Everyone once in a while a gang of excellent pop artists will team up and form an all-star group. Sometimes it results in a megawatt tune, like in 2001 when Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Mýa and Pink joined forces for their now-iconic version of ‘Lady Marmalade’. Or when Jessie J, Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj all hopped on the gargantuan ‘Bang Bang’.
But more often than not it’s a total mess (the less said about Rita Ora’s tone-deaf ‘Girls’, which featured Cardi B, Bebe Rexha and Charli XCX, the better). When putting a group of the most recognisable artists in the world together you have to deal with different vocal styles, different musical visions and different ideas of how the final tune will sound. On paper it’s a disaster waiting to happen.
Putting together Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus and Lana Del Rey – three of the most vocally distinctive artists around – is an exciting if unnerving prospect. The artists all create markedly different genres of music, so how would Del Rey’s emotive soft rock croons fit amongst Grande’s whistle notes and trappy beats? The answer: quite wonderfully.
Opening with a jangling riff that’s repeated throughout, ‘Don’t Call Me Angel’, the three artists’ collaborative theme song from the upcoming Charlie’s Angels reboot, bursts into a powerful R&B-flecked chorus, with Grande taking the lead.
What’s brilliant about ‘Don’t Call Me Angel’ is none of the artists sacrifice the music they usually make in order to be on the song. Grande’s verses feature glittering production that’d fit comfortably on her latest record ‘Thank U, Next’, combined with her trademark belted vocals and close-knit harmonies.
Cyrus brings the strength that permeated her latest release ‘She Is Miley Cyrus’, as she belts out her biting lyrics (“I make my money, and I write the checks/So say my name with a little respect”). Meanwhile Del Rey takes the reins on the bridge, a shimmering, stripped back moment filled with expansive beats and eerie synths (and Grande’s ghostly whistle notes).
It’s a well-choreographed dance, with each vocalist spending a moment in the spotlight, and then falling back and showcasing the other vocalists, offering up harmonies and ad-libs when needed.
It’s hard not to compare it to Destiny’s Child’s ‘Independent Women’, which appeared on the soundtrack for the original Charlie’s Angels film. But whilst ‘Don’t Call Me Angel’ doesn’t quite manage to reach the slick, stomping, perfect for singing when you’ve been spurned by a fuckboy brilliance that ‘Independent Women’ did, it comes close. Which means it’s pretty damn good.
Powerful, expertly produced and catchier than a rash, ‘Don’t Call Me Angel’ has turned a chaotic idea into something excellent. Let’s just hope the film is this good too.