In the sports entertainment universe, wrestler Rob Van Dam is “the whole damn show.” In the fictional sphere of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, ascending to international tennis is “making the show”; in the real world, that’s what aspiring baseballers think of as earning a spot on a MLB team. In contemporary adult pop, Beyonce Knowles is “the show”: a sleek, melismatic sylph with diversified artistic and business interests, entire whirling constellations of girl-you-so-crazy gesticulations and tics. Solange is her indie-leaning younger sister and Jay Z her hip-hop president hubby, but Bey eclipses both of them and everyone else on Earth, even when Barack Obama’s in the room.
Most of the time, billion-watt megastars like her don’t really need collaborative foils; they just get in the way when the Princes and Michael Jackson’s and Madonnas of the world are laying waste to huge cities like New York, Paris, and Tokyo. Sometimes, though–sometimes
Our Bey’s world collides with some lesser heavenly body, and odd, unexpected magicks happen. Below, we round her the 10 most amazing collabs, from least astounding to most irreplaceable.
Beyonce performs at Barclays Center Saturday, Sunday and Monday, August 3, 4 and 5.
10. Beyonce feat. Andre 3000,
If you catch yourself psychoanalyzing “Party,” you’re too uptight, pal–you’re like the chick rocking Laura Ashley ensembles during an all-ages show at the Smell or something. You probably need to knock back a couple shots, maybe do a cartwheel. Relax. Bey and Three Stacks are kicking back, just chilling; you should, too.
9. Destiny’s Child,
“Lose My Breath”
Their “Push It,” basically (not their “I’ve Seen Footage,” or is it?) with structural assists from Rodney Jerkins and Jay Z, that sounds maybe half as crazy as the video makes them look, which–honestly–was/is a big part of the appeal of these three. Ideal for cheerleading routines, Zumba workouts, house-painting marathons; way less skanky than “Jumpin’, Jumpin'” several years earlier, somehow not as stridently murderess and surly as “Ring The Alarm” a couple years later.
8. Mary J. Blige feat. Beyonce
“Love A Woman”
Wherein the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul and Mrs. Sean Carter put their heads together to compress a Maxim Magazine column’s worth of relationship advice into five perfectly molten minutes.
7. Beyonce feat. Jay Z
“Crazy In Love”
Nobody really drops in on “Crazy In Love” after a long absence to listen to Jay Z play hypeman to his lady, but there’s a terrestrial cast to his rhymes that acts as a nice contrast to Bey’s Cirque De Soleil showboating here. Nobody’s gonna change the station if this one comes on; they’re gonna crank it up.
6. Alicia Keys feat. Beyonce
“Put It In A Love Song”
Wherein Mrs. Swizz Beats and Mrs. Bootilicious put their heads together to … well, you get the idea, but this time with more pianos and skeletal drums, plus you can jump rope to this one; someone is double-dutching to this thing right now, we bet.
5. Destiny’s Child
“Independent Women Number One”
Empowerment soft-shoe with a side of hair-flip aggro, a bit before the focus shifted to grown(er)-folk relationship dynamics; so goddamned airtight that it’s possible to forget that they hitched their wagon to a zeitgeist-humping big-screen remake of a kitsch television classic. Money shot(s): every point where the trio’s massed, mashed voices shoot up and flutter down like a hailstorm of $100 dollar bills, usually before the singers lock into the “Charlie, can your angels get down like that?” section. There’s a reason why urban pop heads get so excited when even just rumors of a DC reunion hit the streets.
4. Kanye West feat. Big Sean, Beyonce, and Charlie Wilson
“See Me Now”
A lot going on in this victory-lap context, so much so that Bey almost runs the risk of coming off as little more that refrain arm-candy: Kanye’s drunk BBQ jester prattle running roughshod everywhere like a reverse John Cena, Big Sean flowing loonily simplistic (word to Mase), the beat splashing as velvety crimson as lamb’s blood swirled with good red wine. But ultimately she’s the brassy, saucy engine that drives “See Me Now” over the line separating “event-rap b-side” from “under appreciated classic.” Also, at one point, she belts “my niggas is home/I guess I got everything, everything I want” like she tapped into West’s subconsciousness before he had a chance to flip the sentiment into something corny.
3. Beyonce feat. Kanye West
Wherein Kanye injects some testosterone into and slows the roll of Bey’s grandiose ode to megalomania, acting as humanizing agent of sorts. In this form, “Ego” emerges as a softer, almost more (dare I say) thoughtful banger of ivories and horns.
2. Beyonce feat. Slim Thug & Bun B
“Check On It”
That this song is forever associated with a Pink Panther film starring Steve Martin is patently ridiculous; the mid-00s were so weird, right? Anyway, if you’ve heard it before, you’re well aware that “Check On It” is toothache sweet and catchy as the flu, with Bey’s Bey-isms and raps impeccably constructed nearly subsumed by the production, though if anything was subtracted the whole probably wouldn’t clockwork as perfectly as it does. Imagine if this team had cut a whole album of songs like this, back to back to back, and toured them as a revue slimed in Pepto Bismol pink. Picture it! That would have been terrible.
1. Lady Gaga feat. Beyonce
You know shit is for real when a pop song gets a mini-movie that’s three times the song’s actual length, a mini-movie that’s basically what one might expect a Madonna-starring women-in-prison flick directed by John Waters to resemble, and then when you start watching it you forget that there’s even a song connected to it. And, yes, the song: the song is nuts, in that cattle prods are continually applied to the principals and the beats, and in that even while lost in Gaga’s Art-Deco wormhole, Bey is still recognizably and irrevocably Bey. And thank God that this particular conference of pop divas wasn’t Music With A Message. Even so, we can’t wait until Bey and Britney eventually lock horns; that’s gonna be epic.
Beyonce Knowles headlines the Mrs. Carter World Tour at Barclay Center in Brooklyn on Saturday, August 3, Sunday, August 4, and Monday, August 5.