NFB Listens To Number Ones: “One Dance” – Drake (feat. Wizkid & Kyla)

I’ve thought long and hard about it, and I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about “One Dance”. This one is…entrancing I suppose? It’s the kind of song that you will never really forget once you have heard it, even if, like me, you’re not really that into the sub-genres of music that it represents (an eclectic mix: afrobeats, pop, dancehall, whatever “UK funky” is). Drake’s never really been my style, and while “One Dance” is a bit of a departure from his other work, I’d be lying if I said this would be sticking in my playlists for more than a little while. But it certainly has something special, that I just can’t quite put my finger on.

Is it the simple beat, a repeated piano riff, that is really nothing special if you examine closely, but still lodges itself firmly inside your eardrum? Is it the rapping verses from Drake, which paint a picture of the end of a night out, with the singer wanting just one more dance with the beautiful woman in front of him (or at least that is my interpretation)? Is it Kyla’s brief, but very sultry, interjections? Is it Wizkid’s afrobeat verse near the conclusion? Perhaps it is the mixture of all of them, a medley that makes “One Dance” something that so much popular music struggles to be down through the ages: unmistakably unique. That doesn’t mean that I like it of course, as “unique” can frequently be attached to other labels like “terrible”. This isn’t a terrible song, but whenever I hear it there is a certain impression of intangibility that I struggle to get beyond, like the layers of song and lyric pressed on top of one other just make the whole thing murky in terms of tone and meaning. Is this a love song, or something more sexual in nature? Is it an ode to long-distance relationships, or a criticism of the woman left at home?

Reading into the song and the meaning behind the words, and one will discover a wealth of influences and inspirations, many of them West African in origin, that someone of my background will be ignorant of. Whether it’s nods to culturally unique linguistics or slang terms for specific forms of dancing, it’s another aspect of the song that makes me appreciate the effort to craft the thing, even if it isn’t a tune that I really enjoy all that much. Maybe that’s because of the way I I find myself more focused on lines where Drake urges his paramour to reply to his text messages quickly, a out of place insistence that for me breaks the immersion of the song and seems positively controlling. Even in something like this it seems that rap’s commonly misogynistic baseline cannot be escaped from. Oh well. Drake, Kyla and Wizkid have their name on a song that will be difficult to forget, even if I wouldn’t be terribly sad if I did.

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