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Top Surprising Musical Duets That Actually Worked

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by Steven G (subscribe)
Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler...Former teacher... Scientist... Published author... Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published September 16th 2018
Surprises can be surprising
Musical collaborations are nothing new. From the time of the start of recorded music, people have come together to record songs with results that are mixed, if we're being honest.

Some collaborations make sense – Julio Iglesias and Willie Nelson worked brilliantly (To All The Girls I've Loved Before) for example, and Queen and David Bowie was a match made in heaven (Under Pressure). Some collaborations should have worked on paper – the album by Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead springs to mind – but the results were less than stellar. And some people can just collaborate with anybody and make it work – Paul McCartney is definitely one of those.

So, to this list. These are pairings that, on the surface, should NOT have worked. Why put these people together for anything, let alone a single that is released to an unsuspecting public? But they did and they worked. And worked fantastically. Like chips (fries) and mayonnaise. Sounds bleh but is scrumptious.
chips, fries, mayonnaise
No, seriously, you have to try this! (pixabay)


A couple of outs, though – these are songs released as singles or that were recorded for albums and got a fair whack of airplay. Live stuff doesn't count (no matter how much Elton John ruled with both Guns N'Roses and Eminem) – it's got to be recorded in a studio. I've also steered away from hip-hop/pop star/rock star collaborations because it seems Eminem and Mackelmore can sing with literally anybody as well and make it work. Also, no mash-ups and no songs where one artist basically sang over an existing track by another artist (Natalie and Nat King Cole, for example). And I've also eliminated supergroups (e.g. The Traveling Wilburys).

Finally, I'm not including anything with a symphony orchestra. Why? Because after seeing the Zep Boys and the Adelaide Symphony (I think) live, everything else pales in comparison… and that isn't an official album (as far as I know). So… no symphony orchestras! (As much as Kiss and the MSO is awesome…)
duo, singing
Now, I did say they had to be GOOD songs, right? (pixabay)


So, here's a few I think are worth it!


Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue – Where The Wild Roses Grow
Who? The dark Goth of Australian music and the singing budgie of Neighbours fame.

Murder Ballads was a cool album. Mind you, nearly everything Nick Cave does has 'cool' about it. And when he brought Kylie Minogue in to duet on this song… well. Cool does not even begin to describe it. It's eerie lyrics and the way Kylie adjusts her singing to suit the song beautifully make it the stand-out track on the album. I never thought I'd say that about a Kylie Minogue song, but there you go.


Pet Shop Boys and Dusty Springfield – What Have I Done To Deserve This?
Who? Pop crooners of the 80s and 90s and the English mistress of Soul from the 60s.

The Pet Shop Boys had a string of fantastic songs. So it was a little bit of a surprise when they brought in Dusty to do this track. But her sultry, wonderful voice fits so perfectly with the slow track, Tennant's voice smoothly running beneath hers. She brings a bit of sexiness to the song. It works, and that surprised a lot of people. But it doesn't matter. Because it is good.


KLF and Tammy Wynette – Justified And Ancient
Who? A group of musical mavericks and the Queen of country music.

Now, the thing here is, the KLF did whatever they wanted to. They were the group who famously ended their career by burning a million pounds worth of bank notes. They made strange songs full of overdubs and sampling. And then they got Tammy Wynette to sing the lyrics about a strange land called Muu-Muu (spelling? Who knows?). Her voice stands out but brings the song up to a level that it might well have otherwise not achieved. She makes the song, and that is all there is to it.


Iggy Pop and Kate Pearson – Candy
Who? One of the originators of American punk and one of the two women from pop group The B-52s (of Rock Lobster and Love Shack fame).

In the 1980s Iggy was going through something of a lean patch. He released an ill-advised cover of Wild Child (Real Wild One) and was seen to be riding on the coat-tails of his friendship with David Bowie. Unfairly, but that was the perception. And then came this duet with the gloriously voiced Kate Pearson. The lyrics are wonderful and their voices are the perfect juxtaposition of sounds and emotion. It really is a great song and is often forgotten.


Robert Plant & Alison Krauss – Please Read The Letter
Who? Lead singer of Led Zeppelin, one of the great stadium rock acts, and a blues-grass country singer who plays a wicked violin.

Now, Robert Plant is not one to ride on past glories. His forays into non-Zeppelin musical forms have been many. But the album he released with Alison Krauss – Raising Sand – is a beautiful piece of work. His voice has that world-weariness that the songs need and hers is in perfect counterpoint. And this song, released as a single, is such a sad song. Their voices mesh so brilliantly well and, well, I have to say, if you like this song, buy the album. You will not be disappointed.


Slash with Fergie and Cyprus Hill – Paradise City
Who? Guitarist with rocker Guns N'Roses, the female member of hip-hop group Black-Eyed Peas and the hip-hop outfit best known for Insane In The Brain.

Slash's first solo album was a revelation. Not only because it introduced Myles Kennedy to many of us who had not heard of him before, but also because it was so damn good. This track, a remake of the Guns N'Roses classic, worked. I do not know why, but it did. Cyprus Hill's rapping fits perfectly and Fergie showed she has true 'rock chick' credentials. A shame her solo album was more pop orientated because I think she could get out there and take the rock world by storm. The whole works as a whole, but a lot of that is due to the fact it is a pretty damn awesome song to begin with.

(Please note - there is no official video... sorry.)

Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé – Barcelona
Who? The frontman for Queen and a Spanish opera singer.

Now, the fact this could have happened should not have been a surprise – one only has to listen to Bohemian Rhapsody to see that Mercury was a frustrated opera singer. But for Montserrat Caballé to agree, and then for them to release an album and for it to be actually really good, that was not what anyone was expecting. This song shows that Mercury really could sing and sing damn well, and that Montserrat was a damn good sport for going along with it.


Aerosmith and Run-DMC – Walk This Way
Who? Hard drinking and partying rockers and one of the first and most influential rap groups.

The story of how this came to be made is an odd one. Apparently, Run-DMC used to rap over the track, which they thought was by a band called Toys In The Attic (the name of the album), and their producer decided he wanted them to record it. He approached Aerosmith and they decided to not only give permission but to re-record their parts for the song and – voilá! – instant hip-hop/rock classic! In the late 1980s, this was a staple at Blue Light Discos, and I can still remember knowing all the words and screaming them with a few hundred other sad teenagers.


So, there you have it. What do you think should have been on the list? And, remember, this is about good duets, so Sylvester Stallone and Dolly Parton does NOT count!


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Your Comment
Entertaining as always Steve. Some more obscure ones here - but that's good as you are introducing me (us?) to stuff we may not have heard. Nick Cave has just gone down in my estimation. The only good thing Kylie did was Michael Hutchence! LOL
by May Cross (score: 3|3049) 31 days ago
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