There is a line of thought that suggests the way to improve your work is to involve someone else. It might be the use of an editor, or merely getting a second opinion. But, just adding the input of an outsider, even if they are a celebrity, is no guarantee of quality. If you do work with someone else, chose your collaborator carefully.
Occasionally, even the greatest of creative geniuses need a little help from their friends, and there is no denying that in certain instances, two heads are clearly better than one. When approached in the right way, collaborations can lead to some great work.
What childhood would be complete without Rapunzel, Cinderella and Rumpelstiltskin all written by the Grimm brothers. More recent collaborations include Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, and there is also that staple of Christmas stocking fillers, the Guinness Book of Records, co-founded by Ross and Norris McWhirter.
Yes, working together is a prime example of the whole being greater than sum of the parts.
If you Google great musical collaborations, you will be directed to the likes of:
Queen and David Bowie, ‘Under Pressure.’
Aerosmith and Run DMC, ‘Walk this way.’
Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney, ‘Say, Say, Say.’
However, the idea somewhat falls down when the collaborating artist is classed as ‘featured’. To ‘feature’ an artist, is a practice used by a part of the music industry that believes two songs are better than one, especially if they are incompatible and one of them is bollocks.
Instead of working together to create something better, the process involves UH! UH! letting some tuneless wonder into the studio with the sole intention of disrupting YEAH! and ruining what could potentially be a good song. It is like trying to talk UH HUH! UH HUH! with an annoying fuckwit jabbering over your shoulder. The featured artist’s performance YEAH! YEAH! often begins with random noises somewhat akin to Tourettes, and everything goes downhill from there.
At about the two-minute mark, the song is ram-raided with a barrage of ineligible ranting, the speed of which usually far exceeds the performer’s ability to enunciate. The use of a repeated rhyme is often the only clue to there having been any preparation before the microphone was switched on. To add insult to injury, the interruption often starts before the sing…
Pitta patta potty bitta sita shitty gratitude,
Pitta patta potty bitta sita shitty platitude,
Pitta patta potty bitta sita shitty dooby do,
Pitta patta potty bitta sita shitty amplitude.
…er has finished singing their part.
Following a brief reprise of the original song as a chorus, the interruption comes back for another go.
Mumble mumble mum relation,
Bumble bumble bum sensation,
Tumble tumble tum gradation,
Fumble fumble fumble nation.
And so it goes, to the end of the song.
Can you imagine the disappointment of a songwriter at a record company meeting? They have just presented their latest work, something that could be the next Sergeant Pepper, and the record company executive says,
“That’s brilliant, possibly the greatest music we’ve heard for decades. Do you mind if we fuck it up?”
Is it any wonder that there is so much talk of the decline of the music industry?
We can only hope the practice doesn’t spread throughout other creative mediums.
Imagine a world of ‘The very hungry caterpillar (featuring Kanye West).
Some collaborations are destined to never work purely through a complete lack of talent from those involved. If you need to collaborate, it is never enough to work with the first option that is presented to you.
Collaboration will only improve your work if you are both singing from the same song sheet.