May 21, 2015 via Pepsi
10 Musical Collaborations You Never Saw Coming
Kanye West, Rihanna and WHO? A Beatle, a Barbadian princess and the biggest rapper on earth walk into a bar…just kidding! They walked into the studio and recorded a song that absolutely no one saw coming. One of the most magical things about music is that no matter how well you think you know the landscape, releases you could never imagine happens all the time. Now more than ever, massive stars are crossing genre borders, looking to the underground for their next collaborators, and playing around with singles they can release to the world in a snap online. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, collaborations like the ten on this list break the mold. From Paul McCartney, Rihanna and Kanye to Sam Smith and A$AP Rocky, here are ten collaborations you never saw coming. Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images
1. Kanye, Rihanna and Paul McCartney, “FourFiveSeconds”
When we first heard Kanye West, Rihanna and Paul McCartney on the same song we were four five seconds from falling down in disbelief. Paul McCartney managed to get Barbadian pop queen Rihanna and rap god Kanye West to slow down and belt out a heartfelt pop song backed by acoustic guitar. Their delivery, filled with passion and tangible frustration makes the song relatable for every hard-working person out there who are just counting down the days until Friday. Plus they've introduced the verb, "http://genius.com/Rihanna-fourfiveseconds-lyrics'," to folk and country fans who might have otherwise had to do without such a poignant expression of irritation. Wild away, America. Never in a million years could we have predicted a trifecta like this, and the fact that the song is one of the best of 2015 makes this unforeseen collaboration one of the rarest.
2. Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett, “Cheek to Cheek” (Album)
We always knew Lady Gaga was theatrical, but the news that she had tapped the legendary Tony Bennett for a collaboration album only made sense in retrospect. Having already gotten used to her bold, meat-dress-wearing, art-world crashing ways, we were pleasantly surprised to see Gaga going in a more classic American pop direction. Gaga and Bennett’s duo at this year’s GRAMMY awards show was a great one, but this video of them performing “It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing),” had us bumping Duke Ellington for weeks to come.
3. Kendrick Lamar and Tame Impala, “Backwards” (Divergent Soundtrack)
In addition to being one of the most talented lyricists alive, we found out Kendrick Lamar had rockstar potential after he performed “Radioactive” with Imagine Dragons at the GRAMMYs last year. So, it was exciting to find out Lamar’s appearance on the Divergent soundtrack would be alongside talented Australian psych-rockers, Tame Impala, with a rework called “Backwards.” This one was out of the blue. Tame Impala’s sound is on the gentler side, with atmospheric vocals and soft reverb on their original version of the song, "Feels Like We Only Go Backwards" from their 2012 album Lonerism. Lamar's contribution transforms the song into a high-intensity, attention-grabbing smash. It’s clear they brought out the best in each other, the final song successfully mirrors the emotional ups and downs the Divergent films are known for.
4. 2NE1’s CL and Florence Welch, TBD
CL, the MC frontwoman of Korean supergroup 2NE1 is gearing up to release her debut solo album in the U.S. Songwriter Bobby Brackins recently let it slip that in addition to massive names like Diplo, Skrillex, and Will.i.am, CL has been spending time in the studio with Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine. This one’s forthcoming, but just imagine Florence’s powerful voice and expert songwriting colliding with CL’s opulent, mega-pop background. It’s going to be epic.
5. Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars, “Uptown Funk”
Okay, we admit it: Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars have been an unbeatable team for a while now. No one can deny the sheer brilliance of “Locked Out of Heaven.” But for the first time in his career, Mark Ronson has a #1 hit single with an assist from the one and only Bruno Mars. It’s not often a musician on Mars’ level takes the back seat. With a relationship built on mutual hard work (and serious flavor), Ronson tapped Mars to help make his single “Uptown Funk” a solidified smash. Who would have thought it would be Ronson’s name at the top of the charts? Cheers to such an inventive way to mix things up. It clearly paid off.
6. Joey Bada$$ and Kiesza, “Teach Me”
The latest album by Pro Era frontman Joey Bada$$, B4.DA.$$ (AKA. Before the Money), is pretty great across the board, but there’s one particular track that stands out from the rest. It happens to be the bonus track, “Teach Me,” featuring Canadian singer Kiesza. It’s an upbeat pop song that shines because Joey’s whip-smart lyricism interlaces perfectly with Kiesza’s catchy chorus. We would never have pegged Kiesza to be a Joey fan, but she wouldn’t be his first famous supporter. Thumbnail Image: Getty Images/ Frank Hoensch / NBC Universal
7. HAIM and A$AP Ferg, “My Song 5”
Like Joey Bada$$, the HAIM sisters have some pretty famous friends on deck. When the remix for “My Song 5” from Days Are Gone dropped, it wasn’t one of their gal pals who came up with the assist. It was none other than A$AP Mob’s resident sweetheart, A$AP Ferg. Both parties share their perspectives on relationships gone wrong. Now we’re taking bets on whether HAIM will contribute live instrumentals to the next Ferg album too. Image Source: Larry Busacca/Getty Images/Complex Magazine
8. Sam Smith and A$AP Rocky, “I’m Not the Only One”
While Ferg was busy lending raps to some of our favorite pop princesses, mob leader A$AP Rocky hopped on a re-release of Sam Smith’s excellent “I’m Not the Only One.” Never in our wildest dreams would we have pegged these two artists as collaborators. Though both are brilliant in their own lanes, the out-of-nowhere idea to step into the same space and talk about love and infidelity shows just how universal the pain that comes along with being betrayed really is. Image: Getty Images/ Kevin Winter
9. Ed Sheeran and Rick Ross, “Don’t”
There’s not much Ed Sheeran can do that shocks us anymore. He’s made it pretty clear he’s not afraid to try his hand at any musical style that fits his mood on a given day. What we didn’t see coming is MMG boss, Mr. Ricky Rozay himself hopping on the Sheeran train. Their collaboration on “Don’t” is a playful back and forth between two guys frustrated with lovers who’ve done them wrong.
10. Nicki Minaj and Skylar Grey, “Bed of Lies”
Nicki Minaj is like a chameleon. She can change gears from heavy-hitting rap banger to pumped-up pop song in seconds flat. It’s the stripped-down version of Nicki we’re less familiar with. When “Bed of Lies” from her most recent album The Pinkprint dropped, featuring a lesser-know singer/songwriter named Skylar Grey/strong>, we got a chance to see that side of Nicki. Skylar has been working with some of music’s biggest names for years. From Dr. Dre to Eminem, she’s penned verses with the best of them. Something about the two women bringing such a sensitive perspective to “Bed of Lies” hit home. It takes bravery to lay your emotions on the line. Because both of these artists are best-known for intense songs with heavy backbones, this track was an especially welcome surprise.