9 Times a Man's Contribution Ruined a Woman's Song
When Missy Elliott returned with her first single in three years, "WTF (Where They From)," the Internet was understandably filled with much rejoicing. "Missy's back," the people cried. "The song is good," others said with relief. There were even entire joke pieces dedicated to how sexy puppet Pharrell looked in the video.
Overlooked, however, was the fact that Pharrell's verse in the song itself is not particularly strong. "I come into this bitch like liquid/ Drip, drip, drip, then the business," he raps. "Click, click, get the picture/ Hermes Trismegistus." He later boasts that he's lyrically akin to Optimus Prime, a Transformer not widely known for his songwriting prowess.
Luckily, Elliott picks up the thread to save the song, but Pharrell's verse slows down what is otherwise a pretty spectacular track. It's not horrible, but it adds nothing. He's hardly the first man to do so with a feature. Here are nine other times in pop music a man's addition to a woman's song was at best unnecessary and at worst actively harmful.
1. "Do What U Want" — Lady Gaga feat. R. Kelly
Lady Gaga is nothing if not provocative, from her work (the "Bad Romance" video) to her persona (the meat dress). Yet that streak of raising eyebrows hit a snag when she recorded "Do What U Want" with R. Kelly. The latter artist had dealt with years of allegations that he's engaged in inappropriate behavior with underage girls. One particularly infamous case charged Kelly with filming a sex tape with a minor. He was acquitted in 2008.
On a cultural level, Kelly's appearance on the track was so sticky Gaga even recorded a remix with Christina Aguilera replacing him. On a pure music quality level, the verse takes a song about female sexual empowerment and transforms it into something that feels predatory and male gaze-centric.
Worst line: "I could be the drink in your cup/ I could be the green in your blunt/ Your pusher man/ Yeah, I got what you want"
2. "Focus" — Ariana Grande feat. Jamie Foxx
A relatively recent addition to the list, Jamie Foxx's appearance on "Focus" is the equivalent of a sudden, painful car wreck. The first verse is cute, if not groundbreaking; the perfect kind of song to build the intensity between two even better songs at a gay club. Then, just as it's ramping up, Foxx's bizarre, atonal chant of "focus on me" rams right into the song, derailing it forever.
Foxx is uncredited on the track. Ariana Grande revealed the vocalist's inclusion after the fact, and it's understandable why. His addition is similar to Big Sean's also-uncredited repeated chorus "One less problem without you" on Grande's "Problem," but noisy and far more unpleasant. "Focus" is an embarrassing misfire — Grande deserved better than this.
Worst line: "Focus on me/ F-f-focus on me," over and over, until the end of time
3. "Let Me Go" — Avril Lavigne feat. Chad Kroeger
Nickelback hatred is so mainstream, it's made it into the pages of no less than the New Yorker. Unsurprisingly, frontman Chad Kroeger's French gothic wedding and subsequent marriage to fellow Canuck Avril Lavigne was mocked across the Internet.
Their song together, "Let Me Go," is a thoroughly mediocre track, typical of Lavigne's ballads like "Slipped Away" and "When You're Gone." When Kroeger appears, however, his usual Nickelbackian sound causes tonal dissonance, like a dad-rock lover singing along with pop radio. The result is a sonic mess. It's sad that the Kroeger/Lavigne marriage came to an end, but the fact we'll never have to hear tracks like this is a silver lining.
Worst line: "You came back to find I was gone/ And that place is empty/ Like the hole that was left in me"
4. "On the Floor" — Jennifer Lopez feat. Pitbull
Calling "On the Floor" J. Lo's comeback track feels wrong, since — at least as a celebrity — she never left pop culture. However, it was her first hit single in four years, since "Do It Well."
"On the Floor" introduced Pitbull to the mix, a rapper with whom she'd collaborate eight more times. For making a record with her that went all the way to No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, he deserves some credit. For his actual musical contribution, however, not so much.
In Lopez's sections, "On the Floor" is a slinky club anthem with a sick beat. In Pitbull's, the rapper compares a woman's backside to the bass of a Chevrolet asks his addressee to "back it up like a Tonka truck." It's not exactly his best work.
Worst line: "All I need is some vodka, some chonky konk/ And watch she going to get Donkey Konged"
5. "Drunk in Love" — Beyoncé feat. Jay Z
"Drunk in Love" is a hazy, bleary tribute to the power of intoxication — both in heart and in alcohol consumption. It's one of Beyoncé's odder vocal appearances, but also incredibly hypnotizing. She's sultry and incredibly commanding.
Then Jay Z appears and raps about an abusive relationship.
Her husband's verse is, on the whole, not awful. "Your breasteses are my breakfast" is a little creepy, but it speaks to their relationship and connection in some way. Rapping about Ike Turner forcing Tina Turner to "eat the cake," a reference to the abuse depicted in What's Love Got to Do With It, is not just icky. It's an irresponsible and unnecessary glorification of domestic abuse.
Worst line: "I'm Ike Turner, turn up, baby, no, I don't play/ 'Now eat the cake, Anna Mae,' said, 'Eat the cake, Anna Mae!'"
6. "Roman's Revenge" — Nicki Minaj feat. Eminem
Back in Nicki Minaj's Pink Friday days, the rapper was exploring different egos and identities. One of the most famous was Roman Zolanski, an aggressive Englishman character. She explored this personality on "Roman's Revenge," a song that featured Minaj rapping over a brutal Swizz Beatz beat.
With just Minaj, "Roman's Revenge" could be called a worthy identity experiment. Eminem's contribution to the track, however, involves urinating on a woman after tying her up. He also manages to factor in more of his casual homophobia. How does any of it relate to exploring who Roman Zolanski is?
Worst line: "All you lil' faggots can suck it, no homo"
7. "Love Sex Magic" — Ciara feat. Justin Timberlake
Pop music has never quite found a place for Ciara post-"1, 2 Step." She never had a song that came even close to her biggest hit's success, despite recording other worthy tracks. One of those is "Love Sex Magic," a sultry bit of dance-pop that felt like a hit. Why did it only reach No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100, then?
Justin Timberlake was incredibly popular at the time, having just wrapped a victory lap after his critically lauded album FutureSex/LoveSounds. His sound here, however, never quite gels with Ciara's. Truthfully, the song sounds more like one of his than hers — perhaps because he was one of the authors. In not crafting something that was a better fit for her, Timberlake let Ciara down.
Worst line: "Just do what I taught you girl, when I give you my heat/ And I need you to push it right back"
8. "Blah Blah Blah" — Kesha feat. 3OH!3
"Blah Blah Blah" isn't Kesha's most melodic song. Compared to "Tik Tok," it's practically tone-agnostic. Still, at the time, it was befitting of her party-trash aesthetic. Adding 3OH!3 to the equation did little to make the song better. Their talk-singing lacked the grungy charm to match Kesha's vibe. As if to troll all the English-teacher Kesha fans out there, it also included the words "it only matters who I is."
Worst line: "I don't care who you are/ In this bar/ It only matters who I is"
9. "Proud Mary" — Tina Turner feat. Ike Turner
As referenced by "Drunk in Love," Tina and Ike Turner had an abusive relationship for much of their marriage. It makes their songs together as the duo act Ike & Tina Turner feel all the more uncomfortable in retrospect. "Proud Mary" features relatively little Ike, but his limited addition to the song feels like an intrusion.
This is one of Tina's signature songs. The reminder that he once had such a hold on both her and her career is the very definition of ruining great music.
Worst line: No individual line, but his booming vocal infects her spoken word intro in a way that can't feel anything but disturbing considering the couple's history.