By Scott T. Sterling
“I took an L for the first time. I just have to reassess what went wrong with my judgment.”
That was Drake commenting on his endlessly discussed and derided headlining that closed out the first weekend of Coachella 2015. Found deep in the fascinating/frustrating long-read Four Pins profile, Drake’s admittance that his show was less than stellar seemed maybe a bit out of character.
While the performance was hardly a tour de force, Drake has never been known to burn up a stage. In concert, he presents his never-ending stream of hit singles, many of which are so embedded in pop culture at large that they are more meme than song (the number of homemade shirts in the crowd referencing the “Know Yourself” lyric, “Running through the 6 with my woes,” was substantial). This is what Drake does best.
Over the course of both Coachella shows, Drake’s set generated massive singalongs. Tens-of-thousands proved they’ve spent a considerable amount of time with his catalog, but it was the fact that he did it without breaking much of a sweat that seems to have his critics the most riled. Acts treat Coachella as a proving ground, not a place to flex cultural muscle and move on.
Of course, there was the Madonna moment. For whatever effect it had on his first show, it did ensure that Drake would be the most-talked about artist beyond Coachella’s opening weekend this year, setting him up to redeem himself on the second weekend and justify his headlining status in front of an even larger audience.
Instead, he used the moment to amplify his Drake-ness. In place of Madonna and the awkward kiss, he brought out Nicki Minaj during the peak of his set in the middle of “Truffle Butter” for an even more awkward cameo where he congratulated her (allegedly on her rumored engagement to rapper Meek Mill) and she walked off stage without uttering a single word. The collective, “wait—what?!” was palpable.
From there, he rolled out a massive, jungle-like backdrop not part of the first weekend show for an extended smooth jazz version of “Hold On, We’re Coming Home” that effectively squashed any momentum left from the set’s high-energy first half.
Was he just rehearsing for the upcoming Jungle tour? Thumbing his nose at casual concertgoers not already subscribed to the Drake OVO aesthetic? Counting the minutes until the performance check cleared?