Best Collaborations of 2017 (So Far)
    • THURSDAY, JUNE 22, 2017

    • Posted by: Larisha Paul

    As much as people joke about J. Cole's album 2014 Forest Hills Drive going double platinum with no features, the ability to accumulate such a large amount of success without the aid of having other artists on your project is something lots of musicians take pride in. I assume that they get some kind of rush from the whole "I did this on my own," kind of mentality, and that's wonderful and deeply respectable; however, when you're listening to an artist's voice for a time period as extended as a 10+ track album, it isn't difficult to get somewhat bored with what you're hearing. Every song starts to sound the same and you begin to wish there was a separate sound included to break up the monotony of the music. It is because of this reason that album features are so appreciated–when they're quality collaborations, of course. We're less than 7 months into 2017 and this year has already been jam packed with impeccable album and single releases–many of which demonstrate artists coming together to create some of the best collaborations we've heard in awhile. 7 months of music is a lot to sift through, so we've compiled a list of ten collaborations across various genres that we consider to be the best of 2017 as of yet.

    1. "1-800-273-8355" by Logic featuring Alessia Cara and Khalid

    This track, often shortened to "1-800", can easily be considered one of the most important tracks of 2017. The title is the phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline which goes along with the lyrical theme of the song which is set up as a conversation between a phone operator at the hotline and someone who no longer wants to be alive. Logic plays both roles involved until Alessia Cara enters as the operator in the second verse angelically vocalizing the reasons why the person should continue living. By the end of the song, the individual gains a newfound desire to be alive–a realization shown as Khalid sings "I don't wanna cry / I wanna feel alive / I don't even want to die anymore." a top a soft piano melody and choir-like harmonies in the outro. "1-800" is a definite outlier in comparison to the other songs on Logic's Everybody, but by recruiting Alessia and Khalid he maximized the amount of people these words would reach and there's no saying how many people they have helped by doing this.

    2. "LOVE." by Kendrick Lamar featuring Zacari

    Kendrick's DAMN. is, well, not arguably, one of the best albums of 2017. The 14 track album has appearances from notable artists Rihanna and U2, as well as one less known artist, Zacari. Not knowing who this artist is, many didn't know what to expect when they first gave "LOVE." a listen. Little did they know, less than 10 seconds into the song they would fall head over heels in love with Zacari's voice. His smooth sound bears a stark contrast to Kendrick's usual sound which unexplainably pulls the song together. Kendrick doesn't have a lot of love songs in general, especially not on DAMN., so Zacari's contributions help us make a bit more sense of the song's inclusion on the album. He carries the majority of the chorus, singing "Sipping bubbly / Feeling lovely / Living lovely / Just love me," before beginning to go back and forth with Kendrick's additions.

    3. "Heatstroke" by Calvin Harris featuring Young Thug, Pharrell Williams, and Ariana Grande

    Calvin Harris has been really coming through with summer bangers this year, "Heatstroke" being the second, following "Slide" featuring Frank Ocean and Migos. At first glance, the lineup of artists on this song seem fairly odd, or at least Young Thug does, but in the end it all pulls together and works out so well. I'm convinced that you can put Ariana Grande on any song and automatically make it a hit, her voice is a gift to the music industry that came wrapped in a big red bow. She comes in during the refrain of "Heatstroke," perfectly harmonizing with Pharrell, another absolute legend, to make for a heartwarming, feel-good vibe. Young Thug makes up most of the song, covering three lengthy verses, and in doing so adds something that makes the song so much fun. At one point, he references Mr. Ratburn from the cartoon series 'Arthur', and I don't think that that has come to anyone else's mind before while in the studio, so props to him for that.

    4. "Strangers" by Halsey featuring Lauren Jauregui

    Halsey teamed up with Lauren Jauregui of Fifth Harmony to create a powerful dance track that apparently angered many in the best way possible. The song itself tells a story of two women who attempted to keep up a relationship with one another but failed to do so. The upset I mentioned earlier on came to light following the performance of "Strangers" during Halsey's today show performance in which she brought Lauren on stage. Many were shocked and not too satisfied with the display of a same sex relationship in the song, which suggests that maybe they should have done a bit of research before tuning in. Halsey and Lauren are both openly bisexual individuals who have often used their platforms to speak on issues within the LGBTQ+ community. This is the first song Halsey has released using female pronouns, rather than gender neutral ones as she normally would, clearly deciding that enough is enough and acknowledging how important this kind of representation is.

    5. "I'm the One" by Dj Khaled featuring Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance the Rapper, and Lil Wayne

    Not too long ago, I curated a list of collaborations that shouldn't have worked but did, and my first thought was to put "I'm the One" on the list; however, if you notice–it didn't make the cut. As I tried to come up with an explanation as to why this track should have logically never happened, I came to every realization as to why it is actually so incredible. I know it's only been out for about 2 months, but it has not moved from #1 on my songs of the summer list. Justin is responsible for the chorus and obviously is acting as the glue to hold this whole thing together. Quavo has been doing a whole lot of everything on everyone's songs this year, from Katy Perry to Major Lazer, and I think it is because of his constant presence that so many people have developed a liking for his sound. I was never the biggest fan of Lil Wayne, no matter how hard middle school me tried, but if he had a song on the radio I most likely knew every word to his verse(s) within a short period of time–and this song worked out to be no different. Moving on to Chance, the list of people he's worked with on projects is a mile long, so I wasn't too surprised to see him on this line up. I will say, however, that I am so grateful for "Then she went and put that booty on that Gucci belt" because, honestly, where else would we ever get Chance rapping a lyric that lands so well and has a little chuckle at the end? Nowhere.

