists, writers, musicians etc.
So in using the term "sensei," Drake's signaling respect and positioning himself as inferior to the song's all-powerful female figure. He's also just giving some good advice for all humans: since nobody can please everybody, don't take critique to heart. You do you, girl. You do you. He continues his assault on our hearts with the following:
Oh, I know you feel what I feelBreaking you off, it's so realI can't fake that, babeMy love's locked down and you cuffing itYou're the only one I trust with itYou're the only one that stuck with it
But then things get a little... less OK. Drake writes a whole verse that obliterates my "this-is-your-self-care-anthem-for-ladies" swag. Thanks a lot, Mr Graham.
Yeah, linking me down on my lineBusy as usual but we should make some timeLooking for things you can findJust so you can have something to bring up when it's timeMixing vodka and emotions, tapping into your emotionsDry cry cause I'm hopelessChoose your lover for the momentDifferent story when I leave youStory of just to keep youI need you around, I need you, oh
He was doing so well up to this point, but then the whole song collapses into textbook misogyny — ladies don't just nag, they're sneaky about it and sniff around for bad behavior that they can bring up at a later date. Probably when they're drunk-sad and emotional, because, huh, women. Still, he takes responsibility for his part in his dysfunctional relationships. He's "hopeless," and he knows it's not if, but when, he'll leave his female counterpart.
OK. So it's not an 100 percent feminist anthem, but hey, this isn't a new Le Tigre album. Drake's work has always been notable for its nuances, and its ways of integrating contradictory viewpoints in one smooth musical vehicle. This is a man who's written lyrics like “I like a woman with a future and a past/Little attitude problem all good, it’ll make the shit last/ Don’t make it too easy girl, don’t take it to fast,” (on "Make Me Proud") but also lyrics like “Chances are, if she was acting up/ Then I f*cked her once and never f*cked again/ She could have a Grammy, I still treat her ass like a nominee/ Just need to know what that pussy like so one time it's fine with me." (Drake's verse in 2Chainz's "No Lie"). He's not a textbook feminist or a textbook misogynist: like most people, he's a little bit of both.
Which is what makes "With You" such compelling listening for women. It functions as a succinct three minute summary of how much, and little, male-led R&B has changed in its attitude to women: so listen and let's discuss.