“Everything Must Go” by Jhene Aiko
Apparently Drake likes Jhene Aiko a lot. We can all take that in our own ways; my optimistic choice is to think there might be some reason for me to listen to the next Drake record. Because Aiko’s voice is just that good, as far as I’m concerned. There’s an ache, a strain, beneath every line of “Everything Must Go,” but it’s subtle - measured, even. Aiko takes a lyric that’s simple enough to be an anthem (or a throwaway) and delivers it in a way that conveys meaning beyond the words sung. “Everything Must Go” is certainly not the most immediate song I’ve heard this year, but the slow charm of its quietness is what makes it work: it worms its way into your brain through Aiko’s delivery, through the sparse beauty of her vocal. We need these breaks, between club bangers and sultry come-ons and angry kiss-offs, these moments where we can take the time to reflect and chill and maybe be a little sad and quiet ourselves. Songs like “Everything Must Go” give the “22“s and “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark“s of the world meaning, and vice versa.
As if, DV! Aiko’s voice would sound perfect alongside Drake’s and they share a certain cloudy mid-morning production, but only one of us is up to date on his Twitter feed. Readers, few days pass without me trying to convince DV of Drake’s talent and inherent listenability, but most attempts end like this one did, with him merely considering properly checking out Drake’s albums. Of course, I believe Drake deserves better than this brush off and I think Jhene Aiko can illuminate why. There’s a sharp contrast between Aiko’s voice and the feelings the song evokes. She’s not flat, but she’s not emoting either - it’s a simple delivery, a batted eyelash on the right side of perfunctory. This becomes interesting because the track is so blunt. You can instantly picture Aiko holed up in some lakefront cottage with rain beating against the window. It’s the exact sound of luxurious loneliness and suddenly the half-heartfelt vocals make perfect sense. How can you long when you have everything? The burden of having everything makes the pain of losing it all that much more intense and suddenly the song has manipulated your sympathies. DV and any other Drake skeptics, this is also one of his great strengths. His refusal to emote can come off as almost cocky in its coldness, but he’s deliberately forcing a confrontation on the listener. I think this strategy works better when a woman directs it because from Marilyn Monroe to Britney Spears, the narrative of the tragically successful woman is one our society finds fascinating. Men can’t present the same narrative with the same vulnerability. Stars like Charlie Sheen must insist they’re always in control no matter how far they’ve spun out. Drake’s working inside a genre that doesn’t have a soft side, but he’s carefully working to expose his sensitivities without losing authority. This is, at very least, interesting. At best, it’s a poor little rich kids duet with Jhene Aiko, which I would love to hear go down.