This is the golden age of the collaborator. Like merging corporate cultures or spiral galaxies, artists arm themselves with the most influential allies. They draw battle lines, obliterating entire musical genres and categories in order to dominate the airwaves. The producer has become the most sought after accessory, once relegated only to the liner notes, presently pushed to the forefront, on the album cover, only slightly smaller than the artist. It’s Justin Timberlake featuring Timbaland and Gaga featuring Rodney Jerkins. If Thriller had been released today, it probably would’ve been billed as Michael Jackson featuring Quincy Jones. And in a world gone topsy turvy, sometimes it’s the producer who becomes the star. It’s Mark Ronson featuring Amy Winehouse and David Guetta, the french DJ producer du jour, featuring just about everybody. If you are starting out, maybe you are lucky enough to have been “discovered” by a star. After losing the bidding war to Usher over Justin Bieber, its now Esmée Denters featuring Justin Timberlake. Or maybe you just need a collaborator, that identifiable voice with the little sumthin’ sumthin’ to pep up your chart assault. Call Akon, he seems to say yes to anyone. Bruno Mars, the angelic voiced songwriter/producer who lifted B.O.B’s “Nothin On You” all the way to top, is testing the waters with his own solo single “The Other Side” (featuring a few friends of course). Mars who constructs beautiful pop songs seems like the real deal here, and I will go on the record saying it now, he will emerge as the star, leaving his accomplices in his superstar dust. Go ahead and quote me.