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Music Staff Selects: Best Music Collaborations

Not all great things go well together. Think peanut butter and Sriracha. But sometimes two things blend so beautifully that it’s nearly impossible to remember life before the combination. Musical collaborations are no different, and we’ve compiled a list of artist fusions that are so seamlessly brilliant, they outshine the individuals. They’re the peanut butter and chocolate of collaborations, if you will.

Kid Cudi ft. MGMT and Ratatat -Pursuit of Happiness

Kid Cudi ft. MGMT and Ratatat – “Pursuit of Happiness”

Devon: “Pursuit of Happiness” — Kid Cudi with MGMT and Ratatat
This jam has probably been featured on every millennial’s summer party playlist since its release in 2009 and for good reason. What could be dreamier than a collaboration between psychedelic rock duo MGMT and rapper Kid Cudi, produced by synth-lords Mike Stroud and Evan Mast of Ratatat? The dark, but catchy, indie/electro-pop/trip-hop mashup seems to be an American anthem for the laid-back, soul-searching kids of our generation. While not especially revolutionary, the mellow track captures the essence of coolness and ease, as a good collaboration should.

Pete Yorn Scarlett Johansson- Break Up

Pete Yorn Scarlett Johansson – Break Up

Maria: “Break Up” album — Pete Yorn and Scarlett Johansson
Coming from an unexpected duo, this album broke the charts in 2009 with its most famous hit, “Relator,” and it’s unquestionable why that happened. Johansson’s smokey, soft vocals blend perfectly with Yorn’s to create a vintage sound, and the chemistry the two shared on both the album and the accompanying videos is undeniable. Johansson and Yorn had the potential to become the modern Carole King & James Taylor, but unfortunately the collab was a one-off, leaving the rest of us to wonder, “What if?”

The Strokes and Regina Spektor Modern Girls and Old Fashion Men

The Strokes and Regina Spektor – “Modern Girls and Old Fashion Men”

Tess: “Modern Girls and Old Fashion Men” — The Strokes and Regina Spektor
It’s not often that my inner middle school and high school selves get excited over the same music. Occasionally the stars align perfectly, and two artists I love for different reasons decide to make music together. This is the case for The Strokes and Regina Spektor’s “Modern Girls and Old Fashion Men.” The B-side to the band’s signature song, “Reptilia,” has that New York-style rock sound that I praised the Strokes for in high school, combined with Spektor’s iconic, voice that I listened to endlessly in my angsty tween phase. Perfection.

The Used and My Chemical Romance- Under Pressure

The Used and My Chemical Romance – “Under Pressure”

Sam: “Under Pressure” — The Used and My Chemical Romance (Queen cover)
We’ve all heard it before. Covering Queen is a blasphemous act, punishable by the collective cringe of the Internet. Attempting to remake anything by a band known for such epic theatricality and ear-shatteringly high vocals is no small undertaking. But, the original “Under Pressure” is also a collaboration (featuring the one-of-a-kind David Bowie), so two of the biggest names in bombastic, 2000s emo taking a stab at this perennial classic feels strikingly appropriate — a passing of the torch, in a way. This is a heartfelt tribute to arguably the greatest vocalist popular music has ever seen, and Gerard Way and Bert McCracken do remarkable justice to Freddie Mercury’s astounding four-octave range. “Can’t we give ourselves one more chance?” Mercury asks on the 1982 track. Twenty-three years later, The Used and My Chemical Romance take that chance, and the results are wonderful.

Conor Oberst with First Aid Kid and Dawes Lua

Conor Oberst with First Aid Kid and Dawes – “Lua”

Lauren: ““Lua” — Conor Oberst with First Aid Kit and Dawes
Despite “Lua” being the most overplayed and overrated Bright Eyes song next to “First Day of My Life,” this spontaneous rendition of the popular classic is far superior to the original. Featuring elegant acoustic guitar leads by Taylor Goldsmith of indie folk band Dawes and layered vocal harmonies by sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg of First Aid Kit, these accompaniments breathe new life into a song that is normally limited to Oberst and his guitar. A master of musical improvisation, Oberst changes just enough about his simple tune to incorporate the extra musicians and completely transform the overhyped song into one I can stand to listen to again. (If only First Aid Kit and Goldsmith were able to join Oberst on stage at every show when he feels obligated to play “Lua.”)

Aerosmith and Run DMC- Walk  This Way

Aerosmith and Run DMC – “Walk This Way”


Britny: “Walk This Way” — Run-DMC with Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith
Part cover, part collaboration, this classic successfully manages to both elevate Run-DMC to stardom and drag Aerosmith out its the drug-induced irrelevance of the mid-80s (not to mention their lousy 1985 comeback attempt, “Done with Mirrors”). It broke hip-hop into mainstream pop music, becoming the first hip-hop song to crack the Top 5 of Billboard’s Hot 100 and introducing the world to a brand-new genre: rap-rock. The effortless collaboration still holds up 28 years after its release, with Tyler’s vocals and Perry’s sleazy guitar perfectly complimenting Run-DMC’s sloppy, spirited delivery (wrong lyrics and all) including other hip-hop elements like the drum machine and turntable. Bonus: the video is one of the raddest, perfectly visualizing the (literal) crashing together of two huge genres for one of the first times ever.

