Was there a more seminal Year of the Diva than 1998? That’s when VH1 introduced its popular “Divas Live” franchise, uber-divas Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston recorded together for the first time, and a fast-rising actress named Jennifer Lopez graced the cover of this very magazine’s own Diva Issue on the eve of her soon-to-be massive music career.
But nothing that year was more inescapable than Brandy & Monica’s “The Boy Is Mine,” a mega-duet that paired 90s R&B’s two biggest breakout teen sensations for a four-minute riff-off that set a new precedent for pop vocals – not to mention female collabs. Just two weeks after its release on May 19, the song rocketed to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, where it stayed for a total of 13 weeks, dominating the summer of ’98. Prior to its chart success, the last female duet to top the charts was Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer’s “No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)” in 1979, ending a two-decade drought that produced only a handful of diva-on-diva anthems like Aretha Franklin and Annie Lennox’s “Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves” or Lil Kim’s classic “Not Tonight Remix (Ladies Night).”
To celebrate the two decades of divadom since “The Boy Is Mine,” we’ve put together a ranking of the 20 best diva collabs of the past 20 years — as well as wag a well-manicured finger at the five worst (sorry, Shakira!). Before we dig in, a few ground rules: no boys allowed, no girl groups, each diva must sing or rap a verse of their own, and the collab must stack up against each participant’s own solo work.
So call your stylist, make sure you didn’t accidentally wear the same dress, and dive into our divine diva rankings.
20. Charli XCX feat. Tove Lo & ALMA – “Out Of My Head” (2017)
Charli XCX may have assembled an impressive male lineup in her video for “Boys.” But she’s even stronger at playing A&R for the girls on pop’s fringes, many of whom (Carly Rae Jepsen, Cupcakke, Brooke Candy) she’s hosted on her latest projects. This highlight from her December mixtape Pop2 is an appropriately named showcase for Charli’s brain-invading hooks, and brings out the best of her Scandinavian cohorts along the way
19. Janelle Monáe feat. Erykah Badu – “Q.U.E.E.N.” (2013)
Before Monáe’s just-released pansexual opus Dirty Computer, there was this team-up with Erykah Badu that boldly tackled bisexual attraction (“Am I freak because I love watching Mary?”). In fact, as Monáe recently revealed to Rolling Stone, the song was originally titled “Q.U.E.E.R.” An instant classic from two soul queens.
18. Christina Aguilera feat. Lil Kim – “Can’t Hold Us Down” (2002)
Aguilera’s 2002 album Stripped celebrated the complexities of young womanhood – the “Beautiful,” the “Dirrty,” and everything in between. This “Lady Marmalade” mini-reunion was a musical middle finger to gender double standards that asked the obvious: why can’t ladies be players, too?
17. Mariah Carey feat. Da Brat & Missy Elliott – “Heartbreaker Remix” (1999)
The ultimate ‘90s diva helped pioneer the pop/hip-hop crossover via her collabs and remixes with rappers like Ol’ Dirty B