With the epic rise of The Saturdays’ latest single, What About Us, to the top of the UK charts, we were yet again reminded of one of the strangest aspects of pop music. For a long time, it has been accepted that ‘rent-a-rappers’ are available to holler all over an intro and a middle 8 of a (normally) already decent pop song, and thus increase the song’s demographic by obtaining an element of coolness through association with the rapper. Fair enough: as a theory, this certainly can’t be faulted. However, The Saturdays, having already turned to hardest working rent-a-rapper Flo Rida back in 2010, thus had to cast their net a bit wider this time round. Who do they pick? Sean Paul. Probably best remembered for the 2003 hit Breathe, itself a collaboration with Blu Cantrell, and largely irrelevant in 2013 to 95% of pop music purchasers. Anyway, What About Us has done well despite (or because of?) Sean Paul literally talking rubbish all over it. We still find it hilarious watching The Saturdays awkwardly perform the song with Sean Paul awkwardly stood in the middle, as depicted here on Alan Carr’s show. Could Vanessa and Frankie look any more mortified that this is the pinnacle of their pop careers so far and pissed off that they are the ones forced to stood next to Sean? This led us down the path of thinking of other bizzare collaborations that pop has gifted us. Many bizzare collaborations work, just as many collaborations that ought to work on paper perhaps don’t work so well. Either way, here is our ultimate top 11 of bizzare collaborations within the world of pop music.
We can see the logic here; Taio appeals to the ‘youth’ and whoever else he appeals to, whilst Kylie will bring the gays and the mums on board. Smash hit right? WRONG!!!! Due to the diminishing returns of Kylie’s Aphrodite campaign, with third single Better Than Today limping to the dizzy heights of number 32 in the UK charts, the label seemed to loose all faith in Kylie’s ‘pulling power’ and quickly released a new version featuring Travie McCoy rather than Kylie Minogue. Radio, perhaps understandably, picked up on this version of the song, and thus Kylie’s irrelevancy to a youthful and ‘urban-music’ buying demographic was proved. Nonetheless, when it came to promotion of the song on TV, with Travie not at all fussed, and with Kylie out of the country, presumably recharging her batteries after a tiring Aphrodite campaign, Taio had to find a new friend. Guest vocals on the song were undertaken by Kimberly Wyatt of Pussycat Dolls “fame”, resulting in this legendary performance where she struggles to sing in tune. He later realised how awful Kimberly was, and substituted Jade Ewan of Sugababes fame in. All in all one of the messiest single campaigns we can remember in recent history.
From one Kimberley overshadowed by her bandmates to another. We have a slightly overactive imagination and therefore reckon the conversation between ‘Aggro’ and his label went a bit like this:
Label: Who would you like to feature on your new song? We need a female pop vocalist to sing the hook.
Aggro: Cheryl Cole!
L: We can’t get you Cheryl Cole, but we can get the next best thing…
L: No… it’s Kimberley Walsh!
L: She’s from Cheryl’s band.
A: Which one?
L: The one with a big arse.
We are very big fans of Girls Aloud but they are definitely a case of the old adage a whole being more than the sum of its parts. Kimberley in Aloud, therefore, makes perfect sense. On her own? Not so much. She fails to bring the sassiness, sexiness or sultriness required for Aggro’s song. Despite this, the single made the top 10, instantly making Kimberley more successful than 3/4 of her bandmates.
Natasha Bedingfield. Sweet, demure, lady-like. Sean Kingston. Big Jamaican lad. The song in question? A soppy love song, with a delicate tinkly piano refrain, coupled with lyrics such as ‘Love it when you hold me… Now I’ll never be lonely… I’d never find a love like this’. First rule of the pop love song collab; make it believable. Trying to picture Sean and Natasha as a couple is like chalk and cheese. The whole song is pretty awful, but could possibly have been saved with a more suitable featured artist.
Cher Lloyd ft. Juicy J, Astro, Becky G, Mike Posner, Busta Rhymes, Snoop Dogg, and anyone else who will sing with her.
Cher Lloyd’s debut album, Sticks and Stones, was packed with collaborations, presumably because label Syco weren’t confident enough in her ability to shift units by herself. The majority of these (Busta Rhymes, Mike Posner and Carolina Liar) were good collaborations, so we didn’t mind too much that the placing of Busta Rhymes was a bit creepy – what other 40 year olds hang round with girls of Cher’s age? – and the irrelevancy of the Mike Posner feature. Yes, he has a smooth, soothing voice which beautifully compliments Cher’s more husky, raw tone, but in terms of who Mike Posner would appeal to – he is effectively a one hit wonder with very little fanbase to utilise. However, little were we to know that Cher was soon to get sent over to America, as a result of which her collaborations were about to get a whole lot more foolish – and not in a popfoolish way. First was the completely unnecessary inclusion of ‘Astro’, a 15 year old US X Factor contestant, on Cher’s UK single release of Want U Back. His appearance on the song still haunts us to this day. Presumably this was an attempt to “launch” Astro in the UK, but it completely backfired leading to his removal from the US single version. Cher’s next US single, ‘Oath’, to this day remaining unreleased in the UK, featured Dr Luke “protege” Becky G, also 15. This was completely unfathomable, as she not only sounded and looked too similar to Cher, but also took the whole second verse (!) rather than sticking to the middle 8 as is traditional for guest-spots on pop songs. Most recently has seen the US release of ‘With Ur Love’, which has cold-heartedly replaced Mike Posner with Juicy J. This isn’t a mistype of UK-based popstar Jessie J. Juicy J has a lot more credibility than someone like Astro, but still this collaboration feels very misplaced. Cher’s label seem intent on ruining her reputation with all these collaborations. Her most successful song in the US, Want U Back, is ironically the only one which she has released solo (although rather confusingly, there was also a US mix released featuring Snoop Dogg, yet another collaboration which rings the alarm bells in terms of old men hanging around with Cher).