Phoenix and Daft-Punk at Madison Square Garden

Phoenix and Daft-Punk at Madison Square Garden

Jenna: Phoenix and Daft Punk at Madison Square Garden
Alt-rock band Phoenix played Madison Square Garden on Oct. 20, 2010 as the headliner for the College Music Journal Festival. The surprise came at the end of the evening, when electronic duo Daft Punk joined the band onstage for an epic encore. Phoenix’s “If I Ever Feel Better” turned into Daft Punk’s “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” and “Around the World,” with added instrumentals from Phoenix. To close the show, Phoenix performed “1901,” with help from Daft Punk, and in the end, the Frenchmen all took a bow.

The performance was actually a reunion of previous endeavours from the musicians. In 1992, Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homen-Christo formed a band with Laurent Brancowitz called Darlin’. They disbanded after a few months, and Brancowitz went on to join Phoenix as a guitarist, while Bangalter and de Homem-Christo formed Daft Punk. Eighteen years later, things came full circle as both artists shared the stage again to create a magical evening.

Slash and M.-Shadows

Slash and M.Shadows – “Nothing to Say”

Bryan: “Nothing to Say” — Slash and M. Shadows
When hard rock supergroup Velvet Revolver — consisting of ex-Guns N’ Roses and Stone Temple Pilots members — kicked out lead singer Scott Weiland for being an inconsiderate, 40-year-old drug addict who still hadn’t managed to get his shit together, the rock community made tons of speculations over who would fill the volatile frontman’s shoes. Of the countless suggestions, two in particular seemed to garner the most positive reactions: Corey Taylor of Slipknot and Stone Sour, and M. Shadows of Avenged Sevenfold.

It made perfect sense for Shadows to take the reins. Had it not been for Guns N’ Roses landmark debut, “Appetite for Destruction,” Avenged Sevenfold would not exist today. Sadly, as the reigning champions in today’s heavy metal landscape, the band is far too busy for Shadows to have a side project, and so his collaboration with Slash on the top-hatted axeman’s 2010 solo album will have to suffice.

Shadows’ voice is the perfect combination of grit, melody and muscle. The verses are subdued and menacing, and he hits his best Axl Rose-esque slides in the pre-chorus and chorus. Meanwhile, after toeing the line between hard rock and metal for 25 years, Slash finally makes the leap, offering some of his toughest riffs and blazing solos ever. The production is crisp and punchy, giving the song some much-needed muscle. Slash and Shadows are a match made in heaven. It’s heartbreaking that they haven’t collaborated anymore, but at least they caught lightning in a bottle once on “Nothing to Say.”

King Krule and Travi Scott- Neptune Estate

King Krule and Travi Scott – “Neptune Estate”

Quinton: “Neptune Estate (remix)” — King Krule ft. Travi$ Scott
A King Krule and Travi$ Scott collaboration actually sounds like a dream I had one time.

London’s gritty crooner King Krule is mostly known for his total disregard for genre, creating what I can only attempt to describe as “punk jazz” or “jazz rap.” As Krule began popping up in the blogosphere, Travi$ Scott was across the pond, flipping the script on Houston’s rap soundscapes and earning a spot on Kanye’s GOOD Music production wing, Very G.O.O.D. Beats. Krule has ventured into rap several times, most recently appearing on New York crew Ratking’s debut album. Scott’s production often alludes to his affection for punk and rock. Be it their shared love for other genres, the Internet’s barrier-breaking magic or the lonely boys’ equally tormented souls, these two collaborated on the Neptune Estate remix to much delight. A classic Scott drum sample looped over Krule’s drifting keys and solemn guitar riffs set the mood, and gives us a peek into their incredibly obscure lives.

The Black Eyed Peas and Justin Timberlake

The Black Eyed Peas and Justin Timberlake – “Where is the Love?”

Adam – The Black Eyed Peas and Justin Timberlake, “Where is the Love?”
Once upon a time, the Black Eyed Peas were not a terrible band. They used to actually produce quality music that didn’t sound like it was made for the soundtrack of the eighth “Transformers” movie. One of the best gifts they granted the universe before their downfall was their collaboration with Justin Timberlake, “Where Is the Love.”

While the simple-yet-catchy beat and irresistible chorus were common of many early 2000s radio hits, the lyrics set the song apart from its contemporaries. From the beginning line to the very end, the group deconstructs social justice and societal issues. Despite the weighty subject matter, the song is neither controversial nor uncomfortable. In an era where it seems as though the world is on fire, the Black Eyed Peas and Timberlake used their combined fame and influence to release a track that reminded people what really matters: love.

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