Grammy Recap: The Unexpected Innovation Behind McCartney’s Collaborations

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By Abby Visco

Former Beatle Paul McCartney is no stranger to collaborating with other respected artists in the music industry. Over the past three decades McCartney has worked with other music legends such as Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, and Johnny Cash just to name a few. Most recently McCartney has joined forces with popular hip-hop and R&B artists Kanye West and Rihanna.

Both of these collaborations have stirred up some controversy in the music world. It seems as though listeners either love or hate the new hits, however both sides are very passionate in their opinions.  Many argue that Rihanna and Kanye are just using McCartney for his name and high status in the industry. Others welcome these unlikely collaborations and feel as though the clash of two generations has created something new and different from the other pop singles that have been released around the same time.

Kanye’s collaboration with McCartney, Only One, is his first single since his sixth studio album, Yeezus, which was released in 2013. The song was written from the point of view of West’s late mother, Donda West, and sends a powerful message of hope to his daughter. When listening to the single, one may not recognize McCartney’s contributions right away. He only plays guitar lightly in the background. However, when listening to the lyrics, you can feel and hear McCarney’s touch. The song is more lyrically innovative and melodic compared to West’s past work, and McCartney played a crucial role in that. Just because his voice is not included and the sound of his guitar is barely noticeable, his skills as a songwriter stand out.  The single was released on December 31st, 2014, and the song received even more recognition when West performed it at the 57th annual Grammy Awards on February 8th. It was West’s first performance at the Grammys in six years.  Known for his stage presence, West took the stage alone without McCartney and gave a subdued performance of the single. The performance fell short of many people’s expectations. Fans expected a comeback like no other and were quite disappointed, but for such a lyrically fueled song, West made the right choice to give a stripped- down performance.

Paul McCartney also teamed up with both Kanye West and Rihanna for the single FourFiveSeconds. The single will be included in Rihanna’s upcoming eighth studio album. The song was released January 24th and was also performed at this year’s Grammys. This time, McCartney joined the stage alongside West and Rihanna. They performed against a white background, similar to the music video. McCartney strummed along on his guitar while Rihanna and West sang facing each other. This performance was also stripped-down and subdued, but it seemed appropriate for the acoustic feel to the song. Many were upset by the fact that McCartney played such a minor role in the performance. He stood in the background and played his guitar quietly. But once again, his lyrical influence was clearly present.

Both of McCartney’s collaborations raise many questions for the listeners and fans of the former Beatle. Is he being used for his name? Is he using popular artists to keep his career alive and going? Is it time for him to retire already? Although Mccartney’s appearances in these songs may seem unnecessary, he definitely played a role in the songs’ successes. His wisdom was definitely crucial to the songwriting processes and creative process in general. These collaborations demonstrate the importance for different generations to work together and create music that can leave a lasting impression on all audiences.

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