Staff Top 10
Top Ten Artists Who Are Better Off Featuring

they say that in Hollywood, the first ten pages of your screenplay are equal to the first ten minutes of screen time—and if you can’t grab people’s attentions during those first ten pages, you’re stuffed. Sometimes, when it comes to music, a similar situation occurs: in the case of the recent trend for ‘featuring’ artists on others’ releases, vocalists whose long-form work might’ve otherwise put you to sleep can make you sit up and yell “I can’t believe I used to hate this guy!” with just a few carefully chosen notes or words. Of course, chances are you’ll return to said featured artist’s long-form work and realize “oh, I do hate this guy”, but those brief appearances are like musical amnesties: they provide, in 25-words or less, reason for the artist to have entered the music scene in the first place. Even if the rest of their oeuvre sucks monkey nuts. So, sit down with me and holler ‘second comes right after first’ as we celebrate the Top Ten Artists Who Are Better Off ‘Featuring.’

10. Shifty Shellshock
Paul Oakenfold - “Starry-Eyed Surprise”

Well, this one's no argument—did anyone actually think Crazy Town were remarkable beyond the fact that they boasted an impressively convincing John Cusack lookalike within their ranks? *crickets* Anyway, beyond the irksome “Butterfly,” the 'SuicideBoy' group's leader found his only moment of relative musical worth by providing the vocal for Paul Oakenfold’s chill-out-ish club banger (though most of the might can really go to the sample, that being Harry Nilsson's “Everybody's Talkin'”). Where is he now? Nobody cares!

9. Nelly Furtado
Missy Elliott - “Get Your Freak On (Remix)”
Ms Jade - “Ching Ching”

Now, here’s one for debating: “I’m Like A Bird” was one of the great pop singles of the last few years, but beyond that, she was largely misunderstood. Her sophomore record, Folklore, was either derided or ignored and, though it contained a couple of great tracks, Nelly joined the ranks of music history’s some-hit wonders. How fortunate, then, that she found her quirky™ vocals used to great effect upon two of the better hip-hop tracks of the new century. Her place in the “Freak” remix generally polarizes listeners, while her fabulously infuriating “Ching Ching” work sounds like some irksome cartoon conscience sitting on the shoulders of Jade and Timbaland. And both, unlike the rest of her ouput post-“Bird,” were totally memorable.

8. Noel Gallagher
Chemical Brothers – “Setting Sun”
Chemical Brothers – “Let Forever Be”

I might as well get it out of the way now: I hate Oasis. Thankfully for them, Jet have stolen their crown as most shameless (and unimaginative) rip-off merchants around, but their ‘legend’ still stands: you, too, can become famous simply by ripping off Lennon & McCartney and beating your brother up in public whilst mouthing off about everything from hip-hop to politics. As such, his foray into the world of big beat was remarkably refreshing—because for once (see also: P. Diddy), his ego wasn’t left to run rampant in the form of piano glissandos and children’s choirs and god knows what else that The Beatles done first, innit. Gallagher provided just the right amount of rock oompf for these looping, loping Chemicals classics (even if most people only remember the former’s MASSIVE drum beat and the latter’s Michel Gondry video clip), helping to mint two stunners whilst leaving behind his usual naffness, even if it was only for one, brief shining moment.

7. Mya
Pras Michael - “Ghetto Supastar”
The Tamperer - “Feel It”

Speaking of brief, shining moments, there was Mya’s “Case Of The Ex”, that stuttering R&B rant with the Mad Max meets Soul Train video clip—and then there was… nothing much, really. Fear Of Flying and Moodring were patchy affairs, “My Love Is Like… Wo” was just confusing and those of us who’d seen initial promise in her guest-star-peppered debut Mya were left scratching our heads. Her discography was saved, then, by the presence of these two mental moments in hip hop/R&B/er, dance; her dulcet tones provided the honey to Pras’ grit and ODB’s grime in “Supastar,” while in the brilliantly insane “Feel It,” she hollered the immortal line, “WHAT’S! She gonna look like with a chimney on her.” Well jeez, I dunno, Mya, you tell me.

