Musical collaborations and multiple artist supergroups seem to be getting more and more common everyday, but there have been plenty of amazing collaborations that changed the game in the past.
From Queen and David Bowie’s “Under Pressure” to Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst’s new collaborative project, Better Oblivion Community Center, these collaborations really changed the music industry as we know it.
Check out 14 musical collaborations that changed the game below.
Queen and David Bowie – “Under Pressure”
Freddie Mercury and co. were in the process of recording Hot Space at Mountain Studios in Switzerland when none other than David Bowie stopped by to record the title track for the then-upcoming film, Cat People. Luckily for us, Queen and Bowie decided to collaborate on a session and got creative, eventually coming up with “Under Pressure.” “David came in one night and we were playing other people’s songs for fun, just jamming,” Queen drummer Roger Taylor explains in Mark Blake’s novel Is This the Real Life?: The Untold Story of Freddie Mercury and Queen. “In the end, David said, ‘This is stupid, why don’t we just write one?'”
The Beatles and Eric Clapton – “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”
“While My Guitar Gently Weeps” was originally created by The Beatles member George Harrison as a gentle acoustic track, which was taped in July 1968 and quickly abandoned. After several reworkings, Harrison enlisted the help of his friend Eric Clapton for the number, creating the wobbly guitar-heavy track we know and love today. Upon getting asked to play on the track, Clapton was reluctant. “He said, ‘Oh, no. I can’t do that. Nobody ever plays on The Beatles’ records,'” Harrison explained to Guitar Player in 1987. “I said, ‘Look, it’s my song, and I want you to play on it.’ So Eric came in, and the other guys were as good as gold.”
Pearl Jam and Neil Young – “Rockin’ In The Free World”
On June 27th, 1995, Neil Young released his hit album Mirror Ball, which featured Pearl Jam as his backing band. Prior to that, in 1993, Pearl Jam and Young combined forces on national television where they performed “Rockin’ in the Free World” together at the MTV Video Music Awards, which quickly became a cultural phenomenon. Although their collaborative 11-track album was packed with rad tunes, it wasn’t their most remarkable collaboration, as most of the songs were predominantly Young’s, so this performance truly serves as a standout.
Aerosmith and Run-DMC – “Walk This Way”
Aerosmith and Run-DMC changed the game with the first notable rock-rap crossover. At the time, Aerosmith was on the decline as their album sales steadily weakened after thir peak in the 70’s, but Run-DMC pulled them out of their slump with this collaborative tune. Although they weren’t the first to attempt a rap-rock hybrid, they seemed to be the first to do so in such a successful, explosive way, especially with their music video that broke boundaries between both genres and races.
Public Enemy and Anthrax – “Bring The Noise”
American hip hop group Public Enemy dropped “Bring the Noise” on the soundtrack of the 1987 film, Less Than Zero, and released it as a single later that year. In 1991 the group paired up with thrash metal band Anthrax for a killer rendition of the tune that showcases both of the bands’ talents, and the recording marked one of the first rap-metal tracks ever created. “We all enjoyed hip-hop, and that’s what we were listening to,” Anthrax’s Scott Ian told The Silver Tongue. “Public Enemy was our favourite band at that time. All we did, or Run-DMC and Aerosmith did, we were just dabbling and treading lightly in it. We weren’t a crossover group.”
Kanye West and Bon Iver – “Lost In The World”
The fascinating friendship and collaboration between rapper Kanye West and soft indie artist Bon Iver is strangely beautiful, as frontman Justin Vernon’s falsetto vocals compliment West’s confident lyrics in a twisted way. West fell in love with Vernon’s “Woods,” which he later sampled on his fifth album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. “[West] was like, ‘I like how you sing so fearlessly. You don’t care how your voice sounds,'” Vernon explained to Pitchfork. “It’d be awesome if you could come out to Hawaii and hear the track, and there’s some other shit I think we could throw down on.” From then on, frequent collaborators were born, bridging the world between hip hop and indie folk.
