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Commentary: Pitbull, others need to give us songs without multiple featured artists

Courtesy of MCT

Somebody has to be No. 1.

This summer, just like every other, came with the release of a ton of new CDs, singles and collaborations. Pitbull and Enrique Iglesias, each with a new CD, are really dominating the airwaves.

But neither Pitbull nor Iglesias, nor hardly any other rapper or artist that the radios love this summer, dominate alone. It seems like almost every song this summer features another artist and I’m getting confused.

Listening to the radio has become a chore. I spend so much time during the song trying to decipher who sings the song I’m listening to and who the featured artist is that I can’t enjoy the music. It would be significantly easier to figure out if you knew background information on the artists, like who released a CD this summer, but not everyone should be expected to know that.

Even if you are up-to-par on your new release knowledge, that doesn’t guarantee you’ll be able to tell who the song belongs to. Like I said before, Pitbull and Iglesias both recently released CDs. But just to introduce a little chaos into the situation, each artist has a song featuring the other. Confusing? I think so.

It used to be easy to tell who was being featured on a song. One artist sang the verses and another sang the refrain. Simple. A featured artist diversified the song with a new voice, the listener was happy and there was no confusion. The artist to whom the song belonged was the dominant voice that listeners heard. Now it’s hard to tell. Artists have transformed the typical song formula of verse, refrain, repeat, and featured artists sing the same amount, if not more, than the original singer.

Maybe the problem is with rappers’ egos. They all think they’re the “baddest” rapper there is, that their music is the best and that everyone cares about their opinions more than everyone else’s. It’s like being featured in a song isn’t enough, so they have to be deceptive and ambiguous about who the featured singer really is.

Then there are songs that feature two or three different people, which brings a whole new level of pandemonium to the ear drums. In most cases, this is completely unnecessary because it’s likely that two or more of the artists in the song sound exactly the same anyway.

“Run This Town” by Jay-Z, although dated, is a good example. It’s a great song, don’t get me wrong; I often listen to it while I’m running. I like Rihanna’s part in the song, but was it really necessary to have Kanye West and Jay-Z on the same song? Let’s be real, their voices aren’t that different from each other.

Kanye and Jay-Z released an album together, “Watch the Throne.” I think it’ll be bumpin’ and I’m excited to hear it, and they’re doing it right. Instead of coming out with songs that feature the other, they’re both taking ownership, reducing confusion for the listener.

Eminem did that with Royce da 5’9″. Instead of coming out with his own stuff and featuring some dude from Detroit no one had heard of, he just created Bad Meets Evil. Their song “Lighters” features Bruno Mars and is another good example of what singers should do. Bruno Mars sings the refrain only, while Eminem and Royce da 5’9″ sing the rest of what I think is a great song. I just saw Eminem at Lollapalooza in Chicago, and when Bruno Mars made a surprise appearance for this song, the audience loved it.

Some artists just put out several different versions of songs that all feature different people. Iglesias’ hit “Dirty Dancer” features Usher. But then there’s a different version that features Usher and Lil Wayne. Why? When you hear the second version, you’re dumbfounded. Are you are just going crazy and somehow failed to notice Lil Wayne the previous 700 times you heard the song on the radio? But how could you miss Lil Wayne? When a song causes you to question your sanity, it is not a good thing.

Katy Perry is a big fan of doing that as well, but at least you know hers have two versions. There is a version of “California Girls” with Snoop Dog and one without, and there’s a version of “E.T.” with Kanye and one without. It’s not like she features someone on one version then features them and someone else on a different version. Obviously Katie Perry realizes the superfluousness in double-featuring.

Having a guest appear in your song is not wrong. But it needs to be done correctly. Somebody has to be No. 1, and for the good of the listeners and the fans, who all artists should ultimately be trying to please, this needs to be made evident.

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