The rise of pop singles 'featuring' other artists)
I'm concerned about the F Word in pop. Over the past decade it has gone from making a brief appearance in the top 40 singles charts to now occupying most of the top ten. What is going on? It's not right and it's undermining our respect for the artists involved. I
I am of course talking about singles featuring the word ‘featuring’. Haven’t you noticed? Well, as I read this I’m looking at the top ten singles chart (adopts Alan Freeman voice)
At 9 we’ve got Chainsmokers featuring Halsey,
at 8 it’s Weeknd featuring featuring Daft Punk
at 5 it’s Maroon 5 featuring Kendrick Lamarr
and at 2 it’s Rae Sremmurd featuring Gucce Mane.
Lurking on the outskirts are Ariana Grande featuring Nicki Manaj and the ubiquitous Sia featuring… oh go on then, Kendrick Lamarr.
What is going on? Why is this happening? Can’t artists make music on their own anymore? Can’t they perform alone? Since when did we have to gorge on two courses when we only ordered one?
Of course, I’m not really the demographic. When I sat listening to the Top 40 on Sunday evening as a schoolboy back in the 1920s, I never heard The Stranglers featuring Debbie Harry or Madness featuring Adam Ant. And later into the 80s and 90s I don’t ever recall being entertained by Prince featuring Madonna or Oasis featuring Alanis Morrisette. OK, occasionally we’d have an Ebony and Ivory. A seemingly mystical collaboration between two icons that worked less musically than it did financially.
You can file Bowie and Jagger’s irksome collaboration under that as well (South America!) but charity records are the pioneers of the F word and should be excused.
But now it's different. And it’s been like this for some time. Five years ago we were listening to Rihanna featuring Calvin Harris; Labriynth featuring Tine Tempah, David Guetta featuring Usher and Maroon Five, this time not with Kendrick Lamarr (who hadn’t yet been invented) but with Christina Aguilera.
What about 10 years ago in 2006? Well, slightly less F word contamination but Justin Timberlake’s My Love was at number 2 and featuring Ti.
No, me neither.
And down at 9 was The Saints Are Coming by U2 AND Green Day. Presumably both groups so big and successful that they couldn’t bear having the F word between them.
But if we go back 15 years it was pretty much how it used to be - artists making records all by themselves. Albeit records by Blue, Westlife and The Lighthouse Family.
So what’s going on? What happened a decade ago which suddenly made popstars cosy up to each other and cross pollinate? Was it the sudden discovery that better records can be made if talents are combined? Sadly, I think you’ve already guessed the answer. It was the ruddy Internet reducing artists' sales. Two names on a record gives it double the fanbase and hopefully a big pile of cash.
I suppose I shouldn’t let this sort of thing bother me. After all the proper artists you and I listen to would never dream of featuring each other on singles.
Cue Queen and David Bowie's Under Pressure.