Ah, the musical mismatch. The odd couple. The collaboration you never saw coming. A fascinating anomaly in popular music, and one that more often that not yields painfully shite results.
If history has taught us anything, it’s that when acid house and country music collide (KLF and Tammy Wynette’s Justified and Ancient) or late ’90s boybands jump into bed with rock royalty (Five and Queen’s reworking of We Will Rock You), things get ugly.
Of course there are some classic exceptions. When Run DMC and Aerosmith taught us to Walk This Way, it sounded electrifying. When Bowie and Bing gathered by the tree for The Little Drummer Boy, they distilled Christmas like the pros they are. More recently, Lady Gaga’s duet album with king of croon Tony Bennett smashed all critical expectations.
As a rule though, a bizarre collaboration tends to be a bad one. The deformed love child of a coke-fuelled, post-Brit Awards jam session. The sick joke of some irresponsible, degenerate A&R guy. That last, desperate shot at the big-time.
We’ve been particularly spoilt of late. Social media channels came close to prolapsing a few weeks ago when news dropped of Tinchy Stryder’s collaboration with those sinister sultans of slapstick, the Chuckle Brothers.
Likewise, who’d have thought Marilyn Manson would be screaming incoherent noises alongside Johnny Depp and Ninja from Die Antwoord onstage at a recent gig.
These are strange times, but the unconventional collaboration has a rich heritage. Let’s take a look at ten of the weirdest (and worst)…
Lou Reed and Metallica – Lulu (2011)
Sharing little in common creatively (save a fondness for hard drugs and liquor), bus-pass heavy metallers Metallica and “magnificent bastard” Lou Reed joined forces on this 2011 concept train wreck. The two discs and 90 minutes of Lulu pair Reed’s tuneless, spoken-word rants with meandering rock instrumentation – a bizarre homage to horrendousness that was universally panned as one of the worst albums of all time.
You can listen to it in all its glory above…if you run out of nails to scrape down the blackboard.
Kurtis Blow & Bob Dylan – Street Rock (1986)
An unlikely meeting of minds, although one that makes some kind of sense. Dylan’s own brand of street poetry has been cited as a forebear to rap, with Mike D from the Beastie Boys hailing him as “one of the first b-boys”, while Dylan claims his link-up with Kurtis Blow turned him on to the likes of Run DMC, Public Enemy and NWA.
Mutual appreciation aside, Bob’s brief appearance on Street Rock was his first and last hip-hop excursion. Still representing is his grandson, rapper/producer Pablo Dylan, who’s just announced the release of a debut LP.
Eddie Murphy & Michael Jackson – Wazupwitu (1993)
Nobody saw this one coming. The story goes that Michael thought the song’s lyrics had a positive message, and agreed to feature. Even the King of Pop couldn’t save Wazupwitu, which peaked at a shameful number 74 in the Billboard charts.
More interesting than the song is the low budget video, where Murphy and Jacko prance about in a vortex of flying clip-art. It went on to be voted the third worst music video of all time by MTV viewers.
Russell Watson & Shaun Ryder – Barcelona (2001)
It’s unlikely Shaun Ryder had even heard of Russell Watson when he got the call to feature on a cover of the Freddie Mercury/Montserrat Caballe duet Barcelona, but who cares. He got out of bed and made it happen, and for that we are truly thankful.
Watson’s lung-busting operatics and Ryder’s Madchester whine butcher the song in broad daylight, aided by inappropriate breakbeats and comedy scratching. A novelty contract killing, if you like. The video is once again the winner, with the protagonists clowning around Barcelona like BFFs.
Wu-Tang Clan & Cher (2014)
The Wu have been responsible for some fairly dubious collaborations over the years (Texas, anyone?), but this might be the most unpredictable yet.
Taken from their highly secretive, highly publicised and highly exclusive (one copy in existence) forthcoming album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin, the 51-second clip in the video above features fountain of eternal youth Cher belting out the line “Wu-Tang baby, they rock the world”. The mind boggles why/how/where/when the RZA made that call.
The Bloody Beetroots & Paul McCartney – Out of Sight (2013)
Paul, we get it. You’re hip. Down with the kids. Groovy. Whatever, just promise you will never, ever make another dance music track.
When Italian EDM duo The Bloody Beetroots announced they’d be collaborating with Macca, a collective “WTF?” could be heard around the world. The randomness of this union aside, the results are depressing. Dubstep-by-numbers with a deluded ex-Beatle bleating on the chorus – what could be worse?
Lindisfarne & Paul Gascoigne – Fog On The Tyne (1990)
Before all that he was a national treasure – one of the world’s most gifted and unpredictable footballers – and in 1990 he joined the growing ranks of the footballer/popstar. Gazza took this reworking of Lindisfarne’s Geordie anthem Fog On The Tyne all the way to number two in the UK singles chart.
William Shatner; Ben Folds – Has Been (2004)
The artist formerly known as Captain James Kirk released an album of spoken word compositions in 2004, produced by American singer-songwriter Ben Folds. As well as a cover of Pulp’s Common People (see above), the release features contributions from British author Nick Hornby, electronic duo Lemon Jelly and US powerhouse Henry Rollins.
It’s music Jim, but not as we know it.
The Fat Boys & The Beach Boys – Wipeout! (1987)
The 1980s was a decade that most Beach Boys fans like to forget. Domestic turmoil and an increasing desperation to maintain status and cash cheques found them in the studio with comedy hip-hoppers The Fat Boys. More endless bummer, than summer.
Scooter & Status Quo – Jump That Rock (Whatever You Want) (2008)
What happens when a novelty German dance act meets an ageing British rock act? Judging by the evidence above, some kind of new, sonic waterboarding technique. Whoever instigated this is going straight to hell.
Featured image by Brian via Flickr