Drake and 21 Savage pushed their album release date back a week ‘due to Covid,’ but were they really spooked by the bewitching hour?

(October 30, 2022).  On October 21, Drake surprise-announced that he was releasing a joint album with fellow rapper 21 Savage on Friday, October 28 called Her Loss.  

Five days later, the Canadian rapper announced Her Loss would be delayed a week (to Nov. 4) due to his producer Noah “40” Shabib contracting Covid-19 while mixing and mastering the LP.

Rappers 21 Savage (left) and Drake

The first announcement (of the album’s existence and pending release) was embedded in a long overdue music video for the duo’s joint No. 1 hit “Jimmy Cooks,” which was on Drake’s last album Honestly, Nevermind released this past June.  “Jimmy Cooks” was finally officially promoted as a single this month, nearly four months after topping the Hot 100 and long after Honestly, Nevermind exited the upper reaches of the Billboard 200 album chart.

The announcement of the newer album, Her Loss, came as a surprise for several reasons.  First, it’s a joint album by Drake and another rapper. The only other time that happened was when Drizzy released his 2015 collabo with Future, What A Time To Be Alive.  

Secondly, it was only four months after Drake’s last album, the quickest turnaround yet for the Six God, whose last eleven releases (including mixtapes and that Future team-up) have reached No. 1.

But the biggest (and boldest) surprise was that the album’s original street date was only a week after the Oct. 21 release of Taylor Swift’s Midnights, the commercial phenomenon that has generated record-breaking sales and streams and will become Taylor’s eleventh No. 1 album when the charts are unveiled later today (October 30), placing her in a tie with Drake and two other artists (Bruce Springsteen and Barbra Streisand) for third-most chart-toppers all-time behind the Beatles and Jay-Z.

Taylor Swift’s ‘Midnights’ album cover

The first-week numbers for Taylor’s album are so huge—largest for any album in seven years—that they could easily spill over to a second week at No. 1, during the same week that Drake’s Her Loss would have impacted the charts.

Normally, blockbuster albums have huge drop-offs in consumption numbers in their second week of availability.  Many see declines of up to 70 percent from week one to week two in album-equivalent units moved. 

But when the album is the fastest-selling release in seven years and the only one to top a million copies since 2017 (Taylor’s Reputation), the second-week falloff would have to be drastic for Taylor’s Midnights to relinquish the top spot on the November 12-dated Billboard 200, the same one Drake and 21 Savage’s Her Loss originally would’ve made its debut.

Which brings us back to the announcement Drake made just five days after Taylor’s Midnights streeted.  Drake’s one-week delay—and the stakes associated with it—aren’t trivial.

No album by Drake or Taylor has reached No. 1 without first debuting there.  That lends some major importance to that first week.  Plus, with Taylor’s songs usually getting more support from radio, her album will likely have a longer shelf life than Drake’s.  

That would suggest that Midnights could easily be outpacing Her Loss later in their promotion cycles, which means Drake would have to bank on his impact week to get his album to the top. 

Moving his album to a Nov. 4 release means his initial impact would now coincide with Taylor’s third-week numbers (on the chart dated Nov. 19), which will certainly be smaller than her first two frames and an easier threshold for Drake and 21 to cross en route to getting another chart-topper.  

For Drake, Her Loss topping the Billboard 200 would be historic.  It would become his twelfth No. 1, a major achievement that would place him solely in third place behind The Beatles (19) and Jay-Z (14) on the all-time list. 

It would also keep alive his record streak of consecutive No. 1 albums and move him to within two of tying Jay-Z for the all-time lead for hip-hop artists.

Furthermore, it would create some distance between Drake and his nearest hip-hop contenders, Eminem and Ye (formerly Kanye West), who stand with ten No. 1 albums apiece.

For artists like Drake, Taylor, and the others during the current era who pay more attention to Billboard chart numbers and historic milestones than perhaps artists from any other previous timeframe, the stakes are too high for Drake to release an album just one week after a juggernaut the likes of Taylor’s Midnights.

Is it credible that Shabib’s Covid status really led to the one-week delay?

Of course it’s possible that Drake, Shabib and company were mixing Her Loss right up to the planned release week and that his late diagnosis caused them to hit the “pause” button. 

But it’s more plausible that the album was already in final form and ready for release when Drake decided to embed the earlier street date in the music video for “Jimmy Cooks.”  If Shabib’s condition was serious enough to result in production delays, then it seems odd that, just a few days into the illness on October 26, Drake would be able to prognosticate a Nov. 4 date with so much certainty.

Either way, as we hope for a speedy recovery for Shabib, all eyes will be on both Midnights and Her Loss in the coming weeks to see whether history will be made.

And whether Drake’s gamble with Her Loss will avoid making it, umm, his loss.

DJRob

Chart watcher DJRob (he/him/his) is a freelance music blogger from somewhere on the East Coast who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop and rock genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff!  You can follow him on Twitter at @djrobblog.

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DJRob

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