After scoring No. 1s on both the Billboard Hot 100 songs chart and Billboard 200 albums chart earlier this year — and with another, more official LP supposedly still on the way this summer — Drake took a quick detour earlier this month with his longtime collaborator DJ Khaled, and scored another quick two top 10 hits in the process.
Khaled and Drake’s two new team-ups both land in the Hot 100’s top tier this week, with “Popstar” bowing at No. 3 and “Greece” coming in behind it at No. 8. The two not only mark the duo’s first top-ten collabs since they linked up (along with Rick Ross) on “I’m on One” in 2011, but they push Drake past Madonna for No. 1 on the all-time ranking of most top 10 hits on the Hot 100 for a single artist.
What do the new songs say about where Drake is currently as an artist? And where beyond Greece might he travel next? Billboard staffers answer these questions and more below.
Rania Aniftos: I’m Greek, so I’m admittedly a bit biased here. But “Greece” is such a summer earworm, and makes me wish I was on a beach in Greece instead of at home in quarantine.
Bryan Kress: It’s “Greece” for me, but it wasn’t always that way. “Popstar” is the immediately accessible “Toosie Slide” follow-up that checks all the boxes of a 2020 Drake hit, but its counterpart fulfills a wishlist I didn’t even know existed. From its atypically subdued Khaled-sanctioned production to Drake’s unusual vocal delivery, the rare feeling of unfamiliarity with the two hip-hop mainstays has inspired more return trips to “Greece.”
Mia Nazareno: “Popstar” is the newest addition to my summer playlist! I love a good reference to the Whitney Houston classic The Bodyguard. Plus, “I’m a popstar, not a doctor” sounds like a good, yet niche, comeback that I’m saving for the next time extended family members ask why I ditched the med school path in college, LOL.
Andrew Unterberger: As intrigued as I am by the logistics of Drake essentially doing a Weeknd imitation on “Greece” nearly a full decade after first helping to put Abel on, it’s “Popstar” for me. My general rule of thumb with Drake is that you know he’s really feeling himself when he starts rapping about seafood, and on “Popstar” we get him “cookin’ salmon with the lobster.” Not sure why he really needs both — do they even go together? — but the over-indulgence is a good sign that he’s in the zone, and the rest of the song mostly backs that up.
Christine Werthman: I actively dislike “Greece,” so “Popstar” it is! “Popstar” has more attitude and a thicker beat, whereas “Greece” feels thin and samey. Maybe if the verses were longer and the outro were much, much shorter? As it stands though, it’s an easy choice: “Greece” is boring and “Popstar” is fun.
2. Do the two songs say anything interesting to you about where Drake is at thematically or musically at the moment, as he (presumably) gears up for his next official LP later this year?
Rania Aniftos: It’s tricky! “Popstar” has the high-energy, spitting verses of Scorpion but “Greece” gives us the melodic, sultry Drake we all know and love. I think on the upcoming LP, we’ll see Drake continue to blend the hard-hitting hooks and the chilled-out, softer songs as skillfully as he always has. It clearly works well for him.
Bryan Kress: Not really. Drake features often feel non-canonical to his album cycles despite the fact that they often run concurrently to Khaled’s. Even in cases when the singles and solo output follow the same sonic trend, like the tropical popfest of “For Free” and Views in 2016, they’re nowhere close thematically. Khaled just brings something different out of Drake. If anything, both tracks could fit fairly well on Dark Lane Demo Tapes, but that still offers no clue as to what’s in store for LP6.
Mia Nazareno: Not sure, but for artists that’ve been in the spotlight for over a decade, many of them have gone back to their roots in 2020. Lady Gaga released the upbeat disco album Chromatica while Taylor Swift surprised fans with Folklore, an album showcasing her strength as a songwriter. I’m crossing my fingers that Drake will follow suit and come out with a “Best I Ever Had”-era set of songs. Can’t wait!
Andrew Unterberger: As Drake-y as both of these songs are (“Popstar” in particular), it is noticeable that there’s a certain verve lacking when compared to recent less pop-oriented, more drill-fixated loosies of Drake’s like last year’s “War” and last week’s “Only You Freestyle.” Those seem to be where the rapper’s true interests lie at the moment — as well as a good deal of his radio play, if NY radio’s heavy reliance on Dark Lane Demo Tapes’ “Demons” is any indication — and it’ll be interesting to see how much his next album reflects that.
Christine Werthman: “Popstar” fooled me into thinking there was some third party singing coyly on the hook, but it’s actually just Drake sounding smoother and less nasal than he ever has before. We’ve heard a range of singing styles from him in the past — the basement emo on “Marvins Room,” straight singing on “Hold On, We’re Going Home,” close-mic seduction on “Passionfruit” and R&B scaling on “Trust Issues” form a nice sampler — but this approach felt fresh. It’s cool that he can still find ways to vary his delivery, and I hope to hear more of that on the album.
3. Drake has been one of DJ Khaled’s more regular featured guests over the last decade. Which of their many collabs do you consider the best?