6. Ludacris
Missy Elliott - “Gossip Folks”
Usher - “Yeah”

It’s simple, really: how can you compare “Hard to the core / Core to the rotten / Jump down, turn around, pick a bale of cotton” and/or “WATCH OUT! My outfit’s ridiculous / In the club lookin’ so conspicuous / And RIAOW! / These women are on the prowl / If you hold the head steady, I’ma milk the cow” to, well, anything, really? When he’s guesting, Cris is the master of the short, sharp, obtuse and outrageous one liner and double entendre (see also: 2 Fast 2 Furious).

5. Melanie Chisholm
Bryan Adams - “When You're Gone”

Now, before the Spice Army berate me for belittling the only Spice Girl of worth, I’m talking about her work as Mel C/Melanie Chisholm. Her “Never Be The Same Again” was only saved by the presence of one Lisa “Left Eye” Lopez and, well, the rest of her solo releases were more or less to the general listening public as a blind man is to seeing a black hat in a dark room. But thanks to that Canadian alchemist of great FM rock/pop, Sporty Spice had one great hurrah in the form of “When You’re Gone,” a fizzy confection that continues to thrill Adams’ audiences to this day—he does a Bruce Springsteen and selects a lass from the crowd, pulling her up on stage to sing the song. Or, in the case of the girl at his Melbourne gig, to stand around and occasionally squawk incoherencies. Bless.

4. Sean Paul
Beyonce - “Baby Boy”
Blu Cantrell – “Breathe”

Here’s another whose back-catalogue was the source of either displeasure or excitement, but there’s no denying that Sean Paul had little to offer most listeners other than “Get Busy” and “Feel Alright” (the latter of which most agree was trumped by Nina Sky’s “Move Your Body” when it came to reworking the coolie dance riddim). As it was, dancehall was a very particular sound, and one that the mainstream probably wasn’t ready to listen to in full-length. But when it came to his guests on the booty shakers by the divine Misses B, Sean provided just the right touch of dancehall exotica—which, sadly for the Dutty Rock king, was really all most listeners were prepared to take him as: a novelty.

3. Steve Vai
Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure/Bogus Journey

Let’s get this straight: Steve Vai has done nothing of interest to anyone who actually likes music except playing Rufus, Bill and Ted’s fiddly guitar bits—including, yes, the “excellent!” air guitar (in Journey)—throughout both films and the “Triumphant Guitar Solo” that leads into KISS’ “God Gave Rock & Roll To You II” at the conclusion of Bogus Journey. NOTHING.

2. P. Diddy
Busta Rhymes - “Pass The Courvoisier”
Nelly/Diddy/Murphy Lee - “Shake Ya Tailfeather”

It’s true, Diddy’s had some moments—“Bad Boy For Life” in particular—and his sheer audacity is impressive, but it seems that Sean Puff Combs Puffy John Diddy P. Doodle III finds his best flow when he’s just dropping in and out of songs. Witness his creepy seductiveness on “Courvoisier” or his daft “Capri’s cut low so when you shake it I see your thong” (though it’s no match for Murphy Lee’s “they be like ‘he da man’ when I’m really a Thundercat”—er, okaayy…) in “Tailfeather.” Diddy’s problem, like Jim Carrey, is that when left unchecked, his ego spirals out of control and you end up with a one-way ticket to “Kashmir.” But when he’s under someone else’s whip, the Bad Boy knows brevity is the soul of wit, and that’s the way we like it.

1. Dido
Eminem - “Stan”

The ultimate “champion” of artists who are bettered by being featured, Dido’s wishy-washy MOR only made sense when it was offsetting Eminem’s dark tale of obsession gone wrong. For real: have you heard “Thank You” at its full length? It’s one of the most dribble-inducing songs of Irish Catholic guilt within the context of a relationship ever. The line “My tea’s gone cold / I’m wondering why / I got out of bed at all” makes sense when you realize she’s been bundled, pregnant, into the boot of a doomed car. But when she’s just having a chai latte while she waits for hubby to come home from work? Booooring. She must be thanking Marshall Mathers to this day.


By: Clem Bastow
Published on: 2005-11-11
Comments (19)
 

 
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