If you haven’t properly celebrated the single release of Lady Gaga and Christina Aguilera’s “Do What U Want” rendition, repent and get going. And look at this — Rihanna and Shakira are collaborating on a very soon-to-be-released duet too! This calls for a celebration: the 10 best female-female duets. It’s something of a slim genre, which is a shame, but these 10 efforts are nothing but certified classics.
10. Dionne Warwick and Celia Cruz, “Do You Know the Way to San Jose?”
Controversial first pick since we’re obviously familiar with the original, but Dionne’s revamp of the single best Hal David/Burt Bacharach composition with salsa queen Celia Cruz is lively and addictive. The song may tout San Jose, but to me this is the ideal track for a solo road trip to Palm Springs. Not that I’d know anything about it.
9. Beyonce and Shakira, “Beautiful Liar”
A sensual chorus, ridiculous video choreography, and sheer attitude make this Beyonce/Shakira combo a fun and kind of hilarious treat. Look at these dames as they roll their stomachs in unison. I’m in awe and shock and peril.
God bless Barbra for inviting Kim Carnes onto what I consider her most straight-through enjoyable album. Emotion wouldn’t be the same without this slightly combative, mostly pained ballad. And the world wouldn’t be the same without Kim Carnes eroding it with her lilting, scratchy caterwaul. And Barbra too, I guess.
I declare this the finest rap/sung collaboration by two women ever. “4 My People” is a ratatat club-banger with serious stamina, and right after Missy Elliott jolts you with her signature bravado and wit, Eve appears and throttles the rap game with a double-time interruption. It is addictive and only stops when you do.
An Oscar-winning lady duet, y’all! Mariah and Whitney’s finest collaboration is still their joint appearance at the 1998 VMAs when they wore the same chocolate brown dress, but their second best effort is this happening ballad from The Prince of Egypt. I think Whitney “wins” the song, but Mariah’s ebullience is second to none.
5. Lady Gaga and Beyonce, “Telephone”
A gonzo song about phone static and romantic dysfunction, you can see why Lady Gaga originally wanted to pawn this song off on The Pussycat Dolls: It’s too damn weird. But thankfully she took it for herself, because this collabo with Beyonce is fueled by firepower and icy stank.
4. Karen Carpenter and Ella Fitzgerald, “Medley”
Are medleys allowed here? I’ve decided to make an exception because this world is not good enough to combine the simmering vocal sensations of Karen Carpenter and Ella Fitzgerald, and yet it once did. I’ve always loved Karen’s take on “This Masquerade,” but when followed by Ella’s lonesome, crisp vocal, we reach some sort of new nirvana.
Love this proclaimin’ bop. Whitney’s work on the chorus is fluttery and fun, and Aretha doesn’t even let us cope with her greatness as she rains it the hell down. In fact, I may like this better than “Freeway of Love.” Yow. I did say it.
The true sensation of 1998, “The Boy is Mine” gave you the absolute best of both Brandy, whose too-soft exterior toughens here, and Monica, whose brassy edge finds a perfectly slinky groove. But if you think this is the #1 female-female duet, I’m sorry that you / seem to be confused / That belongs to Donna / and Barb.
1. Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer, “No More Tears (Enough is Enough)”
This billowing blast of adrenalized chirping is simply one of a kind, sweet, and out of control. It is electrified. Donna just ignites on that sped-up verse, and Barbra pops you like Ryan O’Neal in The Main Event on those otherworldly choruses.