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Dip into the strangely hypnotic film genre that documents the Publishers Clearing House delivering jumbo checks to people, and you begin to notice a pattern. When the “Prize Patrol” first knocks on a door, the sweepstakes winner might gasp and hesitantly smile at the cameras and the balloons, recognizing the familiar script they’ve suddenly been inserted into. But it’s when the money is actually presented, and the amount of the prize revealed, that the crying begins. As a viewer, you feel happy for the winner. You feel gratitude for the Clearing House. And you start wondering what that jumbo check could do for you.
Drake’s new video for “God’s Plan,” the No. 1 song in the country, bottles and elevates that Publishers Clearing House feeling. In it, the Toronto superstar distributes his million-dollar production budget to people around Miami—by telling all the shoppers in a Sabor Tropical Supermarket that everything on the shelves are free, by presenting a scholarship check to an unsuspecting student, by giving gift cards to women at a shelter, and more. The double-takes are the best parts. In one moment, Drake sidles up to a family who’s sitting on a ledge. One of the kids notices the rapper sitting next to her, and shrieks. Drake smiles and hands the family a wad of cash. Star-struck thrill melts into a more tender emotion. The family members cover their eyes, and they hug.
What is this video: goodhearted charity, pop promotional spectacle, or both? Both, making it part of a long history. The word “humanitainment” has been used to describe splashy celebrity-generosity efforts ranging from the Live 8 concert to David Beckham’s UNICEF work, and that term certainly seems to fit “God’s Plan.” It’s an act of grace, and it’s a show—one perfectly calibrated to currently popular attitudes around giving, stardom, and society.
Read more about the impact of Drake's charitable act by Spencer Kornhaber at The Atlantic