“I see both sides like Chanel, see on both sides like Chanel,” crooned musician Frank Ocean in his surprise single “Chanel” earlier this year. The reference to the French luxury brand’s iconic double-C logo is part of a dense web of metaphors underlining the dualities of fame, wealth, sexuality, and the way black men are both lionized and villainized in American society. “My guy pretty like a girl,” he sings, continuing later, “How you lookin’ up to me and talkin’ down?”
That is, the point of the song, despite its title, is not the Karl Lagerfeld-designed brand; the brand is one element of a sign system Ocean implements in the stream of consciousness that bathes “Chanel.” While luxury brands frequently crop up in contemporary music as indicators of privilege and power, rarely are those indicators subverted, slightly out of step with their capitalist connotations; a gold chain is a symbol of making it, a designer’s stamp of approval a marker of credibility.
See, for example, Drake’s new track, “Signs.” Unlike Ocean’s “Chanel,” it makes no reference to Louis Vuitton in its title or lyrics (though he may name-drop Winnie Harlow, the model with whom he was sighted earlier this year, sparking more dating rumors)—but, at its core, that’s what Drake says the track is about. As the Toronto rapper revealed on Instagram Wednesday, the song was inspired by Vuitton’s latest menswear collection; it debuted Thursday afternoon in Paris, accompanying Kim Jones’s Spring 2018 show for the brand.
The track is a hedonistic romp and, undeniably, a bop, with the perfect meter for models to stomp down the runway at the Palais Royal in central Paris to its simple beat. “You need money and desire, and you get what you want, always, from me,” he sings. “I can’t say no when you say please.”
There were bucket hats and oversized bags galore; the collection, with its “Archipelago” theme, drew as always from Vuitton’s heritage as a luxury travel brand. But the inspiration is loose and amorphous; aside from the evident connections between Drake’s complicated relationship with consumerism in “Signs” and the consumption of fashion, the song isn’t so heavy-handed in its relation to the Vuitton show. So what, if anything in particular, inspired Drake’s latest track? Is this what a bucket hat sounds like? Is this the sound of a silky Hawaiian shirt as it glides down the runway?
That a musician has allied him or herself with a fashion label is by no means unexpected: Rag & Bone has a longstanding relationship with Radiohead’s Thom Yorke; Anna Sui and Karen Elson are close friends and collaborators, in both fashion and music; and Sarah Burton at Alexander McQueen gave up-and-coming electronic musician Kelly Lee Owens a boost when her music curator selected Owens’s “Arthur” to soundtrack her Fall 2016 show.
Even that a brand has commissioned work to score a runway is not unusual. (And Louis Vuitton involving itself with an unlikely creative partner is something of its modus operandi nowadays—think Jeff Koons or Supreme.) But what is unusual is that Drake’s “Signs” has been positioned not as a score for the Louis Vuitton show, but as a new Drake single inspired by the collection, something with a life beyond the 10-minute duration of a runway show.
It’s something like sponsored content of a musical variety—only the beat is much catchier.
Bryce Dallas Howard, Chadwick Boseman, and more enact a dramatic reading of Drake's "Controlla":