45. Drake "Karaoke" (2010)
Album: Thank Me Later
Producer: Francis and the Lights
It's the second song you hear after the air-clearing "Fireworks" on Thank Me Later. "Things have been so crazy and hectic," Drake sings, and yes, he's singing to a woman. There's no sample to analyze, just the skeleton of programmed drums, a beat punctuated by a sound like an 8-bit NES explosion, a pixilated door kicked in. His vocals are Auto-Tuned, the resilient specter of Kanye West's 808s and Heartbreak, but he knows you can hear that he can sing, how he can sing.
The structure is important: two verses sung, one rapped, with Drake acting as his own guest MC. He sings: "I remember when you thought I was joking/Now I'm off singing karaoke." And we're still trying to unpack those lines. That word, karaoke, seems dense with meaning.
The idea of performance is so important when listening to rap, even more so when you're dealing with Drake. Some call him corny and act like he's unaware. But he's always understood what he's doing. At every turn, he seems to have anticipated how he'll be received and countered correctly. "Karaoke" is a sound example. —Ross Scarano