    6. "Biking" by Frank Ocean featuring JAY Z and Tyler, the Creator

    Frank Ocean's long awaited album Blonde came out last August, 4 years after his debut album channel ORANGE. Since then, Frank has dropped 4 tracks, one of which being "Biking," as if he's trying to leave enough behind so that people won't notice when he disappears for another 4 years. It won't work Frank, we're watching you. Of these recent releases, "Biking," is the only track that features other artists. It's been quite a while since either JAY Z or Tyler, the Creator have released new music of their own, so it was nice to have them appear with Frank on this track. The entire vibe created screams summer sunsets in the city, meaning that it isn't as calm as it would be somewhere in the suburbs, but it also still holds the tranquil feeling of watching the sunset. Each artist carries their own separate metaphors in their verses, all centered around bikes and biking, but they somehow manage to create links between these ideas. I've seen this collaboration receive some mixed reviews, a fair amount of people preferring "Biking (solo)" that removes all contributions from Jay and Tyler, replacing them with more verses of just Frank; but, nevertheless, the trio makes for a quality collaboration.

    7. "Dreamer" by Charli XCX featuring Starrah and Raya

    Back in March, Charli XCX dropped Number 1 Angel, a 10 track mixtape with quite a few collaborations. As much of a bop as "3AM (Pull Up) featuring MO is, it comes in second to "Dreamer." It's the first song on the mixtape, and because of that it pretty much sets the tone for everything else to come. The song opens with a banging Charli controlled chorus where she mentions everything from BMWs to stretch limousines before leading into the first verse provided by Starrah. Starrah is a 27 year old singer, songwriter, and rapper who has worked with numerous iconic names in music including the Weeknd, Nicki Minaj, and Major Lazer. Her verse sets up the perfect transition into Raya's verse. She picks up Starrah's "I went to go get it, I get it, I got it" flow and uses that to dive into one of the best verses on the entire mixtape. I know we were suppose to leave the term lit in 2016, or maybe even 2015, but it's so necessary here. Raya playing off of Starrah, and the track as whole, is lit. Charli has always created perfect party songs but this is next level.

    8. "Rollin'" by Calvin Harris featuring Future and Khalid

    On May 9th, Calvin Harris sent a tweet that read "ALBUM COMING JUNE 30" accompanied by a brief album trailer. The trailer presents a lineup of all of the artists to be featured on the album while a track featuring alternative R&B's hottest new artist, Khalid. At that moment, there was no mention of when the track would be released, if it would be at all, as a single. I am not a patient person whatsoever and having to wait over a month to hear the full track would have actually ended me. Thankfully, my prayers were answered and the full track was released three short days later. Not exaggerating, I'm pretty sure I had "Rollin'" on a loop for 48 hours straight. I reacted in a similar way when Khalid's American Teen came out, but with Future in the mix here I didn't expect to be able to tolerate the song after the 7th or 8th play. Each of Future's verses was better than the last, the best lyric being "Gotta dig what I'm saying, she look like she's sponsored by Mercedes / Dig what I'm saying, this Creed cologne is on my, baby." Those are two very expensive sentences, truly. Khalid takes control during the chorus, informing the recipient that they just "weren't the vibe," before going more into this in the outro as he pleasingly sings, "Keep your love, it doesn't feel the same / I hope it hurts you when you're hearing my name." I don't know what this girl did to him, but damn.

    9. "Still Got Time" by Zayn featuring PARTYNEXTDOOR

    I spent pretty much the entirety of my high school career so far down the black hole that is One Direction, and Zayn was my favorite throughout all of that–even after his departure in 2015. So, unsurprisingly, anything he releases is good in my book; but, I was actually blown away by how much I enjoyed "Still Got Time." There weren't a lot of songs on Zayn's debut album Mind of Mine that carried the kind of upbeat, carefree vibe that "SGT" does. PARTYNEXTDOOR somehow made a boyfriend material joke not sound absolutely awful, as it normally would if anyone used one in conversation. I'm not sure who approached who first, but Zayn and PND's vocals together make you start to crave a full length collaborative album from the two. Their sounds play off of each other so well and, though they aren't incredibly distinct, they both bring something unique and tasteful to the table.

    10. "Nobody Knows" by Mansionz featuring Soren Bryce

    Formed in 2016, Mansionz is the collaborative project of rapper Blackbear and singer Mike Posner. Their debut album as a duo was self-titled and was released in March. As a whole Mansionz was pretty wild. The lyrical content of the songs included mentioned pretty much anything you can think of, but in the weirdest way it worked so well. Although many songs have a humorous tone to them, such as "Life of a Troubadour" and "Dennis Rodman," "nobody knows" gets a little more serious. Posner and Blackbear break the song into two parts, the first part featuring Soren Bryce, a singer songwriter from Amarillo, Texas. Bryce's soothing vocals open the track as she sings, "Nobody knows, nobody knows, no one / You'll never know, you'll never know me, hun." So here we have three distinctly different artists drawing their abilities together to create a personal and somewhat tragic song. "Nobody knows" is unified around the lyric, "I hate all the things that I love," as Mansionz goes through their experiences with not being able to truthfully express their emotions for others due to their past. As sad as it may seem, this kind of content makes for a more interesting and genuine angle than the sex and drug stories they usually tell in their music.

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