Alexandra Burke ft. Flo Rida – Bad Boys
This literally needs two words said about it: Alexander (!!!) girl. Listen to his intro and tell us he doesn’t call her Alexander. We won’t believe you.
Yes. Mel C was massive in 1999/2000. This was her first solo number one, swiftly followed by era-defining anthem for the dancefloor (if not dance anthem) ‘I Turn To You.’ But whilst we can just about stomach Mel C randomly turning up at Bryan Adam’s house, we just can’t imagine in a million years someone as effortlessly ‘cool’ as Lisa would ever befriend Mel C. Mel C with her tattoos, her sporty spice persona, her short hair, her Scouse accent and her lesbian-esque style sense. Mel C who, this tune aside, never ever released anything ‘urban’ tinged in her solo career. Whilst more recemt ‘rent-a-rapper’ collabs such as The Saturdays and Sean Paul or Alexandra Burke and Flo Rida certainly have an element of this present, in both those cases we can actually picture the two acts together and getting on with each other. We just can’t here. Great song though.
From one Spice Girl to another now. We don’t take issue with the Truesteppers/Beckham part of this song; Victoria was putting a toe in the water to see how her solo material would be received, and needed a host act which would be willing to comply with her vocal needs – ie excessive processing in a feeble attempt to hide the fact she can’t sing. Truesteppers, who were fairly credible in the UK garage scene, needed a female vocalist who, through their talents or otherwise, would guarantee them a hit. Fine. But why Dane Bowers? Why? Was there literally no-one else willing to put their name alongside Beckham’s? Bowers, who had a moderate hit with the Truesteppers with ‘Buggin’ a few months prior to this song, since has had a middling solo career and is best known these days for going out with Jordan once, going on any reality TV show that will have him, and being a complete twat. Perhaps Truesteppers were unable to get him to leave the studio after the recording session for Buggin and finally conceded to his demands in a last-ditch attempt to get rid of him. We wonder what went through Victoria’s mind when she first met Dane?
The whole idea of Dev as a popstar is one that literally sends shivers of fear down our spine. What does she stand for as a popstar? Who even is Dev? She’s basically a knock off Ke$ha with far worse tunes and little discernible talent going for her. Best known for singing the chorus of Far East Movement’s Like A G6, an increasingly desperate Dev has even chucked out an Enrique Iglesias collaboration, to little success or acclaim. Eric Saade is one of Sweden’s hottest male popstars; he has sung at Eurovision for them, and can be taken as an equivalent to Justin Timberlake. Collaborations such as these freak us out a little; it is obvious Dev and Saade have never met as their bits in the video have been filmed separately, with Dev being beamed onto TV screens that Saade dances around. They have never performed the song live together; Dev’s bit is always pre-recorded and played back whilst Saade dances around the stage. Dev doesn’t know, or care, who Saade is, and the feeling’s probably mutual. Either way, we like the song.
The Jaxx are known for being more than a little left-field, and as such their long and varied collaboration list includes the likes of Paloma Faith, Lightspeed Champion, Yoko Ono, Sam Sparro, Dizzee Rascal, Robyn, and Kelis. But we have to say we don’t ‘get’ why The Jaxx would chose to collaborate with JC Chasez. When asked to name a member of N*Sync, most people would struggle to remember JC’s name. When you couple this with the fact that he once non-ironically released a single called ‘All Day Long I Dream About Sex’, and another named ‘Some Girls Dance With Women’, and you will see why we think he makes a weird choice. Either way, this tune is a banging example of lovely electropop , so do give it a listen if you’ve not heard it before.
When comeback mania hit in the latter part of the noughties, the comeback that literally nobody was praying for, and thus was one of the worst received, was that from NKOTB. They teamed up with producer RedOne in the studio, best known for kickstarting Lady GaGa’s career with the classic ‘Just Dance’. But we imagine that Lady has since wished her hit didn’t come at such a big price as collaborating with NKOTB. The fact this actually exists proves that Lady had no idea she was about to become a global megastar. NKOTB, and their label, clearly didn’t know either, or they might have tried to latch on to her rising star and release this as a single. Although she did tour with NKOTB as support for their comeback act, so at least we can assume she was friendly with them.
Bob Sinclar ft. Sophie Ellis-Bextor & Gilbere Forte – Rock With You [WARNING: EXPLICIT CONTENT]
This one will be of no surprise to Sophie’s diehard fans, who will be aware of her numerous recent penchant for lending her vocals to songs by random European DJs. What will come as a surprise is the name and content of the song! It is known as ‘Fuck With You’, with the title above being the radio version, and contains amongst other things a lewd video and lyrical gems from a rent-a-rapper who says to Sophie [gonna]’make you love me so much that you fucking hate me’ and ‘I’ma fuck you then fuck your friend’! It’s enough to make Janet Ellis blush!
Other bizzare collabs worth a mention:
Britney ft. Ying Yang Twins – (I Got That) Boom Boom (‘SHAWTEEEE, we gon go to the club and get crunk with BRITNEY!’)
Erick Morillo ft. Alexandra Burke – Elephant
Britney ft. Sabi – Drop Dead Beautiful (‘steaming like a pot full of vegetables’)
Robbie Williams & Nicole Kidman – Something Stupid
Alexandra Burke ft. Laza Morgan – Start Without You