Duets: Is Two Always Better Than One?

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I am the lucky owner of a brand spanking new 2013 Ford Escape. Well, I’m leasing, but still. It’s a new car and it’s mine. May not seem like much to the average person but I haven’t ever owned a new car, and I’ve been carless entirely for the past (ahem) 15 years. How did I pull that off? Well, I live in New York City. And as you may or may not realize, owning a car is really unnecessary in the city. There could not be a more complex public transportation system in all the world. Unless you need to leave the city (which I find I need to do more and more these days) a car becomes nothing more than a hunk of metal collecting dust. Why? Because unless you have tons of disposable income, you can’t really drive around the city during the day since there is no where to park besides ridiculously expensive parking lots. But, if you are going in and out of the city often and find yourself driving in the off hours and weekends, a car can actually be really liberating and useful as a city dweller – or so I’m now finding.

Not having been driving regularly until recently, I also have not been listening to the radio much since this day and age, who is listening to terrestrial radio in their homes? It’s either a playlist in iTunes, a station on Pandora or a vinyl record from my husband’s collection that is usually blaring in our apartment. So I’ve recently been reminded how irritating it can be to channel surf and hear the same 5 songs over and over and over and over. I mean, seriously – with the wealth of incredible music out there, how is this even still possible? The only upside is that I am now becoming intimately familiar with today’s pop chart toppers. So intimate that I feel like I need to take a shower, but nevertheless, at least I am up to speed, which is more than I can say for my pre-car self. And being a little more in the know, I’ve noticed something else: Duets are making a comeback.

Hear me out. Back in the day, they were a staple. In fact at some point, they were probably even more common than solo performances. But in the world of pop music, they are not a constant. There was definitely a big wave of them in the 80s: “Secret Lovers”, “(I’ve Had) The T ime of My Life”, “Easy Lover”,” Up Where We Belong”, and so on and so on. And not only were they common, they were hugely popular. Every song on that list is beyond well known and at least one of them will now be stuck in your head for the rest of day (sorry!) Now, fast forward through the 90s and today and try to think of  some stand out duets. Not as many coming to mind, are there? That’s what I’m saying! There really haven’t been too many to speak of. The only one that jumps out at me is Brandy and Monica’s “The Boy Is Mine” from 1999. This was the first time I can remember two similar artists of the same gender joining forces and giving duets a whole new meaning, which paved the way for artists like Beyonce and Lady Gaga to do the same years later with “Telephone.”

Which brings me back to today. The first time I heard P!nk’s beautiful voice singing the first few lines of “Just Give Me A Reason” I was instantly hooked. There is just something about her voice coupled with that beautiful indie meets pop melody that had me at hello. However, a verse later when I suddenly noticed the voice of Nate Ruess, I was slightly taken a back. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m as huge a Fun. fan as anyone, and I love his voice, but given that they are both singing at the same octave and have similar tone qualities to their voices, it was almost like: what’s the point? P!nk was doing fine on her own! Of course, 15 thousand times later, it has grown on me and now I can’t imagine it any other way. I love their harmonies, I find the lyrics to be universally relatable and equally powerful – “We’re not broken, just bent, and we can learn to love again” – and  the song should be playing during every marriage counseling session across America. And I can only imagine how incredible it would be to watch these two powerhouses perform the song live. Here’s hoping I’ll get that chance one day soon.

Onto the next song that got my attention while driving around town is Rihanna’s “Stay” featuring Mikky Ekko. Again, who doesn’t love Rihanna? The girl can do no wrong and has been churning out hits since making a splash with “Umbrella.”  The piano riff is hypnotizing and her voice is unadultered, unaffected and pure, which is always nice to hear in a pop song. (She is also equally refreshingly natural in the video where she appears in the buff, without even a dab of makeup on her.) The lyrics had me intrigued… “If you dare, come a little closer.” Then suddenly, I heard his voice – again, nothing against Mikky, but Rihanna certainly had it covered. I don’t think the male addition takes anything away, but not sure exactly what it adds, other than, as in the case of P!ink and Nate’s dance, the dynamic of the stuggling relationship brought to life by these two talented individuals. So, what’s the verdict? I’m a fan but it may only be because I’ve heard it so many times, which I’m convinced is why the radio stations insist of putting these songs on such frequent rotation. You have no choice but to be brainwashed into liking them.

I’m curious to see if anyone else will follow suit, or if this seeming resurgence of duets in pop music will be short lived. Only time will tell…

Voice your choice in today’s featured poll and tell us which of these chart topping pop duets is your favorite?

Just Give Me A Reason
No Air

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