Sam Recommends: a medley of my top 10 Drake tracks of the 2010s 

If you’re anything like me, then you spend each November eagerly anticipating Spotify’s custom Wrapped playlists that conveniently compile your top-listened tracks from the year. This year, Spotify users got an additional surprise in their end-of-the-year roundup: their artist of the decade. While this feature might not be as fully-baked for newer Spotify users, I’ve been using the service since 2011, so they have PLENTY of data on my listening habits. Still, I was a bit surprised to learn that my artist of the decade was Drake. But with just a moments worth of reflection, I could admit it was true. I listened to a lot of Drake over the past 8 years, and while he’s definitely exhibited some problematic behavior in more recent years (texting young actresses, collaborating with Chris Brown), I can’t say I haven’t enjoyed many of his songs immensely.

That said, I definitely vibed with certain albums much more than others. Without further ado, here are my top 10 Drake songs of the decade:

10. “Shot For Me” (from 2011’s Take Care)

I still remember listening to this track on repeat in my first apartment. This song is a ruthless revenge track aimed at an ex. Whether or not it’s based on a real breakup, I’m not sure. But the message is clear. “Fuck you. You fucked up when you let me go, and I know you know it. LOL!” The assumption is that this ex is struggling with this realization, and using excessive amounts of alcohol to get through the pain (like you do…). Which makes the refrain & title, “take a shot for me,” so very savage. And if you relate more to Drake than to the ex in this story, then it is also so very satisfying.

9. “Childs Play” (from 2016’s Views)

This track is about Drake’s ambivalence toward a somewhat tumultuous romantic relationship. On one hand, this chick has assets, and knows what to do with them in bed. On the other hand, she doesn’t know how to act. Driving to CVS to buy kotex in his Bugatti…asking about past flings…acting up at the family-friendly Cheesecake Factory (even though she knows he loves to go there!) For now, it sounds like he’s willing to keep treating her better than she deserves (thanks to the impeccable child-rearing of Drake’s mama), especially since the only real effort required on Drake’s part is to take her to the mall and buy her a new outfit. It’s almost too easy…

8. “Hotline Bling” (from 2016’s Views)

My journey with “Hotline Bling” was full of twists and turns. My first experience with it was watching the music video when it started trending on Twitter. It was hilarious. Drake’s wholesome sweaters. Colorful yet minimalist set. That now-iconic dancing. I loved it right away, but in an ironic way. The love wasn’t really aimed at the song, but all of the memes it produced. But, with each listen, I grew to love the song and the lyrics. It’s another example of Drake’s talents in storytelling. I always seem to get lost in my thoughts when listening to this song, thinking about past relationships, and how radically people we thought we knew so well can change with just a little bit of time and distance.

7. “Hold On, We’re Going Home” (from 2013’s Nothing Was The Same)

From an objective standpoint, this might be Drake’s best song ever. It’s got everything you expect from a Drake track: a strong backbeat, an addictive rhythm, emotionally-honest lyrics, and a sticky, repetitive hook that’s fun to sing along to. But it also has a certain X factor that makes it stand out — at least to me — as a more sophisticated version of a standard Drake confessional track. It’s got a meditative quality to it; I find it beautiful and calming, especially on a long drive.

6. “Crew Love” (from 2011’s Take Care)

One of the main reasons I love this song so much is because it is the track that introduced me to The Weeknd. And while I don’t think any of The Weeknd’s later releases have ever met the bar set by Trilogy, I will always love that album, and will always be grateful to have found it when I did. That said, I do love “Crew Love,” and not just because it is a fun song to listen to when inebriated and want to pretend you are at a fun club with flashing lights.

5. “Feel No Ways” (from 2016’s Views)

If you’ve ever had a relationship or friendship go wrong, then you know that such an experience is painful enough on its own. But if you’ve ever had things go south with someone particularly toxic, then you know that the pain can be amplified times infinity when that person goes out of their way to be petty and twist that knife. This song provides a bit of catharsis for anyone whose had to cut toxic people out of their life in favor of their own growth, happiness, and/or sanity.

4. “Passionfruit” (from 2017’s More Life)

Ah, another track about a toxic relationship. However, in this case, the toxicity isn’t coming from either of the parties involved as much as it can be attributed to the circumstances surrounding the relationship. Neither person is to blame for the failure of this love story. There’s still plenty of love and passion here, but that doesn’t change the fact that the relationship is failing, and it’s probably time to call it. Or at least time to press pause to prevent any further tension and animosity. Maybe they’ll have better luck when the situation is more amenable to their connection. I haven’t personally experienced a love story like this, but I have a feeling it’s a pretty common one, which is probably why this song resonates with so many people. In fact, both Haley Williams (of Paramore) and Benny Sings have covered this track.

3. “Blem” (from 2017’s More Life)

When I first heard this track, I had no idea what “blem” meant, but I used context clues to figure it out. A quick Google search confirmed my assessment: blem = wasted. In this track, Drake’s letting the addressee (potential love interest) know that he’s so fucked up that, for once, he might just tell her how he really feels. Similar to “Shot for Me,” I’m impressed by how Drake can build a song on top of such a simple concept (alcohol = truth serum), but find a way to twist it on its head to bring more nuance and emotion to the story.

2. “Cameras” (from 2011’s Take Care)

So, technically, this song appears as one half of a track, “Cameras/ Good Ones Go”. And while I don’t have anything against the second half, “Cameras” is the song that turned me into a Drake fan. This song serves as a love letter reassuring the addressee that, despite what she’s reading and seeing in the tabloids, she can trust him. And while he’s being photographed with other high profile celebrities, she has his heart. Whether or not Drake is to be taken at his word is hard to say, but he sounds genuine, and I’ve always found the song romantic and sexy. The music has a dark seductive quality, and the background vocals are utterly delicious. 😋

1. “Controlla” (from 2016’s Views)

I always have been and always will be a sucker for a sexy track. And in my personal opinion, this is Drake’s sexiest song. The innuendo/metaphor at the center of the lyrics isn’t anything we haven’t heard before. I’m often reminded of “I’m Your Puppet” by James & Bobby Purify when I listen to “Controlla”, for example. Though I will admit that this track is 100% raunchier and 100% less wholesome. Regardless, who doesn’t want to hear their lover say “I’m here to do whatever you want, exactly the way you want it”? Obviously, it’s a sentiment that withstands the test of time.

And here’s the playlist:

(Song recommendation by Samantha Lamph/Len)