Elvis Costello just released Wise Up Ghost, his new album in collaboration with The Roots. In celebration of this fabulous musical match, we're looking back at our favorite collaborations. Let us know what we missed in the comments!
This list would be utterly incomplete without the legendary combination of Queen and David Bowie on "Under Pressure." We know that Freddie Mercury wrote most of the music while Bowie covered the lyrics, but the debate over who wrote that iconic bass line is still raging. Either way, the song's powerful message and strong and memorable tune made it a classic.
Way before he was a God — or a father — Kanye West was on a flight to Rome seated next to Maroon 5's Adam Levine. It was a match made in heaven: Adam had a hook with no beat, and Kanye had a beat with no hook. They put them together to make "Heard 'Em Say." The seamless collaboration was released on Kanye West's second album, Late Registration, and the two went on to become even bigger stars.
(Runner-up: "Homecoming" by Kanye West, featuring Chris Martin.)
Before her tragic early death, Amy Winehouse was in the studio working on a variety of new songs. The album Lioness: Hidden Treasures revealed some of these unreleased gems, including Winehouse's collaboration with Nas in "Like Smoke." But it wasn't until the Nas album Life Is Good was released in 2012 that the world got to hear the near-perfect collaboration in "Cherry Wine." The beautiful song is tinged with sadness, as Nas repeats "life is good" over Winehouse's unmistakable voice.
Now for a 1990s throwback. A combination of Mariah Carey and Jay-Z doesn't sound like the pleasantest thing at first, but the two proved the world wrong with "Heartbreaker." The pop beat complements both Mariah's bright vocals and Jay's eye-rolling verse. And there's nothing better than a good music video from 1999.
What do you get when you take Adele's best vocals, Jamie xx's expert remixing, and Childish Gambino on the attack? An unbeatable track. The collaboration came along piece by piece, as Jamie xx and then Childish worked their magic. What makes this song incredible is that it's a great jam in all of its forms. We already love anything Adele sings, but this remix turns it into a club rocker. And Childish Gambino's entrance drops a bomb of awesomeness, right from his very first "swag."
"Nothin' On You" single-handedly made the summer of 2010 bright and poppy. This song came out right at the start of B.o.B. and Bruno Mars' star careers. As soon as it hit the radio, we all knew we had some amazing things to look forward to from these two, and they did not disappoint.
I could make a full list of awesome Jay-Z combinations (The Grey Album? "Suit & Tie"? Jaydiohead?) but Collision Course, released in 2004, was a bona fide game changer. Jay-Z and Linkin Park reworked several of their songs to work seamlessly together It was an incredible feat of musicianship, and the results were insane. This combination of rap and hard rock might not have worked, had it not been for the talent involved. Linkin Park's wounded anger brought out the harshness in Jay-Z's raps, culminating in the powerful track "Numb/Encore."
"Un-Thinkable" is one of those maddeningly realistic songs, thanks to Alicia Keys' nervous crooning about opening up to a new relationship. While Drake sang only light back-up vocals on the original, he helms the opening verse in this remix. With their shared penchant for honesty and openness, Keys and Drake created a powerful songs. After Drake was featured on Keys' track, she was featured on his song "Fireworks."
You would be lying if you said you didn't spend at least one car ride with your friends screaming "We Are Young" at the top of your lungs. This youth anthem from Fun. is emblematic of everything that it means to be, well, young. Even through we've heard it way too many times, the song still evokes excitement. Janelle Monae's appearance here is great, but I wish there had been more of her!
For a while there, "Cupid's Chokehold" was entirely unavoidable. Wherever you went, you heard that ubiquitous "ba-da da da." Gym Class Heroes managed to take Supertramp's "Breakfast In America" and turn it into something totally different, and Fall Out Boy's Patrick Stump provided chorus vocals that no one could stop singing. As an added bonus, this video lets us see what Katy Perry looked like right before she hit it big. (Speaking of collaborations, remember "E.T."?)
Rihanna and Eminem are both known for bullish, controversial attitudes, but until "Love The Way You Lie," their musical styles seemed entirely incompatible. Somehow, Eminem's harsh rap paired with Rihanna's pop-ballad singing to create a massive hit. The song is even more meaningful and powerful when you consider the artists' public lives.
For the My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy track "All Of The Lights," Kanye West decided that he wanted to take all of his favorite voices, and smash them together into a gargantuan track. So that's exactly what he did. Rihanna got the recognizable hook. Kid Cudi scored the bridge, while Fergie sang the final verse. Alicia Keys and Elton John joined together for the final lines (Elton also played the piano for the entire song). Plus, John Legend, the Dream, Drake, Ryan Leslie, Charlie Wilson, Tony Williams, Elly Jackson, Alvin Fields, and Ken Lewis are all credited as contributing vocals. After all, when Kanye does something, he does it big.