Rania Aniftos: “I don’t really give a f— and my excuse is that I’m young” was everyone’s Instagram caption in 2011 for a reason. “I’m on One” is so fun and has the type of memorable, party-ready lyrics that you can’t help but sing along to no matter where it’s playing.
Bryan Kress: For a certain generation this seems impossible, but we’re not far from a future where “I’m on One” isn’t appreciated enough. Sure, Drake’s early, overwrought R&B/rap vocal style and the song’s overused, hashtag-ready catchphrase title have dated it significantly, but the impact of “I’m on One” can’t be stressed enough. While elite team-ups just appear commonplace now, this eternal summer smash proves there’s an art to assembling the perfect cast.
Mia Nazareno: “For Free” is still the standout single for me! It was the first song that made me pay attention to DJ Khaled.
Andrew Unterberger: I’ll rep for “For Free,” the Akineyle-quoting, Nineteen85-co-helmed banger that gave Drake another casual radio smash just a couple months after the release of his Views would-be opus — and, in truth, pretty easily outshined most of that album in the process.
Christine Werthman: “No New Friends,” because not only is it a classic song with an all-star crew of Lil Wayne, Drake and Rick Ross (and Birdman all over the video), it also yielded some incredible memes upon its release in 2013.
4. Speaking of Greece, Drake’s global travels in his songs have become a source of much discussion in recent years. Where would you like to see him travel next musically — or would you rather he just stay home for a little while?
Rania Aniftos: It would be fun to see Drake take a trip to Ibiza and dip his toes in the dance world. A collaboration with Marshmello or Flume could be something totally unique for Drake, but wouldn’t stray too far from his characteristic sound. Plus, a Drizzy dance collab would definitely do well when clubs and festivals open back up (if they ever do).
Bryan Kress: I think he should choose his next location based on the potential to create some unimaginable cadences. Greece is a bit too easy to slot into the rhyme scheme; let’s give Drake a map of Long Island and see what he can do with it.
Mia Nazareno: Is K-pop out of the question? Ha, just kidding. When Drake dropped “War” late last year, many fans called him out for culturally appropriating themes from U.K. grime and drill. Some critics had similar sentiments when he released the 2010 track “Find Your Love,” which drew inspiration from Jamaican dancehall. Wherever Drake travels to next, I’d like to see him use his superstardom to publicly give more credit to the cultures he’s paying homage to.
Andrew Unterberger: It feels like only a matter of time until Drake makes it to India for a proper bhangra or Indipop collab. (If he’d broken through 10 years earlier, we absolutely would have gotten one early in his career.) Whether that ends up being a good idea or not might depend on how fast and loose he plays with the cultural signifiers in the process.
Christine Werthman: I like global Drizzy. He’s offered exposure to a lot of artists and musical styles worldwide by including them on his albums, and while you could argue that he’s co-opting them, he’s also giving them undeniable shine. I would love him to do some more Latin collabs (I loved 2018’s “Mia” with Bad Bunny), but perhaps with some lesser-known artists. Who’s the next Big Bunny?
5. Drake passes Madonna this week for the most top 10 hits in Billboard Hot 100 history. Given that she seems to be in a collaborative mood lately, would you like to see the two artists team up? Or was Drake’s “Madonna” song from five years ago as close as you’d like them to get?
Rania Aniftos: I love Madonna and I love Drake, but I keep thinking of that whole Coachella kiss fiasco from a couple of years ago. I’m leaning toward the two staying far away from each other for now, but I also wouldn’t be opposed to a part two of “Madonna” — actually featuring Madonna this time.
Bryan Kress: I have to admit this question kind of broke me. First off all, yes. Why not? The possibilities are endless with two superstars who have collectively explored every corner of the pop spectrum, and yet that’s the hitch: What new ground could they break with their combined powers? Still, the curiosity in me is willing to risk the multitude of ways it might not deliver in hopes that one attempt could bring out the best in both. The place to start would be the exact opposite of a “Madonna” remix though.
Mia Nazareno: Yes, I would love to hear a Drake X Madonna track! I enjoy a Drake and DJ Khaled song as much as the next person, but I can’t say that I didn’t expect “another one!” from the frequent collaborators. On the other hand, the much-anticipated collaboration from Dua Lipa, Missy Elliott and Madonna isn’t a total shocker either. At this point, I’m craving something really new from the two pop stars: Both artists have nothing to prove at this point in their respective careers, so it would be unexpected and buzzy if they experimented with genre-fluidity on a joint single.
Andrew Unterberger: I want to believe there’s a way to make it work, but I’m not exactly sure how, and Madonna’s recent work collaborating with rap’s next generation doesn’t offer a ton of direction. Perhaps going the other direction, with Madonna guest-gracing a Drake single, is the more plausible path — we’ll have to see if her upcoming turn on Dua Lipa’s “Levitate” remix offers any clues on what to do (or what to avoid at all costs) here.
Christine Werthman: I’m good on them keeping six feet apart, even after the pandemic ends.