Monday, 7 June 2010

Countdown: Duets


Twenty years ago, a duet between two superstars would be a pretty big deal in the eyes of the people. In today's musical climate it would seem that in order to make a song a hit it has to be a collaboration between two or more music stars. Ok, I might be over exaggerating a little but there are a lot of duets in the market right now. Currently Usher and Will.I.Am are at the top of the worldwide chart, followed closely by Katy Perry and Snoop Dogg, B.o.B and Hayley Williams, Lady Gaga and Beyonce and Sean Kingston and Justin Bieber. OHMYGOD JUSTIN BIEBER!!! She's awesome. Anyway, from a record companies perspective a duet makes a lot of sense. Get two artists, preferably from differing genres (which would mean differing fan bases) in the studio and cash in on the extra exposure the song will receive. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Let's look at twenty of the best... Oh and I'm not counting covers, so sorry to any Bowie/Jagger enthusiasts out there.

20 - Telephone
Lady Gaga ft. Beyonce

Premature? Maybe. Amazing? Yes! It's ok, you're allowed to admit that you love it. The 9 minute mini-movie only helped, with fantastic lines like, "if you kill a cow you've got to make a burger." Beyonce chowing down on a dirty burrito is something I never thought I'd have the pleasure of seeing.

19 - Touch It (Mega Mix)
Busta Rhymes ft. Mary J Blige, Missy Elliott, Rah Digga, DMX, Lloyd Banks, Ne-Yo & Papoose

Segments from some of the biggest names in rap, hip-hop and R&B that are broken up by a sample of Daft Punk's 'Technologic' = collaboration win!

18 - Request + Line
Black Eyed Peas ft. Macy Gray

Remember when the B.E.P used to be cool? No? Then check out their first commercial single 'Request + Line.' The success they achieved with Macy Gray likely led to the addition of Fergie to the group. That turned out alright. What would we do without classics like 'My Humps,' and 'I Gotta Feeling?'

17 - 9 Crimes
Damien Rice & Lisa Hannigan

One of Rice's greatest achievements. It's a fantastic duet that only loses points because Hannigan was part of the 'band' Damien Rice for the albums O and 9, which took away a lot of the wow factor. It wasn't the first time the two had worked together and it wouldn't be the last. Still, fantastic song.

16 - You Don't Know Me
Ben Folds ft. Regina Spektor

'You Don't Know Me' brings together two of the most criminally underrated singer/songwriters of the last decade. Luckily the two have almost cult like followings so the song proved popular on alternative and independent radio.

15 - Empire State of Mind
Jay-Z ft. Alicia Keys

Jay-Z and Alicia Keys' ode to NYC became one of the biggest songs of 2009/2010 and had everyone putting their lighters in the air screaming, "YEAAAAAHHHHH." Let's hear it for New York!

14 - Get It Up
Santigold, M.I.A & Gorilla Zoe

Ever since Santigold stumbled into the mainstream in 2008 fans were salivating at the prospect of her working with the innovative (and apparently ranga hating) M.I.A. Fans got their wish granted last year in the form of 'Get It Up' which co-starred Gorilla Zoe.

13. Cop That Shit
Timbaland & Magoo ft. Missy Elliott

You can't blame Timbaland from moving in a more commercial direction and making a ton of money for himself in the process. You just need to remember that if he wanted to he could keep dropping tracks like 'Cop That Shit' that are a nice little reminder he's one of the coolest dudes in hip-hop. Add in regular guest stars Missy Elliott and the kind of weird Magoo and you've got one of the best rap songs... ever.

12. Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves
Aretha Franklin & Eurythmics

Two vocal powerhouses rocking a feminist anthem. This one gets bonus points for how unlikely it should have been for Aretha Franklin to sing alongside Annie Lennox.

11. Millionaire
Kelis ft. Andre 3000

One of popular music's true gems from 2004 saw the untouchable hit maker Andre 3000 (of OutKast) team with the girl with the milkshakes bringing all the boys to her yard. As expected, their styles worked perfectly together. Unfortunately the song didn't even see a US release, but it would go Top 5 in the UK.