The Flaming Lips and Miley Cyrus – “We A Famly”
Who knew this peculiar pairing would work out? In 2017, the Flaming Lips and Miley Cyrus reunited for a booming, psychedelic track called “We A Famly,” which served as the closing track on the band’s record, Oczy Mlody. The track is a perfectly trippy tune that brings Cyrus’ gritty, raspy vocals into the colourful, delightfully strange world of the Flaming Lips. “You’re somewhere south of Wichita/ I’m somewhere up there under the moon,” Cyrus sings before the collaborators swirl their vocal lines together, closing out the track and record in a remarkably odd way.
Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus as Boygenius – “Me & My Dog”
A trio of songwriters recently came together to form the indie rock supergroup of a lifetime. Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus morphed into one band, sharing an expansive and intimate self-titled EP under the moniker boygenius. Each tune on the record merges the different musicians’ styles in completely unique ways, but boygenius still feels perfectly cohesive. “When we met, Lucy and Phoebe and I were in similar places in our lives and our musical endeavours, but also had similar attitudes toward music that engendered an immediate affinity,” Baker explained in a release. “Lucy and Phoebe are incredibly gifted performers, and I am a fan of their art outside of being their friends, but they are also both very wise, discerning and kind people whom I look up to in character as much as in talent.”
St. Vincent and David Byrne – “Who”
St. Vincent and Talking Heads’ David Byrne spent almost four years working on their collaborative record Love This Giant together. The duo met back in 2009 at a benefit concert, but the record was ultimately inspired by a concert that the pair attended that featured an on-stage collaboration between Björk and The Dirty Projectors. Now, we have outstanding tracks like “Who” to mark the epic collab, which resulted in an expansive, dynamic album of moody, philosophical tunes.
Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile – “Over Everything”
Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile met after Vile was touring Australia and heard wind of Barnett’s talent, so he added Barnett’s band at the time, The CB4, as an opener to a show in Melbourne. As the duo began bumping into each other while out on the festival circuit, they became friends, eventually sending each other demos and writing together. “I love working with Courtney,” Vile writes on their website. “The collaboration was laid back with less pressure.” The pair’s album Lotta Sea Lice is a perfect highlight of each of their skills, as they play off of each other with half-spoken lyrics about the mundanities of their lives.
Jay-Z and Kanye West – “No Church In The Wild”
Jay-Z and Kanye West’s first collaborative album Watch the Throne was a killer record packed with hit tunes. “No Church in the Wild” was a clear stand out, with the unbelievably catchy instrumentals and elaborate lyrical themes about the complex relationship between religion and decadence. Featuring Frank Ocean and The-Dream, the track received raving reviews from music critics, and served as one of the strongest opening tracks on an album to date. At the time, the riotous track was playing everywhere, and it came accompanied by a viral music video that revolved around a conflict between a group of protesters and violent riot police.
Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst as Better Oblivion Community Centre – “Dylan Thomas”
Phoebe Bridgers makes her way twice onto this list for her collaboration with Bright Eyes frontman Conor Oberst. Together, they recently surprise dropped a self-titled album under the moniker Better Oblivion Community Center, which is delightfully dreary, with Bridgers’ and Oberst’s distinct melancholic vocals and confessional story telling taking the lead as they sing about desolation, devastation and, of course, death. “We get pegged as being emo and death-obsessed,” Conor Oberst explained to Billboard. “Things that we are,” Bridgers remarks in response. Since then, the duo have been out on an expansive tour, where they’ve gained a lot of attention for a variety of heartwrenching covers like Death Cab For Cutie’s “Title And Registration,” The Killers’ “Human,” and “Shallow” from A Star Is Born.
BONUS: What is a list of musical collabs without Dr. Dre? He’s collaborated with pretty much everybody in the business, from Snoop Dogg to Tupac to Slim Shady, so he’s more than deserving of an honourable mention.