As a working adult, I am keenly aware of the differences between the work week and the weekend. It’s practically all I think about. In 2000, when NSYNC released their second album, No Strings Attached, I understood why it being Friday night and having just got paid was a reason to celebrate, but had no real understanding of what that celebration constituted. I have since felt the very real ecstasy of pay day and Friday aligning like an alcohol-fueled lunar eclipse, but the lyric now bothers me for a different reason.
What did the then largest pop stars in the world know about getting paid at the end of the work week and then going out to blow off steam? The song is purposefully relatable, so much so that it comes off insincere. At the end of the song, Justin, no longer singing, dejectedly adds “Oh, I’m broke.” Justin was not broke. Nor were (at least at the time) any of his bandmates. The song isn’t for them, see, it’s for us. The shlubs working all week for a $200 paycheck that barely lasts through the weekend.
Pandering to young, party-going adults with day jobs is not uncommon in the realm of pop music. Katy Perry has made a career off of it. Her song “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)” is a laundry list of things that Katy Perry would never do, such as maxing out her credit card, getting kicked out of a bar, and not knowing what to tell her boss. Bruce Springsteen is somehow both a megastar and an everyman at the same time. At a certain point, you accept that pop artists perform as normal people the way a rapper like Rick Ross performs as a drug kingpin. Music doesn’t have a fiction and non-fiction section.
While pop artists are able to sell with relatability, it’s precisely the opposite in hip-hop. As with the Rick Ross example, rappers go to great lengths to establish how different they are from the general population. As Chicago’s own Lil Reese puts it, “At the top, it’s just us n*gga.” Of course, this isn’t a new idea. The braggadocio in hip-hop is a defining characteristic, and part of what makes it great. In 2013 we saw an album from Jay-Z, in which he name checks approximately $493 Million worth of art, and a hit single from Ace Hood about success so extravagant you some how wake up in a brand new Bugatti. While it’s not clear if either of these things are the truth, it ultimately doesn’t really matter.
While pop goes to great lengths to appeal to the masses, hip-hop has found mainstream success by purposefully eliminating any opportunity to relate to it on a surface level. The genius of waking up in a brand new Bugatti is that you don’t need to wake up in a brand new Bugatti to relate. It’s a statement of purpose, more than fact. While its probably more realistic that Jay-Z actually does own expensive art, I don’t need to “fuck up my Warhol” during foreplay with my pop megastar wife in order to relate. The hyperbole is more affecting (and less corny) than the pop anthem. If it’s Friday night and I just got paid, I still want to feel much bigger than that. While plenty of rap that chronicles hardships of the life on the streets (which for many is relatable), the songs and artists we’ve seen emerge in the mainstream are more focused on the ends than the means.
ILoveMakonnen’s hit song “Tuesday” is about selling drugs. Sort of. That’s not the important part. The important part is that you should go out on Tuesday nights, which is something I can co-sign. The song captures a unique truth about being a working shmuck with a penchant to party. With too much to do on the weekend, there’s practically no time to hit the club. It’s a simple idea, really. One that I can relate to, even if Makonnen’s job is working a corner and mine is sitting at a desk. With a job, the weekends are the only time I have to relax, to do laundry. I can’t be getting the club up when I have plans to go do something semi-productive in the morning like wait in line at Trader Joe’s, or run the trap.
When I heard Drake had jumped on “Tuesday” I was worried he would be posing as “normal” like the far less famous ILoveMakonnen. While Makonnen really may be too busy on the weekend to get the club up, I’m almost certain that someone as famous as Drake does not distinguish between a Tuesday and a Friday. Whereas I work a day job that has certain requirements regarding when I need to be there, Drake has no such routine. I’d say with a fair degree of certainty that my Tuesdays are more similar to Makonnen’s, drug dealing and all, than Drake’s Tuesdays.
But Drake isn’t so much mimicking Makonnen’s now-famous chorus line as much as he’s co-opting it. What makes him a guest verse killer is his ability to adapt the song’s message, and twist it in a way that applies to him. “Tuesday” isn’t reliant on why you can’t party on the weekend. Drake has three concerts to do, so Tuesday it will be. Unlike NYSNC or Katy Perry who try to repackage their Friday nights for the general public, Drake is still able to remain true to his celebrity in a song nearly anyone can relate to. We all have different things to attend to, from the trap to Trader Joe’s, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find a common rallying cry in the process of getting the club up.