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LIGHTS Talks Covering Side B of Drake's 'Scorpion' and Why He's 'Empowering' for Women

Lights
Matt Barnes

Lights

Electro-pop artist LIGHTS has long covered songs by fellow Canadian artist Drake, putting her own stamp on such hits as "Hotline Bling" and "Hold On, We're Going Home," but she's always wanted to cover an entire Drizzy album. The new Scorpion provided the perfect opportunity with its stylistically different Side A and Side B. She chose B: "It was made for me to cover," she tells Billboard.

Returning from Canada Day (July 1) shows, the singer-songwriter sequestered herself in her home studio in Mission, BC, working 5-6 hours a day for five days self-producing the covers album. She calls the intense study and reworking of the 13 tracks a "master class in Drake's vocal pocket."

Now on SoundCloud, Billboard got LIGHTS on the phone to talk about her views of the 6 God, what she did when she came across the N-word in his lyrics, if Drake's ever retweeted her covers, and how her dad deterred her from trying to rap.

What is it about Drake's songs that make you want to cover them?

The melodies are better than you would think. That's what draws me to them. It's between the incredible melodies that he uses — and they're very much his kind of melodies; they sit between the same register all the time. That's what makes them special, I guess — and then he's got this insane vocal pocket.

I remember when Drake first came out, years ago, and everyone was talking about whether they thought he was worth the hype or not, and I remember one person telling me it's his delivery; it's his pocket. And I never really understood that until I started singing along to the songs and you feel the pocket in "One Dance" and the movement and the melody happens in the middle of a word, as opposed to between syllables. And it's flowing behind the beat and somehow it always lands on the beat, even though it's weaving in between the beat, if that makes sense.

So covering his songs in the past and then covering Side B was almost a master class in Drake's vocal pocket. It's unique. And that's what makes his stuff so special is it's so fun to be able to try a vocal pocket I would never ever think of, and suddenly get very comfortable doing them. The entire Side B was like a master class in singing in Drake's pocket.

People have long judged a great song if it can be played on acoustic or pass the whistle test, but we don't generally think it applies to rap.

Not at all and a lot of them aren't that. I've been talking about covering a Drake album for years and I've never had the opportunity or there's never been enough forewarning and mental preparedness leading up to an album. He just drops it overnight. And it's usually mixed in with R&B and hip-hop stuff and the rap stuff is a lot harder for me to cover. I can do it. I can make it a melody, but it's a little bit more challenging.

So, of course, this album comes out and there's an entire R&B side. I cannot let this two weeks go by without covering this [laughs]. It was made for me to cover. And it was fun. A couple of them were tricky, but I worked five or six hours in the studio every day, tracking and mixing and vocals, and I loved every minute of it. It was just fun.

Was there any slang that you learned?

I starting thinking a lot of times about the content of a song, and obviously the N-word appeared. In a couple of songs I just didn't do it and in a couple I just put honey in.

Because you are white?

I would never. I could never say the N-word. That is the last thing I want to do as an artist and a human being, in general. Just like girls can call themselves bitches, but I don't think guys can. There are some words you can't say.

Drake has the word "bitch" in "Peak."

Yeah. Uh, I'm sure he does in certain places. But the interesting thing about this whole record is it's actually pretty empowering, as a girl, to sing this record. So the song "Nice For What" is all about boss-ass chicks, kicking ass, working their ass off and then you allow yourself to have fun because you work for it. I don't think you hear that enough with male singers and males giving that shout out to hard-ass working girls. I thought that was really cool. I had a lot of fun singing that. Even now, I go back and play it, and this is such a good song. You don't really hear that when you hear it rolling through on the radio or something, but when you sit down and actually play it and listen to the words, this is really good. You work at eight; you end at five; you work all winter. All the way, it's really special.

And then there's a couple of other ones about women out there on the grind working, and I think that's one of the things I love about Drake. I think he catches flack in the weirdest way because people think he’s sensitive, but I'm like, 'No, this is respectful in a lot of ways,' whereas in a lot of music, especially a lot of rap, it's this very over-sexualized approach to women and, sorry, but that's not exactly what I want to listen to [laughs]. But Drake's got this respectful thing going on and I love it.

You long knew you wanted to cover one of his albums. Did you read the lyrics first to B Side or did you jump right in?

I listened to the record a bunch and there were a few songs towards the end that I was like, 'These probably don't need to be on the record.' There's one called "Final Fantasy" and it's sort of split into two parts, this weird dual song; the first half wasn't necessarily something I wanted to sing, so I cut that part, and the other song was the back half to do. I actually love singing about sex; there are a lot of cool lyrics in the record that are about that, not a ton actually, at least on Side B, but most of the record is easy going, chill, fun vibe, like romantic cool shit.

Have you ever met him?

No. In passing at the Junos [Canada's Grammy equivalent, the Juno Awards] years ago, probably eight years ago, just passing down a hallway and shaking hands.

And he's never re-tweeted one of your covers?

No. He's on his own level, man [laughs].

Which of your songs or albums would you like Drake to cover?

If he was going to do mine? Oh God. I haven't even thought about that because that seems so …in dream land, he would cover…I don't know.

In reading and learning his lyrics, did you notice that you share similarities in phrasing or anything?

There's a lot of continuity in terms of tempos he's using. He's usually sitting between the 70 and the 90 BPM, and I am a sucker for halftime. A lot of hip-hop fits within that vein too. And I use that tempo a lot on [the latest album] Skin & Earth like with "New Fears" and "We Were Here."

Will you do Side A?

[Laughs] That would be a lot harder. I was lucky enough that the rap type of stuff was on Side A and Side B was more melodic because the rap stuff is certainly harder. I would make a melody out of it. I wouldn't rap. You don't want to hear me rap. Growing up, my dad wrote us a rap song about crossing the street and I think that deterred me from ever doing rap. It was like [raps], 'Look both ways /Before you cross the street.' It was the worst thing [laughs]. So I would never ever rap. I would have to find melody. What was good about "Nice For What" is there is a lot of melody in that song and I turned it into a melody. And that's fun to do, but it's a lot more work to have to do some melodic writing on top of the track that's already there.

Will you do that live?

I will try some of those live every now and then. "Nice For What," maybe I'll pop that. Who knows, it would be fun. Like I said, it's a super empowering song. The whole concept of the song is work your ass off and go out and have a good time and get that phone, take those pictures, do whatever you want to do because you work your ass off for it. I'm like, you know what, that's so true. Nobody's out there saying that. Everybody does their shaming women for taking photos and wanting to feel good, wanting to look good. It's like, "No, you fuckin' work your ass off for the way you are. Own it." I love that about it.