At midnight last night, while you were slumbering or falling down a shameful Instagram rabbit hole under your duvet, Drake dropped Please Forgive Me, an “explosive visual companion to Views,“ a.k.a a short film, a.k.a. a long music video, on Apple Music. Just in case you aren’t a member of Apple’s exclusive club, it’s essentially 21 minutes and 28 seconds of Drake acting like a real tough guy. Hmm.
Maybe calling it a long music video is a little unfair. The film does what a three-minute montage of turtlenecked Drake dancing in neon cubes never could: it puts his songs into a narrative context that we as listeners would otherwise simply interpret ourselves. Whereas I always thought “Controlla” was about his vague Drake-ish love for a woman, Please Forgive Me told me it’s actually about his willingness to kill several people in an explosive gun fight after some powerful dude offers to pay a woman he loves a million dollars in exchange for sex. See? Helpful context!
It’s safe to say the short film as album companion is hot right now — Beyonce’s Lemonade, Frank Oceans’ Endless, even Drake’s Jungle last year spring to mind. Unpacking the impetus feels a little familiar. Like designers who use runway shows as an opportunity to show their art in its intended visual, auditory and emotional environment, musicians are increasingly using film in a similar way.
The difference with visual albums is that at the center is often the artists themselves, meaning these films — as opposed to anonymous runway shows — offer an opportunity to further the musician’s personal brand. And the one Drake is pushing in Please Forgive Me (badass with a gun) is an almost-comedic departure from the one we typically assign him (softy in tears). As a huge fan of Drake and his very tender heart, I felt slightly betrayed by this depiction.
Are you ready to accept Drake as a tough guy or do you prefer him wistfully driving around Toronto, sheepishly professing his love for Rihanna on stage at the VMAs and pondering how his fame and wealth have alienated him from his family? Is there a right or wrong way to do a visual album? Are they art, an ego trip, a brand extension?
Feature photograph by Kevin Winter/Getty Images.