Earlier this summer, in the midst of making short work of Meek Mill, the boy Drake dropped "Hotline Bling," perhaps in a bid to appeal to his base while getting his hands metaphorically dirty for a sec. At first, I admit, I didn't think much of the song—which has since become his second-highest charting single ever—but it quickly burrowed into my brain, sort of like the Ceti eel larva that Khan stuck in Chekov's ear in the second Star Trek movie. Anyway, it's trademark Drake simp-whispering, bemoaning a ex-lover who's moved on and found new fun, decidedly not blowing up his cell phone at night like she used to.
Not too long ago, Drizzy was infamous for jumping on remixes of the newest hot song and siphoning off the original artist's life force (see Migos, Makonnen, and even his current issues with H-Town's Sauce Twinz for reference)—but "Bling" was initially called a cover of the insanely catchy "Cha Cha" by D.R.A.M. due to its faint melodic background. But Drake's (possibly adopted, possibly kidnapped) baby has since taken on another life, however, spawning cover versions of its own—like, when did this song become the new "The Look of Love"? And for god's sake, is D.R.A.M. getting a check from anyone?
The biggest and best version, of course, would be Erykah Badu's recent outta-nowhere take. It's a big deal when the queen of neo-soul runs deigns to cover your song. Badu's seven-minute rendition (which is co-credited to her and Andre 3000's lil' one, Seven Benjamin) takes it back to her house and wears it out, taking a couple stylistic liberties—changing "cell phone" to "cell-u-lar device," sticking a Moviefone-ass voice-mail interlude in the middle, before smoothing it all out for a delicate, watery outro. The track appears on her apparently upcoming mixtape titled BUT U CAINT USE MY PHONE, in a nod to her classic "Tyrone"—the popular live version of which, some of you might recall, was recorded at Big Smooth's Coolout Day at Golden Gardens back in 1997.
But that's just one of many—first responders include young Toronto singer Alessia Cara with a televised acoustic number, and Kehlani's duet with that execrable Charlie Puth putz for a dinner-club treatment that sounds like it has a tiny pianist. (It's really Puth's duet with Meghan Trainor, which despoils the good name of Marvin Gaye, that is the reason I cannot fuck with on any level.) Oh, and then there's Disclosure's slightly fist-pumpy version with that Sam Smith character. But those are all mostly gahbidge. Far better for your health and wellness is the version en español via Miami's Dominican American rapper Fuego, and especially the too-short, super-sultry cover-blend of "Bling" and Sade's recent classic "By Your Side" that was recorded by Chicago's rising singer/chef/writer Via Rosa. At this point, you could make a proper mixtape of Drake covers, with half its length devoted to "Hotline Bling" alone. What is it about this song—about loss, alienation, feeling left out over some past flame—that so strongly resonates with people? I don't know, but aren't you glad I asked?