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What Does It Mean When an Artist is Featured in a Song?

Britney Spears
Photo: Frederick M. Brown

Being in the music industry and having been a musician since I was young, I sometimes never think that people that aren’t in music the way I am wouldn’t understand certain things until it’s specifically brought to my attention.

I have recently been asked by several people why Britney Spears doesn’t sing more in the Will.I.Am. song “Scream and Shout.” I often reply by saying, “Because she is only featured in the song, it isn’t her song.” Come to find out, a lot of people have no idea what this means.

If an artist is featured in the song, think of them as a guest speaker. They didn’t write the song, they were just asked to contribute a small piece to the song which could be for a variety of reasons.

If the artist featured is not very well known, they are being featured in the song to get them recognition. The main artist and the featured artist work together to promote the newer less established artist by gaining notoriety for performing on a track with the established artist.Of course this strategy is also done vice versa where a more prominent artist is featured on a newer artist trying to gain attention.

Other times, an artist just wants to diversify their song and sound. Then, there are collaborations between people that sound very similar and seem to have equal parts in a song. These instances, really should be for example; Jay-Z and Kanye, not Jay-Z featuring Kayne. Thus they created an album together and both had equal credits just because they wanted to. Music is fun and bottom line, sometimes, the artist just wants to work with another artist to create something they might not have otherwise thought of because they relate to each other or they are friends.

Confusing yes. Done properly all the time, no. What exactly should you take away from this? A featured artist should not sing as much as the main artist in the particular song they are featured in (of course there are instances where this doesn’t happen for some unknown improper reason). This is why Britney Spears does not sing a lot in “Scream and Shout” and Will.I.Am. does. Britney is featured in the song, she is not meant to take it over, merely contribute. Hopefully, I helped to clarify this to someone! Let me know if you have any questions.


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