berlin artist dena on how drake inspired her latest track

the slow-burner "girls like drake"

Photo by Zelinda Zanichelli

According to Drake, girls love Beyoncé, but Bulgaria-via-Berlin singer DENA has other ideas. Her recent single, “Girls Like Drake,” featuring Canadian R&B artist Akua under her alter ego TammyKruelz, is an ode to the softest in the game. Cloudy beats underscore the duo’s silken vocals as they extol the virtues of male tenderness and affection inside relationships, depicting the erstwhile Aubrey Graham as a model boyf. Filmed in L.A. while the Champagne Papi himself played Coachella, the impressionistic video equally celebrates female friendship, as DENA and Akua dance, drive, and lounge together like lifelong BFFs. We caught up with DENA to discuss the story behind the track.

What made you want to write a song about Drake?
"Girls Like Drake" is actually primarily about love being complicated, searching for the one, and being unsure if the relationship you're in is the real thing. I had written a memo note in my phone saying, "I like Drake more than you, because he cares about my feelings." I’m a big Drake fan, and I think his role as a social and cultural figure these days is very interesting. Akua and I wanted to basically metaphorize him as the projection of the ideal boyfriend.

The track has a more mellow R&B sound and no rapping. Is that a sign of a new direction?
Well, I am not a rapper anyways, and in the writing process I've always been focused on words, melodies, and harmonies. The new songs reflect way more the truth of this process. Regarding "Girls Like Drake," Akua and I produced and composed the song ourselves, with additional clicks and cuts added by Robot Koch.

You were in L.A. working on the new album. How’s that coming along?
Yeah, the core of the writing is pretty much there. Now, I am looking to go into production this summer.

Who have you been working with?
I was blessed to work with Mocky, who is an amazing musician and a Canadian-via-Berlin friend now living in L.A. A few months back I wrote a song called "Another Love," and he played and produced it. In L.A., we finally had the chance to work in real life again, and it was so productive and inspiring, I can't wait for those songs to be out.  

How did you meet Akua?
We met through our mutual friend Jazmin Garcia, who ended up directing the video. It was supposed to be a coffee hangout in Echo Park, but we ended up spending the whole day together vibing about music, discussing the creative process, and our mutual love for Drake. We met up to jam on the next day and wrote the song. Naturally, we asked Jazmin to direct the video and five days later we shot it, with help from Adi Putra with whom I had done the video for "Summer Doesn't Mean A Thing" in L.A. last year.

You filmed the video driving through L.A. in a jeep. Was that a reference to Clueless?
Do they drive through L.A. in a jeep? No, actually it's not. We thought more about Thelma & Louise minus the guns.

What attracted you to Jazmine Garcia's directorial style?
Jazmin is a great director who knows exactly what she wants and how she sees things. I loved that her references were all those very calm and symmetrical images from '90s videos and movies. Her style is exploring a certain feminine side from a vulnerable-yet-strong perspective, which I think was perfectly suited to the vibe of the song.

Do you have a favourite Drake song?
It changes all the time. Right now it's "Too Much" (feat. Sampha).