For a collaboration to be successful, a few things must happen. Most importantly, it must feel like the featured artist is supposed to be there, not as if they dropped in for a hot second only to bail shortly after. It’s imperative that they work well with each other instead of one overpowering the other. Additionally, the artists’musical styles must blend well because while there are few things more entertaining than an inter-genre collaboration (Florida Georgia Line and Jason Derulo, anyone?), the song must make sense. Below is my Top 5 list for collaborations in 2014 that met and exceeded these qualifications.
Number Five: “No Mediocre” – T.I. and Iggy Azalea. T.I. and protégé Iggy Azalea teamed up this summer to produce a unique smash hit that distinguished itself from other rap songs at the time. Featuring a prominent steel drum, this hybrid of hip-hop and reggae basically begged to get stuck in listeners’ heads. Contributing to the success of this collaboration is Iggy’s verse, a necessary addition to ensure that T.I.’s didn’t become too monotonous. While we have the self-proclaimed “King of the South” informing listeners that “All I f- is bad b***es / I don’t want no mediocre”, Iggy drops in for some much needed female perspective, and there’s no one whose vocals could pair so perfectly with T.I.’s.
Number Four: “Rather Be” – Clean Bandit and Jess Glynne. As the #1 Most Shazamed song in the UK and a track still enjoying massive success today,“Rather Be” comes to us from English electronic band Clean Bandit and showcases sultry but driving vocals from Jess Glynne. A sucker for instrumental intros and tracks, I can get down to this one from the beginning, when my head starts bobbing, to just before the outro, when I’m full-on dancing, making driving to it a somewhat dangerous affair. Glynne meshes incredibly well with the vibe of the band and is able to maintain its jazzy feel. Part of the success of this collaboration is the two styles colliding in order to give listeners something much different than everything else that was released at the same time.
Number Three: “Latch” – Disclosure and Sam Smith. I would be lying if I said I knew this was a collaboration when I first heard it. Part of the success of this song is how Sam Smith absolutely owns it, using it to serve as a prime example of his virtuosity as a musician. “Latch” demonstrates a smooth blending of styles, with Disclosure’s catchy electronic hooks serving as a prime backdrop for Sam Smith’s colorful soul vocals. Few other artists could have paired to produce a song as polished as this one.
Number Two: “Go Away” – Weezer and Bethany Cosentino. From Weezer’s ninth-studio album Everything Will Be Alright in the End. This co-written collaboration ranks highly on the list for a couple reasons. First and foremost, each of the singers’ verses are done in their signature style, with Weezer employing their gritty, driving sound while Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino relies on beachy guitar runs in order to establish her presence. By utilizing such methods, the divergent personalities of the couple in the narrative are made apparent. While the lyrics may not be particularly astounding (“Go away, go away / don’t come back here anymore”), “Go Away” is a joining of forces featuring well-blended vocals and musical styles.
Number One: “***FLAWLESS Remix” – Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj. When either of these talented (perhaps the understatement of the century) ladies appears on a track as a featured artist, the concern is that they might overpower the other. “The queen of rap slayin’ with Queen Bey” could have been a power struggle for the ages with Nicki attempting to establish her title and Beyoncé enhancing her powerhouse of a song, previously featuring Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. However, their energies work together to produce verses authoritative enough to match each others’ as well as the dynamic nature of the music. Both artists mesh extremely well together, building off each other to create one of the fiercest female collaborations of all time.