From Lady Gaga to Lady Marmalade: The Almighty Pop Collab

With the bite and grit of a woman scorned, Lady Gaga’s comeback single was released last week to much fanfare – mostly because Kevin Parker and Mark Ronson co-wrote and produced it. Though the song itself has received mixed feedback from critics and fans alike (a lot of people seem to be overlooking the fact that it is Gaga’s song and will be on her upcoming fifth album when they screech “less Gaga! More Kevin!” but I digress), it’s a clever career move for all involved. The Tame Impala mastermind recently told Triple J about his thought process when the offer first came up: “It was amazing, really really good. One of those life/career-defining times. It started out sort of like a career move. Like, ‘I’ll get in on that.’ But it quickly became something so personal and so meaningful for everyone involved. I’m just happy it’s all out in the open now. Now I can not tell secrets anymore.”

And he isn’t the only one. A pop collaboration of such a magnitude can breathe new life into a career, boost a newer artist into the spotlight, bring two (or more!) distinctive voices together, help one make the transition from boy/girl band into solo super stardom. Or, it can fail miserably and fizzle out. Here, we take a look ten other life/career defining (for better or for worse) pop collaborations of recent memory – from Gaga to Gwen, there have been a few.

Bang Bang – Jessie J, Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj

A Lady Marmalade for the 2010s, Bang Bang had it all. The seasoned, jazzy vocals of Jessie J’s are bolstered by those of the current princess of pop, Ariana Grande. However perhaps the most important element of all, and something that could be considered a genre all it’s own, the track features what is known as Nicki’s Verse. Once again, Minaj steals the show, to the tune of a wildly energetic rhythm and immediately infectious earworm riff.

Lady Marmalade – Lil’ Kim, Christina Aguilera, Mya & Pink

You can’t mention Bang Bang without Lady Marmalade, the last great multi-female pop-rap collab. Originally released in 1974, it was always intended to be performed by a vocal ensemble. However, upon featuring on the Moulin Rouge soundtrack, it this version will forever endure as The One when it comes to pop collabs. Having sat at no. 1 for five weeks after its release, you would have thought it was written with no one other than Christina Aguilera, Mýa, Pink and Lil’ Kim in mind.

The Boy is Mine – Brandy & Monica

So iconic was this Brandy and Monica collaboration that it’s recently been given the sample treatment along with Destiny’s Child. Nothing beats the original though: two fierce as fuck women in what at first seems to be a girl-hating anthem but turns out to be an exposé of a good for nothing, two timing cheater. Honestly, with the way their voices work together on The Boy Is Mine, it’s a wonder Monica and Brandy didn’t release an entire album together, Then again, too much of a good thing may have meant have taken away some of the shine.

Telephone – Lady Gaga & Beyoncé

Kevin Parker isn’t the only major artist who saw an opportunity in collaborating with Lady Gaga. This 2010 hookup resulted in one of the biggest, most important pop collaborations of both artist’s careers. Originally written by Gaga for one Britney Spears, the song was released as part of Gaga’s Grammy nominated album The Fame Monster the year before Bey dropped 4. It pushed Beyoncé into a new light, everything from her double time verse to the masterpiece of a music video were highly calculated moves that helped her build upon the Sasha Fierce attitude while bringing together two pop powerhouses who might have otherwise seemed to be on opposing sides of the genre.

My Boo – Usher & Alicia Keys

Originally left off the final track listing to the record, My Boo was leaked online along with three other previously unreleased tracks from Usher’s 2004 the album before being added to the expanded version of Confessions. Having previously collaborated with Alicia Keys on If I Ain’t Got You, producer Jermaine Dupri wanted to tap further into the musical relationship between two of the biggest names in r&b and pop at the time and to say it worked out well would be an understatement.  It went on to be the fourth single from the album and was the highest debut of them all, coming in at number twenty nine upon its release.

Where Are Ü Now – Justin Bieber, Shrillex & Diplo

Justin Bieber, Pop’s comeback kid of 2015 knows a thing or two about collaborations. He’s worked with Queen Nicki and his 2015 album featured Big Sean, Halsey and Travi$ Scott to name but a few. Commercially however, one of the biggest standout pop collabs of the past year came from his partnering with Shrillex and Diplo for the second single from the duo’s debut album. The song blew up airwaves (including a brief moment where Justin Bieber was actually aired on triple J) before it went on to be included on Bieber’s Purpose. Officially marking his return, Where Are U Now almost singlehandedly reintroduced the world to the slick, new, adult Biebs that went on to cultivate an entire new generation of fans. 

California Gurls – Katy Perry & Snoop Dogg

Snoop has had his fair share of collabs – we could have made a list with his alone. However, of recent memory, his appearing on Katy Perry‘s California Gurls sticks out as one of the most wtf collaborations conjured up by executives somewhere no doubt. Still, something about it worked because it earned Perry her second US no. 1 hit and Snoop his third as it went on to reach the top spot in ten other countries and received a Grammy nod. 

Suit & Tie – Justin Timberlake & Jay Z

Marking the end of his musical hiatus, Suit & Tie was the first single off Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience – a critically acclaimed commercial juggernaut of an album that sparked a near two-year tour. The Jay Z-featuring Suit & Tie surpassed Timberlake’s own record for the most sales in its first week, with the slightly out of time beat and hazed-out drawl of a song sticking around as the hit of what seemed to be the entire year.

Dilemma – Nelly & Kelly

Off Nelly’s album 2001 Nellyville and the lead single from Kelly Rowland’s debut solo album, Simply Deep, released later the same year, this track won the duo a Grammy award. While Rowland’s career hasn’t reached the heights of her fellow child of destiny, Beyoncé, this was the track that showed her to be much more than essentially a featured backup singer for Bey’s. While Beyoncé has her plethora of collaborations and Michelle sings the Lord’s praise in her new career as a gospel singer, neither can stake claim on Dilemma, practically the most enduring collaboration track of the early 2000s with a (now meme-worthy) video to go along with it. I.C.O.N.I.C.

Let Me Blow Ya Mind/and Rich Girl – Gwen Stefani & Eve

During her early-mid-2000s peak, Eve was nothing short of a collab-extraordinaire. But if there was one partnership that proved to be a cut above the rest, it was when she hopped on a track with No Doubt’Gwen Stefani. Off Eve’s sophomore album, Let Me Blow Ya Mind gave us the first insight into what was truly a match made in pop heaven (or maybe it was hell, because that video was badass AF for the time, even if you did wonder what happened to Gwen’s car once Dre broke the duo out of jail). They followed it up three years later on Stefani’s debut solo album, the Dr Dre produced track Rich GirlWhile it was fun and easy enough to go along with, the song (a last minute addition to Stefani’s Love. Angel. Music. Baby) didn’t come anywhere near reaching the bar set with let Me Blow Ya mind.

Image: Consequence of Sound