Drake, and the Men Who Try to Steal Their Girl's Thunder
Just like the men who proposed to their girlfriends while they were winning Olympic medals, Drake tried to make Rihanna's moment all about him.
There were five proposals over the course of the Rio Olympics. Some were cute inter-team relationships that flourished with success. But the two that seemed to cause the most ire among commentators were those of Chinese diver Qin Kai, who proposed to girlfriend and teammate He Zi as she collected her silver medal, and that of Brit Dean Wyatt-Golding, who stuck a half-arsed A4 sign to his chest reading, "Can we get married now?" as his girlfriend Charlotte Dujardin bagged a historical third gold.
Public proposals – inherently attention-seeking and coercive behaviour – become exponentially more douchebaggy when the woman you're proposing to is fresh off the back of an outstanding personal triumph. Drake's declaration of love as he presented Rihanna with her lifetime achievement Video Vanguard award at the VMAs this weekend was the music industry equivalent of the Olympian proposal.
Rihanna, the gold standard, on a podium waiting to receive her prize, has the moment hijacked by her man, trying to turn this accolade into a news story about their on/off relationship.
Drake begins his speech with an infuriating pause. Actually, there are two pauses. The first, mid-sentence, because the crowd are still making noise for Rihanna and he doesn't want them to miss what he's about to say next. The second – longer – pause comes as he drops his bombshell: "She's someone I've been in love with since I was 22 years old." That's a pause for effect only, to give his words a moment to sink on the audience and allow them time to scream again, for them to realise this moment is actually about him.
Drake is hip-hop's Queen B, the Taylor Swift of rhyming, Mr Soft Hands. He's built a career off the back of his image as a sensitive rapper, not afraid to embrace his corny side. Undoubtedly, this VMAs speech lived up to that cheeseball reputation. But, like much of his output, there was also a streak of macho posturing running through it. What at first seems like a laundry list of Rihanna's impressive traits is actually more of an extension of Drake's nauseating "good girl" schtick, in which every woman is either a hussy who wants to have rough sex behind some bins or a perfect angel who must obsessed over.
He begins: "What's most impressive isn't the endlessness of stats, awards and accomplishments; what's most impressive is the person," before going on to list the ways Rihanna is down-to-earth and normal. But, she's not really, is she? Rihanna is the Vanguard recipient because she's one of the best-selling artists of all time; because she's had 14 number one singles; because she has eight Grammys; 12 Billboards; two BRITs and innumerable other trinkets and trophies that signify she is one of the best. People don't win lifetime achievement awards because they are "down to earth" and "never miss a [Barbadian] Crop Over [festival] unless it's to come play OVOFest", as Drake put it, reminding everyone that she dropped what she wanted to do to come to perform at his festival. No: they win them because they're exceptional.
If it was Drake's intention – conscious or subconscious – to make Rihanna's moment into a "Drake and Rihanna's moment", it backfired magnificently when Rihanna refused to play along. Swerving his kiss on stage in a room of their peers, with the world watching, is basically the pop star equivalent of saying "no" when a man hires a Disney flashmob to backdrop his marriage proposal. Speech over and award presented, Drake opens his arms wide and swoops in for his prize: Rihanna's kiss. She curves him expertly, ducking around to hit him with her cheek.
The pair hadn't even left the stage before the first Drake as Crying Jordan meme hit the internet. There's been some debate as to where exactly Drake's lips landed, but on the telecast you can pretty clearly see him go in for the kiss and miss spectacularly.
What's heartening about the swoop is that Drake and Rihanna do seem to be a legitimate item. She just wasn't going to allow him to claim her on that stage. It was Drake who stepped on stage with the intent of marking his territory, but it was Rihanna who emerged as the dominant. The next day they went on a date together, Rihanna the victor, Drake her spoils.
That sends a message to any man out there currently plotting how to turn their girlfriend's graduation or promotion or Olympic medal ceremony into a thing about you: stop taking the rare moments we honour women for their achievements away from them because you can't tell the difference between soppy films and real life. Drake found out the hard way; you could quickly find a similar moment becoming about that time you embarrassed yourself in front of everyone you know.
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