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Drake and the Smiths
(Alisssa Zilberchteine / McGill Tribune)

Past vs. Present: “This Charming Man” vs. “Hotline Bling”

a/Arts & Entertainment/Music by

On the evening of Oct. 19, 2015—a night when Canadians voted overwhelmingly for a party with a Hollister model as its leader and the Toronto Blue Jays scored 11 runs to win their first game of the ALCS—Drake dominated the internet. Now weeks removed from the initial release, vines of Drake’s gyrating body aptly photoshopped with lightsabers or ads for pizza still continue to filter through social media as the “Hotline Bling” fever fails to cool.

More than 30 years ago, in 1984, a very different video by a very different group was released. “This Charming Man”—a chart-topping release from The Smiths—was accompanied by a video of the band performing on a bed of flowers. Truth be told, there isn’t a huge amount of things that links a group of white guys from Manchester playing music and ‘Champagne Papi’ at his most exuberant; however, the self assurance from the stars of the videos is what truly connects these pieces and make both incredible viewing experiences.

The video begins relatively calmly: It looks like a group of dudes, hanging out, playing music, all being very cordial and very boring. A nice 'chill sesh.' Then the maniac that somehow became lead singer, also known as Morrissey, comes into this floral set up, and absolutely lets loose. He opens up completely, unhinging his jaw in physically impossible ways to moan out some lyrics, while waving flowers over his head in some kind of performance mimicking the tantrum of a 3rd grade child. It’s really just passionate bedroom dancing. But instead of his bedroom, he has a set of bandmates and directors, all doing what they should be to make this video work. In this, the performance echoes the voice of Mr. OVO himself.

Take the beautiful background in the “Hotline Bling” music video, or the rich colours in the outfits designed and the amazing dancers who have all gone through painstaking auditions just to get their big break to dance in one of the biggest rap videos of the year. Think about how much time and money and planning was devoted to creating such an aesthetically pleasing set.

Then there’s Drake’s dancing, seemingly unchoreographed and questionably good. The way in which he attacks the cha-cha and shakes his legs indicate a preference for passion over coordination. Drake looks like he showed up on set, put on his finest pair of Timberlands, and busted out his dance moves reserved exclusively for use after finishing one too many tequilas. Everyone else had to spend time to get the video to where it was, while Drake steals the show with his spontaneous moves.

This overlap is crucial in figuring out what the appeal is of “Hotline Bling.” There’s something incredibly attractive about thinking that a performer needs no preparation. That at any spontaneous moment, they could break out and do exactly what you want them to do. It’s all just so natural and unforced, like they woke up, drank a cup of coffee, and decided that their bedroom dance is what the people were really itching for.

Maybe hard work isn’t valuable anymore. Maybe the time and care put into making something creative has become ‘uncool.’ But it’s also not as if the stars in these videos aren’t putting in work, rather the appeal is that these performers are being true to themselves. They’re not taking themselves too seriously, they’re not manufactured by a team of creatives, they’re just being themselves. And no one wants to live in a world where Drake is too embarrassed to cha-cha.

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