Wilson Phillips' Carnie Wilson Dishes On Singing Backup Vocals for Rihanna's 'FourFiveSeconds'
Kanye West is known for collaborating with artists across genre lines, tapping everyone from Elton John and Paul McCartney to producers like Jon Brion and Rick Rubin to work on his respective projects. When it came time to unite as a trio for Rihanna's "FourFiveSeconds" alongside Sir Paul, he enlisted another group to provide backing vocals on the folk-pop hit: Wilson Phillips.
The group, which consists of Carnie Wilson, Wendy Wilson and Chynna Phillips, rose to prominence in the early '90s with the breakthrough hit "Hold On," one of their three singles to top the Billboard Hot 100. Known for their unique vocal harmonies, Wilson Phillips released a pair of albums before taking an extended hiatus between 1993 and 2003, joining back up to record an additional three LPs, most recently 2012's Dedicated.
A few months ago, West reached out to Wilson Phillips' manager to join him in the studio to sing on "FourFiveSeconds," which took the group by surprise. "He said, 'When I think of authenticity and I think of angelic, I think of you,'" recalls Carnie Wilson, 46. During their first session, he previewed "FourFiveSeconds" as well as "Only One" and Madonna's "Illuminati." "He was really shy and he would just smile and he’s real soft-spoken, then all of a sudden when he started playing all these songs, he was dancing around the room," she continues. "It was just like how Michael Jackson used to be. When he would press play, it was like, out came the artist and the creativity was just really there."
After playing the songs for the trio alongside "FourFiveSeconds" co-producer Kuk Harrell (Beyoncé, Justin Bieber), West instructed Wilson Phillips to take the track home to work on their vocal harmonies off-site. "We didn’t know if we were singing on a section of the song -- originally it was supposed to be just the bridge," Carnie says. "He gave us sole freedom to just do what we do. We just went in there and let loose."
Wilson Phillips' backing vocals can be heard on the bridge and, presumably, the chorus of the sparse song, which debuted at No. 54 on the Hot 100 following its Jan. 24 release and has since peaked at No. 4. Though the threesome doesn't have any plans to work with West in the future, Harrell suggested that the rapper sit at the helm of their sixth album, which they've yet to begin recording. "I would love to see what he would have in mind because he thinks outside the box," says Carnie. "We’re so lucky to be here 25 years later, on tour with people still supporting our sound and music. This is such a blessing."