(Chau Ahn Nguyen/Staff Illustrator)

As final exam season rapidly approaches, many Emory University students must prepare for the dreaded group project. Professors smirk as they assign these dual-headed monstrosities and frame such assignments as light-hearted, simple and fun, when in actuality, they are chock-full of stress, miscommunication and imminent failure. The group members are constantly at odds, bidding over the smallest tasks like prized pigs. In the spirit of cooperation, I present four of my favorite collaborations from the 21st century — “A-plus” group projects, if you will.

‘Telephone’ by Lady Gaga (feat. Beyoncé) (2009)

In the face of my final “Cat’s Collection” for the semester, the monster known as writer’s block snarled at me from the corner of the room. Exasperated, I closed my laptop and asked my roommate what the best pop album of all time was. Without missing a beat, she responded “The Fame Monster” (2009) by Lady Gaga. From this declaration emerged a glittering gift, one of the best collaborations ever produced — “Telephone” by Lady Gaga (feat. Beyoncé).

As a collaboration between two of pop’s biggest stars, “Telephone” is unsurprisingly amazing. The song begins with an intoxicating harp solo that is soon submerged by Lady Gaga’s powerful voice singing, “Hello, hello, baby / You called, I can’t hear a thing.” Lady Gaga originally supplicates her unnerved lover, but as the track progresses, the singer’s annoyance at the caller increases. “Sorry, I cannot hear you, I’m kinda busy,” she muses as the beat drops.

Lady Gaga’s desire for independence ultimately prevails. She wants to have a fun night, to dance and laugh in the club alone. Who can blame her? Certainly not her partner-in-crime Beyoncé, who joins the song with a sizzling verse. “Boy, the way you blowing up my phone / Won’t make me leave no faster,” she spits. The song ends with the same melodic harp riff from the beginning and an assertive automated message, “We’re sorry (we’re sorry) / The number you have reached is not in service at this time.”


‘Margaret (feat. Bleachers)’ by Lana Del Rey (2023)

Lana Del Rey entered the music scene in 2012 with her pop record “Born to Die.” Since her major-label debut, she has cultivated a sad girl persona that appeals to the disillusioned Generation Z. Lana Del Rey’s major hits such as “Summertime Sadness” (2012) and “Norman Fucking Rockwell” (2019) demonstrate her devotion to melancholy and mourning. Her most recent album “Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd” (2023) is no exception to this cruel commitment. In “Kintsugi,” Lana Del Rey immediately cuts deep by singing “There’s a certain point the body can’t come back from.”

“Margaret (feat. Bleachers)” presents a different type of sadness. The track opens with a 37 second instrumental that gradually increases in volume, calmly ushering in Lana Del Rey’s alto crooning. She begins, “This is a simple song, gonna write it for a friend.” The “simple song” in question is a stunning ballad that celebrates the meet-cute between two lovers and the immediate understanding of connection. “When you know, you know,” Lana Del Rey muses.

Bleachers accompanies Lana Del Rey on the first chorus with a baritone harmony. The all-male group led by Jack Antonoff sings the second verse alone. “If you’re asking yourself, ‘How do you know?’ / Then that’s your answer, the answer is no,” the band pronounces. In doing so, Bleachers subverts the romanticism of the track. This ballad is home to the fiercest feelings of love, and the most indifferent.


‘Bang Bang’ by Jessie J (feat. Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj) (2014)

“Bang Bang” by Jessie J (feat. Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj) is not high art, but it is a great song. Jessie J opens the song loud and proud, asserting, “She got a body like an hourglass / But I can give it to you all the time.”

Despite the track’s commitment to comparing and placing women into competition with one another, it is somehow also incredibly empowering. After an energetic chorus, Ariana Grande joins by singing, “She might’ve let you hold her hand at school / But I’ma show you how to graduate.” Her signature soprano runs add a level of sophistication to the snarky lyrical commentary.

As if the track needed more starpower, Nicki Minaj sends the pedal to the metal with her vibrant rap. “It’s me, Jessie and Ari, if they test me, they sorry,” she claims. Her verse amplifies the track’s energy tenfold. She finalizes her section of the song with a wonderful synopsis of her contribution and raps, “It ain’t karaoke night but get the mic ‘cause I’m singing.’”

There is something indescribable about this track that keeps me coming back for more. Maybe it is the cheesy lyrics that enable listeners to envision themselves in an intense pop-rock battle, the infectious joy of Nicki Minaj’s confidence or the child-like bridge that earnestly spells out B-A-N-G. Whatever the song’s secret recipe is, I am always hungry for more.


‘evermore (feat. Bon Iver)’ by Taylor Swift (2020)

I visited my best friend from Emory in New York City in July 2023. The air was warm, the night was young and the sounds of New York were a symphony from outside her apartment window. We were laying on her bed as she chronicled her stuffed animal collection and I mindlessly scrolled through my phone. Suddenly, it happened. An immense evil struck as dark clouds rolled in and the building shook. Through a glitching TikTok livestream on my phone, Taylor Swift had played “evermore (feat. Bon Iver)” as a surprise song at the Eras Tour. A tear streamed down my face as I showed it to my companion.

To ensure a slice of individuality in the highly organized three-hour Eras Tour, Taylor Swift promised each North American show two acoustic songs that she would not sing to another crowd. When I didn’t receive “evermore,” I brushed it off, relishing in the beauty of the concert regardless. However, when I found out that thousands of other fans witnessed this ballad live, it stung.

“evermore,” the title track from Taylor Swift’s ninth studio album, is my favorite song of all time. Taylor Swift opens the track with a somber declaration, “Gray November / I’ve been down since July.” However, this song does not sit in defeat. Instead it presents a narrative arc in which sadness is acknowledged, confronted and ultimately overcome.

Throughout the track, Taylor Swift’s vocalization is supported only by piano. When Bon Iver joins for an impassioned bridge, the singers’ alternating exclamations culminate in an explosion of intimacy. The track ends in a full circle moment with Taylor Swift singing sweetly, “This pain wouldn’t be for evermore (evermore) / Evermore.” While the melancholy will pass, I am certain my admiration for this song never will.

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Catherine Goodman is from Savannah, GA. She is majoring in English and Art History. Outside of the wheel, Goodman is the President of Women’s Club Basketball and a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma. She loves listening to music, attending concerts, reformer pilates and reality TV!