Music

From Sam Smith to H.E.R.: the 15 best Drake covers

The Toronto rapper's hits have been covered by many over the years — these are the must-hear renditions.

The Toronto rapper's hits have been covered by many over the years — these are the must-hear renditions

Some of the most covered songs by Toronto rapper Drake include 'Hotline Bling,' 'Hold on, We're Going Home,' and 'Passionfruit.' (Drake/YouTube; graphic by CBC)

Drake cover songs constitute their own genre at this point. The Toronto rapper continues to be one of the world's biggest artists and over the years, artists around the world have put their own spin on his hit records. 

The majority of these covers are often of Drake's most pop-oriented singles, melodies that are malleable and able to adapt to a range of voices and styles whether you're stripping them down to their most basic elements or reconstructing them to fit a rock band or electronic aesthetic.

In anticipation of his upcoming album, Certified Lover Boy (out this Friday), we want to take a look at some of the best Drake covers we've heard. 

Share your favourites with us @CBCMusic.  


Band: Florence and the Machine 
Song: "Take Care"
Year: 2011

A sweeping string section and Florence Welch's stellar vocals transform this duet between Drake and Rihanna into a compelling one-woman Bond theme contender. 

 

Arctic Monkeys
Song:
 "Hold On, We're Going Home"
Year: 2013

Sporting rock-star shades and giving off a laissez-faire Elvis swagger, Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner moulds Drake's lyrics into something that authentically feels like it could be a lost Arctic Monkeys cut.   

 

Yuna 
Song:
"Hold On, We're Going Home" 
Year: 2014

R&B singer Yuna puts her voice front and centre in this acoustic rendition, layering and looping her vocals to add a velvety texture to the track. 

  

Tinashe 
Song:
"Days in the East"
Year: 2014

R&B singer Tinashe flips the "East" in Drake's "Days in the East" to reflect her West Coast home base in her remix of this 2014 one-off track with Canadian producer Ekali (the remix later appeared on 2019's Care Package compilation). While not a rapper, Tinashe's rhythmic delivery is a perfect match for the songs where Drake blurs the line between rapping and singing.   

 

Erykah Badu 
Song:
"Hotline Bling"
Year: 2015

Perhaps the best cover of the following batch of "Hotline Bling" takes, Erykah Badu stays faithful enough to the original while twisting and turning phrases (including the change from "cellphone" to the fun syllable crunch of "cell-u-lar de-vice" in the main refrain) to create something uniquely her own. 

 

Disclosure and Sam Smith 
Song:
 "Hotline Bling"
Year: 2015

Drake is often criticized for a flat, almost monotone style of singing, and while you may or may not agree with that assessment, it's undeniably thrilling when the Toronto star's more melodic turns are covered by vocalists who have a wider range. And no one can inject more emotion and life into a song than British singer Sam Smith, who teamed up with electronic duo Disclosure to transform "Hotline Bling" into a simmering club track. 

 

Kehlani and Charlie Puth 
Song:
"Hotline Bling"
Year: 2015

On a track that can lyrically come off as a one-sided conversation, it's nice to hear a version that plays out as more of a back-and-forth between two lovers, perfectly portrayed by R&B singer Kehlani and pop hit-maker Charlie Puth. 

 

Daniela Andrade 
Song:
"Hotline Bling"
Year: 2015

As the top comment on this video accurately summarizes: "That moment when you realize this is actually a sad song." Drake's original may conjure up meme-worthy dance moves, but Andrade's stripped-down rendition will likely make you curl up and cry instead of hitting the dance floor — and that's a good thing. 

 

Sampha 
Song:
 "Controlla"
Year: 2017

Nothing Was the Same collaborator Sampha breaks down Drake's upbeat dancehall hit "Controlla" into a fluttering piano ballad that's less tailored for the dance floor, but maybe more suited for a rainy day playlist.  

 

Chance the Rapper 
Song:
"Feel no Ways"
Year: 2016

The Chicago star trades in booming beats for a more tenderhearted horn-accented R&B soundscape on his playful version of Drake's Views cut "Feel No Ways." 


H.E.R. 
Song: "Jungle"
Year: 2016

The soulful mix of If You're Reading This it's too Late's "Jungle," which is grounded in a Gabriel Garzon-Montano sample, is the perfect match for the R&B stylings of H.E.R. This cover, which is featured on the singer's debut EP, H.E.R. Volume 1, fits like a glove, slinking to the slow tempo as she pleads with her subject: "Are you down?" 

  

Hayley Williams 
Song:
"Passionfruit"
Year: 2017

The tropical pop highlight off Drake's More Life playlist became another popular track for artists to cover, but its translation to a guitar-led lullaby melody in Paramore leader Hayley Williams' BBC One session is hands down one of the best. 

 

Yaeji 
Song:
"Passionfruit"
Year: 2017

On this dreamy remake of "Passionfruit," New York producer Yaeji combines her own electronic signature with Auto-Tuned vocals to create something that feels even more spacious and beautiful than the original.   

 

Franz Ferdinand 
Song:
 "Passionfruit"
Year: 2018

The riff included in Scottish rockers Franz Ferdinand's cover of "Passionfruit," combined with that infectious bass line, is another successful, rock-oriented take on this song. Bonus: the band performed this at the House of Strombo in Toronto as an homage to Drake's hometown. 

  

Ayoni 
Song:
"Too Good"
Year: 2020

Barbados singer Ayoni takes on a Drake track featuring fellow Barbadian Rihanna, exquisitely assuming the role of a woman who feels like her partner is taking her love for granted. 

 

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