10. Gold Digger
Kanye West ft. Jamie Foxx

Foxx was coming off the success of his Academy Award winning portrayal of the legendary Ray Charles and Kanye was in need of a hit, so he was all like, "Jamie bro, sing a couple of lines for me in your Ray Charles voice because you're so hot right now." Foxx was like, "yeah, Ok." I'm sure there was a much better discussion about the two working together. Or was there? Yeah, probably. Anyway, 'Gold Digger' would go on to become the biggest song of West's career, placing at #9 on US Billboards biggest songs of the 2000s so far.

9. Be Faithful
Fatman Scoop ft. Crooklyn Clan

"Engine, engine number 9, on the New York transit line, if my train goes off the track, pick it up, pick it up, PICK IT UP!" A song designed to get people on the D-Floor with their hands in the air. I'd say they achieved what they set out to do.

8. Duet
Rachael Yamagata & Ray Lamontagne

If less is supposedly more, a perfect example would be the amazing duet by indie darling, Rachael Yamagata and rising folk star, Ray Lamontagne, aptly titled, 'Duet.' Just the two singing a quiet song as Lamontagne strums his acoustic guitar. It's like chicken soup for the ears. Or the soul. I'm not good with metaphors or analogies or anything really. I'm just trying to say the song's amazingly beautiful.

7. Son of a Gun
Janet Jackson ft. Carly Simon & Missy Elliott

Before the world was exposed during "Nipplegate" at the Super Bowl, Janet was one of the hottest acts in town. In 2001 she was able to get Carly Simon to sing parts from her hit single 'You're So Vain,' alongside the biggest female rapper in the world, Missy Elliott.

6. Breathe
Blu Cantrell ft. Sean Paul

'Breathe' was able to go to #1 in the UK for four weeks and reach the top tier of charts worldwide (except for the USA who must not have appreciated good music in 2003) with very little promotion from Blu's record company, Arista. It was the demand from fans to see the song added to radio, to have it released and to have a music video produced that makes it one of the coolest duets in recent memory. While you wouldn't exactly call Cantrell or Paul 'popular' anymore, if you do happen to be a fan of either of them, you can listen to 'Breathe' and smile.

5. Stan
Eminem ft. Dido
The song would introduce the world to the sweet vocal stylings of Dido and seemingly overnight made her into one of the biggest stars in the world. It's also regarded by many critics to be the best song in Eminem's catalogue, proving that he can be so much more that a comedy rap act.

4. This Mess We're In
PJ Harvey & Thom Yorke

It's PJ Harvey and the voice of Radiohead. What more do you want?

3. Where the Wild Roses Grow
Nick Cave ft. Kylie Minogue

Nick Cave's writing has always been his greatest strength and he wrote a masterpiece in 'Where the Wild Roses Grow,' the first single from 1996s Murder Ballads. Minogue happened to be moving in a more alternative direction throughout the mid-90s and fitted in perfectly as the murdered beauty Elisa Day. This would be Cave's biggest commercial hit and Minogue's most critically acclaimed, making this the best example of a beneficial duet for each artist involved.

2. Falling Slowly
Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova

If you haven't heard this, or if you haven't seen the film Once, I strongly encourage you to do so. 'Falling Slowly' won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in a Motion Picture for Once which stars Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova. The two have since gone on to form The Swell Season, currently one of the more popular folk groups in the world. This song is amazing. It's simple, but epic; sad, but sweet.
1. Walk This Way
Aerosmith & Run DMC

After the huge success of 'Walk This Way,' the music industry started looking at collaborations a little differently. It showed that you could get two groups from very different genres and still make something memorable, fun and a commercial success. Another mutually beneficial duet, the music of Run DMC would rise to prominence throughout the world and take the rap genre to previously unseen levels of popularity, and Aerosmith would once again be considered cool. I can't even remember the last time Aerosmith were considered cool.

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