NEW YORK -- Pairing different music stars for a hit song is a tradition: Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder, The Supremes and the Temptations, Willie Nelson and Julio Iglesias.
But what used to be a special occasion has become an everyday occurrence. Now it's not uncommon to find four, five or even 10 guest artists on one album.
"When you listen to the radio, it seems like everyone is making what we call 'posse cuts,"' said Emil Wilbekin, editor-in-chief at Vibe magazine. "And on posse cuts, it's not just about one artist, it's about several artists."
In a competitive industry where even established artists have trouble keeping fans' attention, musical cameos have become almost expected as acts try to win new fans from each other and across genres.
"If you're doing an album and people think that Whitney's on the album, they are going to go get it because Whitney's on the album," said Wyclef Jean, whose last album, "The Ecleftic," had contributions from Whitney Houston, Mary J. Blige, Kenny Rogers and even professional wrestler The Rock.
But Jean, a member of the hip-hop group the Fugees and a producer and songwriter, said sales are not the major reason he taps star power for his records.
"The reason I do it is because all my CDs I try and make like mini-movies," he said. "I like to get a cast, so I try to look for a cast that would fit the topic."
The "casts" on some discs have more star power than a summer blockbuster. For instance, on Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott's new CD, she enlists the help of at least 11 other performers, from Eve to the ubiquitous Jay-Z.
Mariah Carey's upcoming disc "Glitter" features numerous guests -- even her current hit, "Loverboy," a sample of an old Cameo tune, features Ludacris, Da Brat, Cameo's own Larry Blackmon and others.
"What people are finding is that you get more bang for your buck when you not only have one successful artist, but three successful artists working on one track," said Wilbekin.
The trend is especially popular in rap and R&B -- so much so that the Grammy Awards recently added a category for it: best rap/sung collaboration.
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