Collabs (abbreviations are the only way that this post is going to be written with a trace of coherency before I collapse into my bed surrounded my holiday prep and Hardy) came into their own this year. We’ve had some inspired pairings and some purely marketed for number 1 status (I’m looking at 2/3 of yours, KP.) Let’s take a gander at some of the best:
1. Till The World Ends – Britney Spears ft. Ke$ha and Nicki Minaj
People are obsessed with this Britney track but I can’t say I hold it up on the pedestal of great music in 2012. In fairness, apparently listeners’ epiphanies occur on a club dance-floor; something of which I have little (no) experience. And I can see that the opening juddering soar could induce something close to an epileptic fit for a club-goer with one too many B-52s pumping around their system. I just wish people would be honest when what they really mean is how impressed they are given the fairly poor record of everything else she has released in the last six years. I love this remix/collab though. I’m a sucker for a Minaj rap and it was neat to have one of the original song’s co-writers, Ke$ha to add her input. Teaching an old dog new tricks or something, right?
2. Take Care – Drake ft. Rihanna (The xx)
I am beyond tired of people whining about Drake whining about his feelings. Jonah can defend him more eloquently and with far more insight than I can but Drake’s musings (as inept as they can sometimes be) are more compelling than a 3 minute track about how many women a rapper can frak. Anyway, Take Care was a neat collab with on/off/sorta/kinda/might-have-happened-once girlfriend, Rihanna. Although her addition is notable (her voice sounds unusually emotional compared to her robotically dancey vocals on Talk That Talk,) it’s Jamie xx’s production that makes the track. The song has a fairly intricate back-story (Jamie xx originally covered Gil Scott-Heron’s I’ll Take Care Of You which has led to thousands of YouTube commenters shouting ‘Drake is a dirty thief!’) but it proves a good segue into Take Care’s atmospheric sound. Rappers, eh? They think they can do anything.
3. Party – Beyoncé ft. Andre 3000.
Andre 3000’s guest vocals carry a slight ick-factor but without them, this single wouldn’t be half as fun. I’m not really cool enough to have had a summer party track, but this would have been in there. Can’t you just see yourself by a pool, surrounded by bikinis, belting the anthemic ‘We like to party-eh-eh’? Nor me. Still, Queen B proved her might as a single, as well as album-maker with 4. This is such a mature party track that you wouldn’t believe she’s still only 29. The video replaces Andre with J.Cole with his remixed version. Make of that what you will:
4. Lift Off – Jay-Z & Kanye West ft. Beyoncé.
You couldn’t really collate 2011’s collabs without talking about Jay-Z and Kanye. Watch The Throne was an enjoyable romp, if slightly irritating at times. This, however is a completely guilt-free 3 minutes of awesome. Beyoncé’s vocals are indisputable as always and Lift Off features some of the less annoying rapping on Watch The Throne. No video as yet, and it seems unlikely with B’s pregnancy and all that:
5. I Feel Pretty / Unpretty – Glee Cast
I don’t know if this really counts but I’m counting it because it was one of the best things about Glee’s second season. Lea Michele has an amazing, unfaltering voice; that’s a given. Dianna Agron’s is less technically spectacular. That is not a criticism, it’s hugely expressive, beautiful and organic. Together, they blend to create a real vulnerability and pull off this ambitious mash-up. What’s really clever about this is the transformation that is effected in the song. Some context, then: the duet was featured in Born This Way, an episode where Rachel (Lea Michele) considered a nose job based on Quinn (Dianna Agron)’s nose. Diana introduces the song with the upper-hand, she is what is deemed beautiful. Throughout the song, Dianna’s vocal suggest that Quinn’s looks are far from a safety net; she still has the exact same insecurities. The final, ‘I feel pretty,’ is undermined by the addition of ‘but unpretty.’ That’s not just a reminder that this is a mash-up and you guys love mash-ups, it’s a wonderful little reminder that even the prettiest of people are fairly messed up. It’s beautiful and it was filmed expertly, too. As is often the case with Glee, the audio track just makes more sense because it hasn’t had to be edited for the episode length so check that out, too: