by Andi Hubbell ’11
“Can we pretend that airplanes in the night sky are like shooting stars? I could really use a wish right now, wish right now, wish right now.”
Real, insightful, huh? And yet, for some reason (completely unbeknownst to me), these two simple, rather unremarkable lines were pretty much impossible to escape this summer. They plagued radio stations, invaded music video countdowns and consumed Facebook statuses the world over. In fact, very few teens can honestly declare that they did not hear Hayley Williams’ raspy voice bleating these words in their heads at some point in the past few months.
Nonetheless, Williams’ name never graced the Billboard Hot 100 this summer. Instead, another name accompanied “Airplanes” when it ascended the ranks to #2: B.o.B. That’s because even though the most notable part of the song was the chorus, sung by Williams, the song technically belonged to rapper B.o.B, who rapped in between the refrains. So when people said, “Hey, have you heard that new song with Hayley Williams?”, what they really meant was, “Hey, have you heard B.o.B’s new single?” Poor B.o.B.
I’m not inclined to blame him for the fact that he was totally outshined by Hayley Williams in “Airplanes,” because if he wanted a popular single, he essentially had to collaborate with another artist. After all, “everyone’s doing it.” Everyone successful, that is.
Think about it. Excluding rock songs, how many popular singles in the past few months have only included one artist? Very few. “Whatcha Say?” by Jason DeRulo features a sped-up Imogen Heap, “Break Your Heart” by Taio Cruz contains raps by Ludacris and “California Gurls” by Katy Perry includes an interlude by Snoop Dogg. And that’s just the beginning of the long list of artists who have felt the need to incorporate other artists into their songs, and, in some cases, allow them to sing or rap the choruses.
Sure, collaboration with another artist might achieve the purpose of expanding an artist’s fan base, but otherwise, it hardly produces gratifying results. Take B.o.B, for instance. By incorporating Williams into one of his songs, he may have gained numerous fans, but on the other hand, few of these new fans know little about his rapping style beyond his scarce lines in “Airplanes.” All they really know is that Hayley Williams could really use a wish right now (wish right now, wish right now). Ugh.
If B.o.B had released a single without another artist’s name attached to it, maybe it would have been just as successful. And maybe it wouldn’t have. But at least then B.o.B wouldn’t have had to wonder whether people enjoy him as an artist, or if they just like the idea of Hayley Williams partaking in a rap song. He would be at peace knowing that he had done his music justice, which is the very least an artist can do.