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Please Stop Making Short Films, Musicians

(Unless you’re Beyoncé)

Apple Music
Apple Music

On Monday, Drake released Please Forgive Me — a 20-minute music video “inspired by” his latest album, Views — as an Apple Music exclusive. (The record itself, released on April 29, was also an Apple Music exclusive.) Drake first teased Please Forgive Me six weeks ago via Instagram, suggesting that he would forgo the conventional constraints of the music video format and instead release a short film. Please Forgive Me arrives a month after Apple Music gave similar treatment to Frank Ocean’s album Endless. In April, Tidal and HBO premiered Beyoncé’s latest album, Lemonade, as a short film — one that now seems to have anticipated a general interest among music-streaming services in premium, artsy, exclusive video content starring pop royalty.

We are living, it would seem, in a golden year of longform music videos — but only if you ignore that these videos, with the exception of Lemonade, generally suck. In the cases of Please Forgive Me and Endless, both Drake and Frank Ocean have, respectively, salvaged bad music and studio scraps as visual advertising for Apple Music.

Please Forgive Me, directed by Anthony Mandler, is perhaps best understood as an ironically campy approximation of a dark and serious kidnapping thriller. The film stars Drake, dancehall artist Popcaan, and U.K. singer Kyla Reid, and it’s scored by Drake’s longtime producer, Noah “40” Shebib. A jumble of pure mood and vibes, Please Forgive Me is a master class in poor lighting, pointless dialogue, bad acting, melodramatic slo-mo, and totally inconsequential motion; all in service of promoting Drake’s worst album. Remember how the “Hotline Bling” video was delightfully simple and, not coincidentally, iconic? Please Forgive Me is the total inverse of that charm. This morning, I watched an 87-second Snapchat love story about a boy and a squirrel that had greater emotional stakes than Drake’s expensive micro-ripoff of Indecent Proposal.

As longform music videos, Drake’s Please Forgive Me and Frank Ocean’s Endless are both fascinating examples of a corporate benefactor repurposing entire albums as grandiose advertisements for a paid subscription service that now thrives off the promise of premium exclusivity. (Even without a longform music video component, Apple Music has effectively struck the same manner of trade-off with Future, Chance the Rapper, and Travis Scott.) With Please Forgive Me, Apple Music gets a massively newsworthy commercial, and, in return, Drake gets the most valuable public company in the world, flush with cash, to finance the production and promotion of his ill-fated art project. Win, win.

Spotify is the dominant music-streaming service, but it has sworn off exclusive music releases; in February, Spotify communications chief Jonathan Prince told The Verge that exclusives are “bad for artists and they’re bad for fans.” Naturally, Apple Music cites music video exclusives such as Please Forgive Me and Endless as competitive advantages over Spotify. With Please Forgive Me, the company is one step closer to cornering the market on pop spectacle in the form of “event” releases. Apple Music hasn’t yet achieved Lemonade levels of acclaim with its video content, but the company’s got enough money to bankroll Drake’s goofy turns at action stardom into perpetuity. God help us.