Collaborating at work can be difficult, whether you’re securing a company merger or just trying to get a PowerPoint to work. For musical artists, working together is, without a doubt, an even more perilous endeavour, with competing egos, styles, and creative visions working against an effective pairing. However, for a select group of artists, their natural talents blend seamlessly with the styles of musicians from other genres, creating hybrid musical styles that withstand the test of time; for every ill-fated Brad Paisley and LL Cool J collaboration, there is a stunning track that breaks the mold. Here are our favourites from the past 10 years that you can listen to in the comfort of your home.
Katy Perry and Snoop Dogg “California Gurls”: Katy Perry has built her career on creating Top 40 hits that aren’t the saccharine and ultimately forgettable stuff of most pop stars. While her music’s cheeky style has long made her stand out from the pack, her surprising collaboration with Snoop Dogg on “California Gurls” might just be her most impressive feat yet. Perry’s style and Snoop Dogg’s laid-back California rap style blend seamlessly for a crossover hit that’s hard to top.
Daft Punk and Pharrell “Get Lucky”: Pharrell has proven himself to be an unbelievably versatile artist, with music ranging from N.E.R.D.’s slacker hip-hop to his soul-pop style on “Happy,” but perhaps his most successful song to date is “Get Lucky,” his collaboration with Daft Punk. Combining the French electronica duo’s infectious beats with Pharrell’s soulful style yielded an unlikely disco track that not only earned ample airplay but admiration from the music industry, winning two Grammys, one for Best Pop Duo and the other for Record of the Year.
Kanye West and Bon Iver “Lost in the World”: Kanye West’s raps and Bon Iver singer Justin Vernon’s quiet folk music may seem to exist at opposite ends of the musical spectrum, but their 2012 collaboration, “Lost in the World” is one of the most hauntingly beautiful pieces of pop culture to come out of the past decade. Vernon’s falsetto melds with electronic beats and Kanye’s rapid-fire lyrics punctuate the tune, keeping the listener at attention as this complex track unfolds.
Rihanna and Mikky Ekko “Stay”: While Mikky Ekko may not have been a household name when he first teamed up with Rihanna, “Stay” changed that for good. This stunning song from Rihanna’s 2012 album Unapologetic mixes R&B and pop influences to form a pleading, heartbroken ballad that’s as heartfelt as it is listenable. In fact, musical icon Patti Smith even called the pop hit her favourite song of 2013, covering it herself in a performance at New York’s Webster Hall.
Taylor Swift and Kendrick Lamar “Bad Blood”: Taylor Swift may be the reigning queen of pop, but her collaboration with Kendrick Lamar made it clear she’s the queen of crossover hits, too. On “Bad Blood,” the powerful duo combined their talents to create a larger-than-life track (which some say is based on Swift’s reported feud with Katy Perry). While Swift’s pop sensibilities drive the song, Lamar’s smart and cutting lyrics are what elevates this track beyond the level of another boring dis track.
While there are countless less-than-stellar musical collaborations out there, from time to time, the right musicians team up and make a song that’s greater than their respective solo talents. These musical collaborations are more than just one-off singles, they’re pieces of art that will stand the test of time, sounding as fun, innovative, and dance-worthy 50 years from now as they did on their first spin.