The history of the word “featuring” on the Billboard Top 100

We know people have short attention spans, so this is like making every song actually three songs in one; 90 seconds of an auto-tuned female singer, 8 bars of a rapper, 90 seconds more of singing, 8 more bars of another rapper.

The history of this phenomenon actually goes back to 1990. From Slate: “The song was She Ain’t Worth It, a one-off pairing between Hawaiian pop crooner Glenn Medeiros and—dropping in more than halfway through with a rap bridge—New Jack Swing megastar Bobby Brown. Forgettable as it was, Ain’t holds two distinctions: it’s the first chart-topping sing-and-rap two-artist pairing in Billboard history, and it’s also—with a couple of asterisks**—the formal debut of the word ‘featuring’ on a No. 1 hit.”

It’s not as though artists have never featured on someone else’s recordings though; ‘The Temptations’ 1965 No. 1 “My Girl” was not only written by rising Motown star Smokey Robinson, its backing track was recorded by him, as well. (Indeed, the entire Motown hitmaking system was built by Berry Gordy around collaboration.) Bob Dylan’s 1965 classic “Like a Rolling Stone,” a No. 2 hit, showcases guitar by Mike Bloomfield, axeman from the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Elvis Presley’s 1969 “comeback” chart-topper “Suspicious Minds” features very audible vocals by country’s Ronnie Milsap and Muscle Shoals vocalist Jeanie Greene.’

Hip-hop is by far the big reason for the collaboration explosion, but there are many others; ‘Most of us now think of “Marky” Mark Wahlberg’s 1991 pop-rap hit “Good Vibrations” as the thing he did before modeling underwearacting in moviesproducing bro-y TV shows, and talking to animals. But the song has a legacy, thanks to its full artist credit: Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch featuring Loleatta Holloway. The explosive voice you hear on the song’s chorus belongs to the gospel-trained Holloway, in a sample from her 1980 club smash “Love Sensation”—a song that had also been featured in uncredited samples on hits by Black Box and Samantha Fox. After getting the Martha Wash–style brushoff on those earlier tracks, Holloway successfully pressured Wahlberg’s label to give her featured credit on “Vibrations.” In essence, Wash and Holloway were setting the ’90s template for the female hook singer—the inverse of the featured-rapper model à la Rakim and Bobby Brown. When “Good Vibrations” topped the Hot 100 in October 1991, Holloway became not only the first act given full artist credit for a sample on a No. 1 hit but also the first chart-topping hook singer (a crown that would have already gone to Wash if C&C Music Factory had done right by her).’

If the trend continues, and the Billboard charts continue, they may have to look into a new typeface to make room for all of the credits.


Liked it? Take a second to support Patrick Charles on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!

Leave a Comment