1 + 1 = ∞

By Laura Gerhaeusser

Remember when you first heard Walk This Way by RUN DMC and Aerosmith? How you just couldn’t help but turn up the volume and dance and how the energy carried you through the whole day?

If you haven’t yet, now is the time to try it out.

It’s quite spectacular what musical firework can happen when two completely different artists collaborate and share the spotlight. See below our playlist of artists merging their forces to create a new unusual potion, that looks beneath the surface of what to expect in music and genres.

Let’s kick it off with one of the most famous examples of two artists coming together in order to create something radically amazing. Walk This Way was not only a massive hit but was the ultimate take-off for record label Def Jam. Producer Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons founded the label inside his NYU dormitory bedroom, where he would often host parties and remix songs himself. After discovering the beginning of Hip-Hop in New York City, he soon found himself on the hunt for the cities hottest new acts he could sign to his label. One of them being RUN DMC.

The music video? A glorious triumph. The scenes in which both artists are singing the others literally against a wall, that is meant to portray their musical differences is a brilliant idea.

Back in 2013, the reine of country-soul Norah Jones and Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong joined forces and not only came out with one song, but an entire album. Normally, Armstrong is known for his punk-pop anthems alongside his band Greenday. Hits like 21 Guns, Wake Me Up When September Ends or American Idiot found their place in international charts over the years. All of them sound punchy, are guitar-heavy and songs to rock out to.

But combined with Norah’s tender timbre, their voices form a sweet unity. Foreverly is a re-interpretation of The Everly Brother’s 1958 album Songs Our Daddy Taught Us.

Laurie Vincent of rockband Slaves and producer Jolyon Thomas (U2, Kendrick Lamar, Jake Bugg, M83,..) got together to create a sound, neither of them has previously been associated with. Their first song LOVE YOU, BYE. is the modern, melancholy and complex soundtrack for pensive days. Both artists come from different backgrounds and aim to create a completely new sound together. The whole ethos of the band is about changing perspectives, removing constraints and stepping out of comfort zones.  

Continuing on the line of electronic music: techno. Few people have had as much impact on the genre as Jeff Mills. In the late ’80s and throughout the 90’s, the Detroit DJ shaped techno with his original sound. In 2005 he performed a highlight-reel concert with the Montpelier Philharmonic Orchestra, which put a new spin on his career. He definitely wasn’t the first artist, who decided to put a new spin on his songs with the help of an orchestra. Artists such as Radiohead, Aphex Twin or Emerson, Lake & Palmer have done the same. His performance stands out though – there is something quite intriguing and unique about combining an opulent orchestral sound with “cold”, sequenced and analog techno.

Rapper Nelly had his fair share of hits in the early and mid-2000’s. His music featured contemporary, danceable beats and lyrics that were set in pop culture at the time. The 2004 song Over And Over features country singer Tim McGraw, who sings the soft, pensive chorus. This tone also gets Nelly to show his more emotional side, which creates an overall mood for heartbreak and longing for a lover. Teaming up with McGraw must have motivated Nelly to invite his fragile and longing state of mind. After releasing songs about going to the club and dancing all night – this song is definitely a statement in – not only Nelly’s – but also McGraw’s career.

This collaboration came as a big surprise in 2004. By that time, both Brooklyn rapper Jay-Z, as well as rock band Linkin Park had made a name for themselves. Both had a massive number of fans all around the world and sold out arenas everywhere. Jay-Z was known as the tough, resilient and honest rapper, who had earned his respect from his contemporaries. Linkin Park had a bright light shining, as well. Rock fans all around the globe celebrated their powerful anthems, which talked about mental health, admitting the ugly feelings inside oneself and heartbreak. So when the band re-released their song Numb in a new version with Jay-Z, rock – and rap fans were excited about this collaboration. It perfectly combines the poetic and real lyrics of Jay-Z and the energetic rock sound of Linkin Park. What a powerhouse anthem!

When you think of James Bond theme songs, one thinks drama, orchestra, BIG sounds and timeless artists. When the news about the song alongside James Bond – Quantum of Solace was announced, many were shocked and yet thrilled about this tonic duo. Alicia Keys, who has her musical home in soulful and piano-based pop music, and Jack White, alternative rockstar extraordinaire, came together to record the songs Another Way to Die in 2008. It followed the footsteps of iconic artists such as Shirley Bassey, Tina Turner and Madonna. It wasn’t quite like any other previous Bond songs: powerful, guitar-based, punchy, full of rhythm and unapologetic.

Remember Kylie Minogue’s I Should Be So Lucky? One of the sugariest of the pop songs of the ’80s. Her look was just as memorable: big blonde hair, poofy outfits, and a youthful petite demeanor. Although she has since proven to be a pop supernova that came out with hit after hit, her duet with Nick Cave in 1995 was quite the sensation.

Nick Cave, Australian rockstar somewhere between rock, folk and gothic folk tales, wrote Where The Wild Roses Grow with Kylie’s voice in mind after having written many unreleased songs for her. It’s a mysterious piece of music that tells the tale of a man courting a woman and killing her while they are out together. Despite this dark and horrific theme, the song did very well in numerous charts around Europe. Don’t miss out on the fairytale-like music video.

She, Alison, Watching The Detectives,… only a few songs of post-punk singer-songwriter Elvis Costello. He had his musical heyday in the ’70s as part of the first wave of British punk and new wave. On the opposite side of the musical table: The Roots. Urban beats, a hip-hop attitude and incredible musicianship are one of the few things the band is known for. In recent years, they have also become the resident band of The Late Night Show With Jimmy Fallon. How did this collaboration come about?

“Elvis first came on the Jimmy Fallon show in 2009. I knew he was a fan of the Voodoo album I did with D’Angelo, so we asked if he would be open to the idea of “remixing” his stuff. He was into it, so we did these radical versions of “High Fidelity” and “(I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea”, and he loved it. Then we did that a second time the next year, and then last year he was on when the show did a Bruce Springsteen tribute week. At that point, I kinda subliminally put out the idea of a larger collaboration. I was passive-aggressively suggesting it—I was too afraid to actually say, “Let’s make a record together.”

If you’re a fan of EDM, you have most definitely heard the name Steve Aoki before. The 42-year-old DJ from Miami, has been making big waves in the work of electronic music since his first 2012 album. Two years ago, he released Noble Gas, a song that features Bill Nye “The Science Guy”. Nye, American scientist and tv-host, is known for presenting bite-sized science to American children through his TV show in the ’90s.

Did you enjoy this breakdown of some of music’s most unusual collaborations? Have a look at our Sunshine playlist and Musical Juice.