Drake’s latest Number One single “Toosie Slide” is either the most radical viral hit ever created, or the most jaded. Despite being an all-ages instructional dance number, it carries none of the slaphappy elation of songs like “Cha-Cha Slide” or “Baby Shark.” Instead, it channels the spirit of that girl who wiped away tears as she performed Mariah Carey’s “Obsessed” TikTok challenge, or that kid who wept as his mom filmed him doing Fortnite dances as punishment. “Toosie Slide” is disarmingly wistful and totally bereft of joy, as if to say that viral dances can only offer hollow, fleeting pleasure. The song encourages reflection, not release.
In this sense, “Toosie Slide” provides a kind of emotional template for much of Drake’s new mixtape Dark Lane Demo Tapes. The project, a grab bag of new songs, leaks, and material previously teased on Instagram Live, is often bittersweet and deeply contemplative, even by Drake’s standards. He appears to be suffering from success. Even as he uses a Cartier pen to write diaristic songs about his new $100 million mansion, how he allocated $33 million to his strip club fund, and how he shuttles from arena to arena in his $185 million “Air Drake” private jet, he remains most preoccupied with his many complicated relationships and how they keep him from living a fulfilled life. Across fourteen songs (his shortest solo release ever), he prods his aching heart, dissects friendships, and conducts romantic postmortems in an effort to understand why he’s “hurting deeply inside.” “Five hundred weeks, I fill the charts with my pain,” he raps on “When To Say When,” which flips the melodramatic soul sample from Jay Z’s “Song Cry.” Drake hasn’t sounded this bummed out since Take Care.