Paul McCartney Gets Back Behind Rihanna and Kanye

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Digital Bucket says:

Paul McCartney’s sudden turn as sideman to current pop stars is a curious one. First he added keyboards to Kanye West’s “Only One.” Now he’s strumming a steel string on Rihanna’s “FourFiveSeconds” – which also features West. While Macca is no stranger to high profile collaborations (Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Elvis Costello to name a few), his voice has usually been featured prominently – either on lead or his signature harmonies. Not so on these recent tracks. In fact, in Rihanna’s video for FourFiveSeconds, it’s quite striking just how background the Beatle is. A few times, you can practically see him thinking “what am I doing here?”

It makes you wonder what any of them gets out of this. I mean, sure, McCartney demonstrates he’s keeping up on today’s relevant artists, and not stuck in yesterday. But I can’t imagine hanging with the cool kids wins him much of a new audience. The Beatles aren’t really in need of advertising, and Rihanna and Kanye West fans won’t suddenly buy new McCartney music. Heck, lifelong Beatles fans aren’t even doing that. Conversely, I doubt either Rihanna or Kanye will see a huge uptick in their Baby Boomer fanbase. Nor do I imagine they care.

But here’s the thing: the songs themselves are remarkable. West’s “Only One” is an emotional, Auto-tuned tribute to his daughter and late mother. It’s unlike any of West’s hits thus far, and it demonstrates the selfless side of an artist known for his ego. The stripped down “FourFiveSeconds” allows Rihanna to really put her soulful voice front and center, something that rarely happens in the dense production of her dance hits. And maybe that’s the answer to our initial question. Rihanna’s and West’s talents benefit from an expert of another era and genre (his very own genre, one could argue), while McCartney – a co-writer and producer of both tracks – is able to show that, while his own hits may be behind him, his genius remains intact, and when applied to the current generation of artists, with talents different than his own, can still produce something extraordinary.

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