Back in the exhilarating and heady days of Ancient Greece, the playwright and comedian Aristophanes came up with a theory as to why we're destined to spend our lives searching for a partner. According to his scriptures, humans previously took on an entirely different form. The Ancient Greeks in his story had two heads, two arms, two legs. One part was female, and one part was male. This was life, for a while. Then these dual-headed beings got too cocky, tried to take over Olympus, and Zeus cut them in half.
Since then, humans have been searching for their other half to make them feel like a complete, rotund being again. Take Drake and Rihanna. Two simple souls: one male, one female. Yet each time they're together, it's as though the planets have aligned, mercury is no longer in retrograde, and the Earth has shattered into a trillion tiny pieces and been replaced with a brand new, sparkling version of itself. In fact, it's almost as if each Drake and Rihanna collaboration is part of a conceptual art project, which is ruminating on the fact that two people will forever be hopelessly searching for the part that will make them feel whole again.
In many ways, Drake and Rihanna have created a musical tetralogy: a four-track mini-concept album which treads through the narrative of someone seeking the sole puzzle piece that will fit neatly into theirs. Like Aristophanes, their story is about a being that, once together - two headed, two armed, living in its final evolved stage of glory - is known as Drakanna. It is the pinnacle yet rarely turned cornerstone of both their careers. So with that in mind, let us close our eyes and cast our brains back to 2010, where I will guide you through this tale of two people that have embarked on the inevitable and hopeless search for wholesome love.
THE BLISSFUL BEGINNINGS
Like all great and fiery love stories, this one begins with a serendipitious encounter. Or rather, it kicks off around noon, at a local off licence, buying a cartoon of milk. In a moment that's been immortalised in the video for “What’s My Name”, Drake spots Rihanna by the corner shop's fridge and gives her his best sexy eyes (see above). He then stares at her gormlessly and moves his lips into the shape of a pout, presumably hoping to attract her attention with the sheer visceral power of his forlorn and lonely gaze. The scene is kind of reminiscent of every unwarranted look that men give women they've never met on public transport, except completely different because this is Drake and Rihanna and not some prick in a suit sat sweating on the corner of the Jubilee Line.
It turns out Drake's efforts pay off, because at this point Rihanna returns an expression so lustful that it could make global warming accelerate faster than the total eradication of the world’s forests. After letting the carton of milk she was clutching roll out of her grip and splash all over the shop floor in what seems to be a thinly veiled metaphor for sexual interaction, Drake asks her if she wants to come back to his for some “good weed and white wine”. She does. This is a Tinder date for the ages.
At this point, we start to witness two human beings display a level of overwhelming contentment that's rarely seen anywhere outside of an advert for a brand of posh-looking beers or an unaffordable holiday home. They plolish off a bottle of White Zinfandel, they light up a second blunt; this is a pre-mating ritual in its purest glory, like two lions hurling sand at each other across the savannah. Drake and Rihanna are going places, and the world is trembling with possibilities. "You take me way past the point of turning me on", Rihanna sings. "You about to break me, I swear you got me losing my mind.” Look closely, and you can almost see the two of them dreaming of the day when they will open a joint bank account and talk to an estate agent together. It is love, blossoming in its early stages. Which means it's time for…
THE BIG SERIOUS QUESTIONS
“Take Care” is the part of the tale when things get serious. How do we know this? For a start, the video is a neutral, grey-ish hue - which, if my media studies A-level serves me correctly, means that something with very deep meaning is about to go down. Plus, the track is called “Take Care”. Need I explain more? This is a marriage between semantics and colour coding that's impossible to ignore. It's these things that make the Drake and Rihanna art project one of the greatest known to man. Anyway…
At this point, lets imagine a few months have passed since the "What's My Name" video. They're still hooking up, the sex is mutually satisfying, but they're starting to ask questions. What are they doing? Are they exclusive? Does it have to be all about sex or can they argue over a bowl of Doritos and watch a Stranger Things marathon on Netflix sometimes instead?
“I know you’ve been hurt by someone else, I can tell by the way you carry yourself,” Rihanna sings, her eyes landing on Drake’s perennially sad puppy dog expression. “If you let me, here’s what I’ll do, I’ll take care of you.” By the end of the track, they decide to give their relationship a proper go. “When you’re ready, just say you’re ready,” Drake sings. “We’ll change the pace and we’ll just go slow.”
Also, here is a bull. I think we all know this is a metaphor about the difficulties of navigating somebody else’s emotions while trying to protect your own, like a bull poised to defend and attack. Like I said, this video has some very obvious symbolism.
WHEN THE APATHY SETS IN
It is here, dear readers, that we skip five years and reach “Work”, or The Beginning Of The End as it should now be called, or the moment when even the small nuances of a partner become annoying, like the edges of their smile or that cute little thing they do with their nose that now makes you want to smash your head into the floor.
At this point, those first few innocent, blissful months captured in “What’s My Name” have fizzled away into the far distance. It's almost as if Drake and Rihanna feel more like Richard and Judy on a trip out to BHS than two free, horny spirits caught up in the throes of young love. For example, as you can see above, Rihanna is not even pretending to be interested in Drake. Instead, he's sprawled across the sofa in his tracksuit like a world weary dad-of-four watching Match of the Day. attempting to break the days up, which all feel as if they're bleeding into each other.
In this third chapter of the story, Drake and Rihanna don't party much. They're at the stage where they sit at home, mostly, eating cheese-its and watching re-runs. When they do go out though, Rihanna twerks against Drake for a minute to keep him sweet, then breaks away from his limp grip to twerk at herself in the mirror where all the real fun is. Drake can feel her slipping away, so threatens to leave if she doesn’t work at their relationship. “If I get another chance to, I will never, no never neglect you,” she sings while sipping an icy Rum Punch by the bar wearing a string dress and a bored expression. They both know she doesn’t mean it. Instead, they feel hollow. Like someone has sucked the life and their future out of them using a straw.
THE EVENTUAL BREAK UP
Like all relationships that pass across into the dark, confusing realm of squabbling and misguided emotion, Drake and Rihanna's relationship culimates in a demise. It is here, at "Too Good", where their mini-series reaches its cold and gloomy end. It's the moment when they both realise they're all worked out, what’s done is done, what has been said has been said.
There is no music video to guide us through this, so lets focus on the lyrics instead, because these carve out the real story. “You take my love for granted, I just don't understand it, No, I'm too good to you, I'm way too good to you,” whines Drake, sounding more as if he’s convincing himself than making an assertive declaration about his own independence.
“I don't know how to talk to you, I just know I found myself getting lost with you,” sings Rihanna by way of reply. “Lately you just make me work too hard for you.” We’ve all been there: you pick them up from work to surprise them with tickets to that musical they like – what was it? Wicked? – you make them that spicy noodle soup when they’ve got a cold, you listen intently to that really boring story they’re repeating again, and still they whine that it’s not enough. They don’t want you to be Rihanna. They want you be their version of Rihanna, who doesn’t smoke as much weed, who laughs harder at their jokes, and who wears less dresses made from string. But still you slog on until there’s nothing left to slog, until one of you finally admits that it’s over.
“Too Good” is them both admitting the relationship is finished, that it’s time to close the curtain, walk away, and never look back. For them, this is not the second head, or arm, or leg that they were looking for. Drakanna is no more. It is an urban legend that only exists in the realm of live performance these days, when one will invite the other on stage for four to six minutes of fruitless grinding, like two people trapped in a miserable marriage where they're still having sex but nobody cums. Or maybe we've thought about it too deeply. Is this even a conceptual art project or just a bunch of songs? The circle of life goes on…
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