The coming of new material from our favorite music stalwarts is always cause for cheer. And when it’s an unexpected collaboration between two artists, well, let’s all raise the glass a little higher. But if the effort is one of those rare unicorns on Planet Pop — a song by a superteam of three or more female artists — you’d best ring the alarm, children.
The recent arrival of “Don’t Call Me Angel,” a Charlie’s Angels reboot anthem courtesy of the triumvirate that is Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus and Lana Del Rey, gave us the perfect opportunity to revisit other such combined efforts by women. Strangely, given that we’re sixty-something years into this thing called the rock era, there aren’t a lot.
Of course, one need only look to last albums chucked out by Drake and Ed Sheeran to find recent examples of a gaggle of men forming a union for the bettering of humankind’s ears. For the ladies, alas, it has remained a different story.
Nevertheless, we persisted in sifting through the past four decades of pop, rock, country and hip hop to tabulate our list of ten of the more interesting female-driven super teams. Quite often, you’ll see these things have happened for the sake of a movie soundtrack. Other times you’ll note recurring players, be they the producer or one of the artists.
We urge you to make a playlist of all ten and play these songs of love, loss and, uh, chokin’ ya paragraphs with laughs loudly. Maybe if we all take this sonic journey from the Heartbreak Hotel to the Moulin Rouge, and put out enough positive vibes, these types of female alliances in popular music will soon become the norm, rather than the exception.
10. Cher, Chrissie Hynde, Neneh Cherry, “Love Can Build A Bridge” (1995)
What was it that brought megastar Cher, Pretenders frontwoman Chrissie Hynde and “Buffalo Stance” singer Neneh Cherry together in the mid-‘90s to record a cover of 1990 country hit “Love Can Build A Bridge”? Charity. Originally a ballad by The Judds, the song was tackled by this unlikely trio and released in the United Kingdom as the official 1995 Comic Relief single, to benefit children affected by the war in Rwanda. Though it didn’t make a dent on the American charts, this rendition (which also features work guitar by Eric Clapton) built a bridge all the way to No. 1 in the U.K.
9. Madonna feat. Nicki Minaj & M.I.A., “Give Me All Your Luvin'” (2012)
Remember when Madonna performed this at the Super Bowl and M.I.A. gave the bird-flip seen around the world? Or when LMFAO (what?) hit the stage during the same performance, since they had officially remixed the song? Oh, dear.
Madge collaborated with Nicki Minaj and M.I.A. on separate tracks for MDNA, but “Give Me All Your Luvin’,” the album’s lead single, is the one that brought all three gals together. Incidentally, these were the days when Nicki was on her jag of occasionally rapping as her alter-ego, Roman Zolanski.
2012, what a wacky year!
8. Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus, Lana Del Rey, “Don’t Call Me Angel” (2019)
Here we have pop’s most recent addition to the all-female super team roster. On paper, wrangling Ariana, Miley and Lana in with producer Max Martin to slap together a Charlie’s Angels reboot anthem worthy of 2000 Destiny’s Child staple “Independent Women” must have seemed like the best idea ever. In reality, the result is a mixed bag of hypnotic, looped synths and rote lyrics a la “I make my money and I write the checks.” A highlight comes when, following expected sassings from Grande and Cyrus, Del Rey creepily floats in like some ethereal witch and sprays her few breathy bars.
7. Jessie J, Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj, “Bang Bang” (2014)
This really was the precursor to “Don’t Call Me Angel,” wasn’t it? By summer 2014, Max Martin, the Beethoven of modern pop, had already produced smash hits for Jessie J, Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj. So getting the three of them to hop on this rowdy, clap-happy track together seemed like a no-brainer.
Depending on whose account you believe and where you read it, Ariana either recorded all the vocals on the demo version or Jessie J laid her voice down first. That’s some chicken-or-egg stuff that the universe may never know the answer for, but we can be sure of this: “Bang Bang” gets at least one gold star for containing a chorus melody that references Wham!’s “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” and another for that brass.
6. k.d. lang (w/ Brenda Lee, Loretta Lynn & Kitty Wells), “Honky Tonk Angels Medley” (1988)
These days we may know k.d. lang best from her timeless, Grammy-winning 1992 standard “Constant Craving,” and Clinton-era albums such as Ingenue and Drag. During the 1980s, however, the Edmonton, Alberta native was churning out some straight-up Canadian cowpunk for the masses. Her debut LP, Shadowland, was produced by Owen Bradley, who just happened to be responsible for Patsy Cline classics “Crazy” and “I Fall To Pieces.” And the album’s final cut, “Honky Tonk Angels Medley,” saw lang lasso in greats Loretta Lynn, Brenda Lee and Kitty Wells.
