Converse has been doing their “3 Artists, 1 Song” releases for almost 6 years now, and it seems like they’re really starting to understand what makes them great.
While usually it’s pretty easy to deride companies like the uber-huge Converse for attempting to latch on to hip musicians in attempt to make it to the top of the Internet mountain for at least a day, I’ve got to give Converse credit; they understand the real secret to vitality…
That there is no secret.
“Viral marketing,” whatever that even means anymore, is a total crapshoot. Companies are better off just throwing as much well-liked shit as possible into a blender and hoping the end result is something sharable (see: any Old Spice commercial ever). That's what Converse did musically, and they've made a name for themselves and the "3 Artists, 1 Song" brand as a result.
And with their most recent collaboration hitting the digital shelves last week, it’s about time we looked back at the hits and misses that have come out of the nine "3 Artists, 1 song" collaborations so far.
So without further ado, here are all the sonic mashups from artists that love Converse enough to work with them completely free of charge, scientifically ranked from worst to best:
#9: McWolf, Shane Willz, and Julie G - #ONTHEGO
This was a stunt marketing trick wrapped inside the original stunt marketing trick of getting three artists together for one song, as Converse selected three employees, FROM REAL CONVERSE STORES, to collaborate.
And you know what happens when you put a DJ/Converse Outlet Store sales associate named Julie G with a Converse Retail Store employee/“rapper” from Orange County, California?
You get a song that sounds like a bunch of frat bros decided to whip up a song for their pregames.
#8: A-Trak, Kembra, Mark Foster of Foster the People - "Warrior"
A-Trak phones in one of his wimpier beats with this one, Kembra satisfactorily plays the role of “generic female pop singer” for the verses, and Foster is tragically perfect for a bland chorus that — ironic given the video — doesn’t really pack much of a punch.
This is going to be one of those songs that we’ll be embarrassed to admit we were psyched about when it first came out before laughing, “Oh that song is just so 2012!” and burning a picture of ourselves painted up like the Gotye music video for Halloween.
#7: Matt and Kim, Soulja Boy, and Andrew W.K. - "I’m a Goner"
You can see what they were thinking here: all these acts are fun and would probably enjoy the company of each other.
Matt and Kim have the strongest influence on the song musically, but Soulja Boy’s rhythmic flow fits over pretty damn well. And if you give Andrew W.K. a clap-along drum beat, he’ll give you enough to not screw it up. Plus the lighthearted video is pretty cute -- only Andrew W.K. could get a party started in a morgue -- and a reminder that half the fun of listening to these guys is seeing how much fun they have themselves.
Like most Matt and Kim songs, this is good to listen to every now and then, but ultimately it has the depth and substance of a bowl of Frosted Flakes.
#6: Kid Cudi, Rostam Batmanglij (from Vampire Weekend), and Best Coast - “All Summer”
It’s funny to see where, only 4 years since this song was released, these three artists are at in their careers.
Vampire Weekend converted the last non-believers with a near-perfect, universally loved album, Kid Cudi’s star continues to fall (which continues to hurt my heart), and Best Coast fights to live on in indie-fame limbo.
But this song, written at a time when all three had the world at their fingertips, brings out the best in everyone. Cudi’s flow is so casually brilliant that it sucks to know what he’s been up to recently, Bethany Cosentino’s chorus lands exquisitely, and the only criticism with Rostam is that he felt content enough to let the other two artists steal much of the spotlight.
#5: Jaurim, Aziatix & Idiotape - "#PeepShow"
"#PeepShow" is the first ever Korean-based "3 Artists, 1 Song" collaboration, featuring artists Jaurim, Aziatix and Idiotape. And while you probably won't understand a word of the song, "#PeepShow" is actually one of the most interesting entries in this collection.
The beginning of the track feels like soundtrack to some crazy, high-budget, plot-lite action movie, but this girl Jaurim’s sassy vocals adds a really fun unexpected layer to the song (and isn’t that what these Converse things are all about?). Idiotape’s production help glue these two disparate artists together, while also being courageous enough during the instrumental breakdown to steal a bit of the spotlight for himself.
Plus it gets points for a great video.
#4: Frank Ocean, Mick Jones and Paul Simonon (of the Clash), and Diplo - "HERO"
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Who would have thought Frank Ocean (who just sent Chipotle a very public message), members of the Clash, and Diplo would come out with something so…this?
I mean, all the ingredients are solid, but who would have guessed that this is the kind of song that would spring from the collective imaginations? Its backbone swings with an oldies vibe, but even the sporadic warps and effects that appear just before the one minute mark don’t foreshadow the intense breakdown that kicks in unexpectedly and defiantly calls itself a chorus.
And whose idea do you think it was to add the West Los Angeles Children’s Choir? They’re definitely a bit disorienting but, they’re an uplifting addition — and they actually help the song transition into Jones’ verse and outro really well. In fact, this song is so strikingly fun to listen to that it feels like a crime when it clocks in at only 2:45.
#3: Hot Chip, Bernard Sumner (of New Order), and Hot City - "Didn’t Know What Love Was"
This basically sounds Bernard Sumner allowing Alexis Taylor and Joe Goddard of Hot Chip to do their best New Order homage, but the end result is a pretty damn enjoyable dark disco jam.
I’m trying to figure out who exactly contributed what, as Hot Chip was heavily influenced by New Order, so it’s a little hard to figure out what’s authentic and what’s influence, but more importantly, who the hell are Hot City and how did they get picked for this?
Did the Converse talent booker mean to get Hot Chip and accidentally call Hot City and then feel too awkward to back out from there?
#2: Paloma Faith, Graham Coxon (of Blur), and Bill Ryder-Jones - “Desire”
Essentially “The British Mash-Up”, this collaboration bet heavy on the relatively unknown Paloma Faith, but the eye-catching singer-songwriter/actress is striking and talented enough to reap a big payoff for all involved.
The desert road guitar riffs and face-melting solos courtesy of Graham Coxon of Blur fame and Bill Ryder-Jones are electrifying, and if the jazz horn schizophrenic breakdown is the icing on the cake, then the badass music video is the edible sugar flower on top.
#1: Santogold, Julian Casablancas & Pharrell – “My Drive Thru”
The inaugural "3 Artists, 1 song" collaboration, “My Drive Thru” was put together to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Converse, and it’s the perfect blend of all three artists. Pharrell’s second-hand chillness and Santogold’s outlandishness help keep Julian Casablancas’ douchiness in check, allowing for all of their respective natural charismas to shine, and leading to a timeless track that could just as easily fit on Pharrell's 2014 G I R L and made people swoon.
"My Drive Thru" might not be a unanimous #1 choice, but this song was a pioneer and set the tone for all to follow. It's only right it sits at the top spot (at the bottom of the list).
Converse's "3 Artists, 1 Song" collaborations will always be a crapshoot, that's just the nature of them, but I hope they keep coming out with these year after year until we all evolve into wearing white robes and sandals around.
Besides, as long as they’re getting responses like this:
that’s all that really matters, right?