Nice Hits! is a Reverb column that unironically dissects, reviews, and appreciates the best songs of the current Top 40. It is unsnobbishly premised on>"/>
Nice Hits! is a Reverb column that unironically dissects, reviews, and appreciates the best songs of the current Top 40. It is unsnobbishly premised on the logic that just because a lot of the music on the radio is crap doesn't mean all the music on the radio is crap.
The hit: "Take Care," Drake featuring Rihanna (off Take Care).
Current chart position: #2 on iTunes; as yet uncharted on Billboard.
The team: "Take Care" was co-written and produced by frequent collaborator Noah "40" Shebib (who has a hand in every song on Take Care, including recent Hit! "Headlines") and Jamie Smith, better known as Jamie xx, beatmaker of the acclaimed British band The xx. Through Smith, hip-hop influencer Gil Scott-Heron is given new life--the verses Rihanna sings on "Take Care" are a reworked version of "I'll Take Care of U," which is itself a remix Smith created in 2011 of Scott-Heron's 2010 version of "I'll Take Care of You," which is in turn a cover of oldies soul singer Brook Benton's 1959 original. (The song was also covered by Mark Lanegan in 1999). Recycling is in!
Breakdown: "Take Care" is Drake's second collaboration with Rihanna, the first being his appearance on her 2010 smash single, "What's My Name?" "Take Care" is by far the more serious and intimate song (especially if you take into account the real-life details--remember that Drake and Rihanna were at one time reportedly romantically involved right after Rihanna's violent split from Chris Brown). "Take Care" has none of the light, playful bounce of "What's My Name?" It's all tense emotions and dark shadows. Rihanna sings the song's hook over a vibrating steel drum-sounding synth melody--"If you let me/Here's what I'll do/I'll take care of you"--and her voice sounds subtle, restrained, and sleek. Drake's verses are sort of spit-sang rather than straightforwardly rapped (see his 2010 hit "Find Your Love"); he starts off sounding firm and convincing--"You can't sleep thinking that he lies still/So you cry still, tears all in the pillowcase/Big girls all get a little taste/Pushing me away so I give her space/Dealing with a heart that I didn't break"--but ends up putting his judgments and advice aside to bare his own feelings--"We know, you hate being alone/You ain't the only one." He's hypnotically rhythmic.
"Take Care" has an atypical structure in that moves along at the same pace and temperament from beginning to end--it smolders and simmers but never quite boils over. That tensing effect gives the song an overwhelmingly seductive and mysterious quality. If there's a climactic moment in the song, it's towards the end when Jamie xx cuts in an echoing sample of Gil Scott-Heron singing, all chopped up, sounding like ghostly gibberish. An escalating drumbeat kicks back to Rihanna's verse one more time, and then the song's over. The way the percussion and the three different vocal components (Drake's, Rihanna's, and Scott-Heron's) meld together into one powerfully flowing song make for a fascinating look at how one song can evolve from generation and trend down through 50 years.