“I have Owen Bradley to thank for bringing those women in,” lang explained to CMT in 2006. “They did it as a favor to him, but by the end of the shoot, we had all bonded, too.”
Nashville never knew what hit ‘em.
5. Stars On 54 (Amber, Ultra Nate, Jocelyn Enriquez), “If You Could Read My Mind” (1998)
Dance divas Amber, Ultra Nate and Jocelyn Enriquez ruled their individual corners of clubland throughout the 1990s. So when sibling production duo The Berman Brothers came calling to record a beat-driven cover of Gordon Lightfoot’s 1970 chestnut “If You Could Read My Mind” for Miramax’s 54 soundtrack, this seemed like the most natural thing to happen since the invention of the disco ball.
“We had a lot of respect for the original,” producer Frank Berman told Billboard in 2018. “We felt we had to find something to give it a totally new life and a totally new meaning — and a very unique meaning, so it stands on its own. Sometimes when you do a cover, of course, the original is always better. But sometimes you try and it really works out.”
4. Whitney Houston feat. Faith Evans & Kelly Price, “Heartbreak Hotel” (1998)
It’s true that a part of the success of Whitney Houston’s 1998 LP My Love Is Your Love came down to the remixes of singles “It’s Not Right, But It’s Okay,” “My Love Is Your Love” and “I Learned From the Best” that were issued to radio at the time. But before that trend kicked in during the album’s cycle, Whit delivered this sultry, Soulshock & Karlin-produced breakup jam, complete with fellow R&B belters Faith Evans and Kelly Price in tow.
“Since you’re not around for me to tell you, baby, face to face, I’m writing you this letter and this is what I have to say,” all three ladies warn on the bridge to the chorus. Oh, how we yearn for the salad days of such dramatically concluded relationships, before people simply started breaking up over Snapchat.
3. Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Linda Rondstadt, “To Know Him Is To Love Him” (1987)
The collaborative, Grammy-winning 1987 album released by Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt was simply titled Trio. But this project didn’t happen overnight, folks: These three titans of music first hit the studio together a decade prior, and had to eventually scrap the whole shebang over scheduling conflicts. When the stars finally aligned for the ladies to get together with recording whiz and inventor George Massenburg, their resulting LP saw all four of its singles fly up Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart. The first of those, this sweet and dreamy cover of the Billboard Hot 100-topping 1958 Phil Spector composition “To Know Him Is to Love Him,” landed at No. 1.
2. Lil’ Kim feat. Da Brat, MIssy “Misdeameanor” Elliott, Angie Martinez & Left “Left Eye” Lopes, “Not Tonight” (1997)
“It’s the rap Mae West, the Q-B, and I got all my sisters with me!” Hell yeah.
The 1997 Tim Robbins and Martin Lawrence buddy action flick Nothing to Lose came, went and is perhaps remembered, if at all, as one of the more rotten of tomatoes in cinema history. Still, it gave us the Kool & The Gang “Ladies’ Night”-sampling remix of Lil’ Kim track “Not Tonight,” which originally featured on the Queen Bee’s debut LP Hard Core. Enlisted for guest verses on this new, bumpin’ rendition were TLC’s Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, Missy Elliott, Da Brat and even NYC radio icon Angie Martinez. We suggest you crank this one up loud, and cue it up back-to-back with Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Kelis’ “Got Your Money” at your next throwdown. The party gods will smile upon you.
1. Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Mya, Pink, “Lady Marmalade” (2001)
Listen, don’t even try it. The true, reigning queen of all female pop super collabs is still “Lady Marmalade.”
This was Christina a before she was Xtina. And Pink before she was m!ssundaztood. And the Queen Bee before she was counting down to lockdown. Kids, this umpteenth cover of Labelle’s soul stomper “Lady Marmalade” was, and still remains, An Event.
Crafted under the guidance of co-producer Missy Elliott as the lead single from the Moulin Rouge soundtrack, the above-mentioned ladies hit the studio with “Case Of The Ex” star Mya and breathed new life into the song. Their collective take racked up five weeks atop the Hot 100 in 2011. Eighteen years later, it’s four-plus minutes that still sound exciting, futuristic and — oh, yes — sexy.