Last month during WWE’s flagship SummerSlam main event, John Cena stood across the ring from Daniel Bryan. Bryan, a former independent wrestler who’s traveled the world as the best in the business, was easily the crowd favorite. As the match started, the crowd booed Cena and chanted “You can’t wrestle.”
They were wrong.
Usually, WWE likes to dictate who their fans cheer for. They create storylines for “good” guys to get the fan approval and “bad guys” to get negative reactions. In the past, when “baby faces” got booed by fans, it would send the WWE creative into a panic. “Oh, no, our guy isn’t going over well with the fans. What did we do wrong?” But when John Cena gets booed by half the audience, he’s doing his job to perfection.
For about 10 years, John Cena has been pretty much the same character: jorts, Nikes, “Hustle, Loyalty, Respect” and winning just about every match he’s in. The schtick has gotten tired. But kids love him and kids buy merchandise. Also, Cena legitimately enjoys his tremendous Make-A-Wish contributions. However, the sh*t is just stale as hell for grown-up fans. Cena’s act is simple pandering and, even worse, it’s inauthentic.
I remember the goofy, freestyle battle Cena. The badass Cena. Even the Cena that took his gloves off and verbally whipped The Rock for two years. The kid-friendly Cena makes me want to vomit. He uses a stupid preacher voice, writes “poopy” on limos and wins at an annoying rate. I’m tired of seeing his stupid face on my television.
And WWE knows this.
So while he’s getting cheered by kids, he’s getting booed out of the building by adults. And no matter what, people have a passionate response to John Cena. He’s simultaneously the best villain and hero in the company. Fans tuns in to see him lose and kids go to shows to see him win. It’s perfect. Plus, he actually can wrestle his ass off.
Sure, Cena might never be able to have a classic match with Kane or anything, but he’s put together more great main events over a longer period of time than just about any other wrestler in the last 20 years. As much as I hate him, I can’t deny his talent.
That’s where Drake comes in.
When the NWTS tracklist hit the Interweb, I predicted “Wu-Tang Forever” would end up being a buttery soft song for women. Why? Because it would piss off rap fans. Drake knew this. He’s in on the joke and is very keen to the memes and trends on the Internet, as indicated by his Jaden Smith shirt this weekend. Drake knows what his every move will mean and he had to know that “Wu-Tang Forever” would bring about the same divisiveness John Cena brings to wrestling.
Much like Cena’s relationship to kids, Drake’s music is full of artificial pandering to women that usually leads to his most cringe-worthy music (see: “she just want to run over my feelings like she’s drinking and driving an 18-wheeler” from Nothing Was The Same’s “Connect) and derisive criticism from people who can see through it. But that hate is what keeps us all talking and coming back for more.
While rap fans are clamoring for Comeback Season Drake, women are buying his albums and concert tickets. Sure, we’d love an album full of “9 A.M. In Dallas” but if he gives us what we want, then Drake will be just another artist rapping his ass off and making dope music. But with half an audience totally annoyed by him and the other half joyfully putting his lyrics on Facebook status rotation, we’re guaranteed to always be talking about Drake. In fact, on multiple occasions I’ve had traditional rap fans ride around with me and say, “hey, man, just put that Drake on so I can see how soft his sh*t is.”
Drake’s music has the same appeal as a John Cena match. A large portion of the audience tunes in just to have material for the next meme while another side is there to praise him.
No matter what the reason you actually listen, no one can objectively claim that Drake isn’t making great music. Seriously, by now, saying Drake makes bad music is license to get ignored forever. Drake, like Cena in a big time main event, will always deliver musically. So while I’ll make fun of the two for their pandering, stale behavior, I’ll also acknowledge greatness when I see it.
Meanwhile, the two performers will continue to thrive because they understand that sometimes there’s nothing better than being hated.