Playlist: Not-so-Super Superstar Collabs

Collaborations have exponentially increased since the 90s. Nelly and Kelly Rowland struck gold with “Dilemma”. But some turn out to be duds. Here are 15 collaborations that didn’t break chart records. Instead, they broke my expectations.


Birthday Cake by Rihanna and Chris Brown

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I stan Rihanna. But sometimes, I can’t understand what’s going through her head. I can compare her to a friend I advise to let go of the toxic and abusive relationship she’s in. For reasons beyond my comprehension, she keeps on coming back to a man I know she’s better off without.

Homecoming by Kanye West and Chris Martin

Kanye West used to be sane and Chris Martin was considered cool. Back then, the two collaborated on “Homecoming”. The contrast in their musical styles works perfectly to amplify the bittersweet nature of leaving everything and everyone behind in pursuit of one’s dreams. But I guess not everyone felt as sentimental.

Up Out My Face by Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj

You’ve probably never heard of it. But in 2010, Nicki was featured on a Mariah Carey track. They joined forces to take a jab at men who were not worth their time. A few years later, they would feud in every single episode of American Idol. Maybe “Up Out My Face” should’ve been a warning sign that another collaboration, even on TV, wouldn’t work.

Control Myself by LL Cool J and Jennifer Lopez

“All I Have” was a smash in all senses of the word. So I’m not surprised LL Cool J and J Lo re-united. They could’ve stuck to the formula and released a ballad. Instead, they decided to rock the boat. They made a club jam, or so they thought. The trajectory change was risky but admirable. The sound that came out was alienating for its time (and even now).

My Life by 50 Cent, Adam Levine and Eminem

Before retiring from the music scene, 50 Cent wanted to top “In da Club”. If he enlisted Eminem and Adam Levine, he could easily secure a hit. Today, clubs have not forgotten about his debut single. DJs play it every time the setlist changes to throwback or hip-hop. However, no one remembers “My Life”. I bet you weren’t aware it existed.

Beautiful Liar by Shakira and Beyonce

“Beautiful Liar” did not live up to its hype. The two sounded restrained. They seemed to be holding back. The world expected fireworks to explode. Instead, we stumbled upon a decent lights show. I can hear Shakira doing something similar again (remember the Rihanna collab). But Beyonce would not dip her toes on this again.

Another Way to Die by Alicia Keys and Jack White

Almost all 007-inspired singles are meant to alienate the general public. Adele and Sam Smith garnered accolades for their contribution to the Bond music legacy. On the other hand, Alicia Keys and Jack White got roasted for it. If the duet came after Adele resurrected the franchise’s soundtrack, the two might have just won awards themselves.

Work It by Nelly and Justin Timberlake

Nelly and Kelly Rowland were responsible for ushering in the era of collaborations. But Nelly needed to understand that the star power of his partner had no correlation to the song’s quality or reception. Justin Timberlake’s fame surpassed Kelly Rowland’s by a mile. Unfortunately, no one got pumped up with “Work It”. It was dull and uninspired.

Pretty Girls by Britney Spears and Iggy Azalea

Britney intended to make a comeback. Iggy needed damage control. “Pretty Girls” wasn’t meant to change the world. But it was created to re-establish their relevance in pop music. What resulted was an underwhelming chart performance. Two superstars pointed fingers on who’s to blame. And for all their beauty, things got ugly.

Half of My Heart by John Mayer and Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift and John Mayer ended on a bitter note. Taylor Swift even wrote a scathing song about the end of their relationship – the not-so-subtle “Dear John”. But if you recall, they used to sing together. They talked about half of their hearts. They used to believe their love affair will last. How cute!

Revolver by Madonna and Lil Wayne

What I don’t understand about Madonna in the last decade is why she keeps on pairing up with hip-hop artists. Except for “4 Minutes”, all their inclusions have made the songs unbearable and have not increased her reach. Lil Wayne’s verses in “Revolver” are at best unnecessary, and at worst, atrocious.

Bubble Butt by Major Lazer, Bruno Mars, Mystic, Tyga and 2 Chainz

Bruno Mars can do no wrong. Or could he?  Many of the topnotch collaborations released in the past few years have benefited significantly from his ethereal voice – “Billionaire”, “Nothin’ on You”, “Lighters” and “Uptown Funk”. While he can be forgiven for “Bubble Butt”, the song can never be forgotten. This happened before Major Lazer broke out and I guess that’s a good thing.

Incredible by Celine Dion and Ne-Yo

Celine Dion’s ballads dominated the 90s. And this extended to the collaboration sphere. Think of “Tell Me” or “I’m Your Angel”. But she has not had much commercial success since. In a bid to captivate current audiences, she updated her sound with Ne-Yo. While the song would’ve been incredible two decades ago, it unfortunately didn’t catch on.

Beautiful by Enrique Iglesias and Kylie Minogue

The track sounds so auto-tuned that it takes away any beauty in “Beautiful”. Here are two of the hottest singers in my lifetime, managing to make love sound manufactured and robotic. It made hearts colder. Where is the Kylie Minogue responsible for “Especially for You”?

Just a Fool by Christina Aguilera and Blake Shelton

In another judge pair-up attempting to re-establish relevance, Christina paired up with Blake Shelton for “Just a Fool”. You couldn’t make out if the sound was country or pop, but it undoubtedly showcased Christina’s vocal chops. While Blake Shelton has garnered an insurmountable amount of country success because of the show, Christina was a fool to think the show and collaborating with co-coaches would be enough. She even did one with Cee Lo Green and that one went by and no one noticed.


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