This week word broke that hipster friendly rapper A$AP Rocky would be teaming up with woman of the moment Lana Del Rey to create a collaboration so hot, it would have to be pulled from an upcoming (free) mixtape and held back for A$AP’s next LP.
Over at Strictly Towers it got us thinking about music’s great collaborations and we decided to let Strictly Editor David Hayter select 10 of his favourite tracks where great artists joined forces.
A Quick Note: We’ve decided to rule out “ordinary” rap collaborations. For example Kanye West’s “Runaway” which features Pusha-T or Jay Z’s “Empire State of Mind” with Alicia Keys, while technically collaborations they are effectively common place occurrences. There a million tracks with brilliant guest verses or beautiful choruses, but we’re after the unusual collaborations that genuinely brought artists together to create something distinct.
PJ Harvey and John Parish have been working together for decades. John is responsible for a lot of the instrumentation and production that has helped to cement the “PJ Harvey sound”. On two separate occasions John Parish and PJ Harvey have released albums as partners, contributing equally to the vision and end product – putting both names on the cover.
The most famous result was the brilliantly single “Black Hearted Love” from 2009. Fiendishly seductively this glorious piece of Lynch-pop felt like the duos own love song. An icey cool alternative anthem that celebrated their collective achievements and their symbiotic relationship, dripping in icey alternative cool and punctuate by phenomenal guitar line. Who says PJ and Parish can’t write pop songs?
The 1990s saw David Bowie floundering as rock’s great chameleon struggle to latch onto or truly transcend any one sound. By 1995 Bowie had moved onto to techno with the hit and miss album Earthling, but thankfully Trent Reznor was on hand to rejuvenate the star with a single mix of “I’m Afraid Of The Americans”.
Bowie, for his part, rediscovered the sense of frayed dislocation that made his 70s work so thrilling, while Trent used his industrial palette to beef up Bowie’s sound.Tackling the Fear of a global homogenized culture in America’s image, Bowie ends the track with the startling cry: “God Is An American”. The track, which balances an accusatory tone with a sense of mounting paranoia, is brilliantly brought to life by a demented music video that sees a demonic Trent Reznor stalking Bowie.
The Queens Of The Stone Age seemed intent of kicking the absolute shit out of the rock market in 2007 when they returned with two lead singles for Era Vulgaris. “3’s & 7’s” was a beastly monster, but “Sick, Sick, Sick” was something altogether more disturbing. Demented and venomous this new single was a queasy, wavering rocker, and to give the track that little extra Josh Homme reached out to Julian Casablancas. The Strokes star plays synth guitar, but more importantly he supplies some gorgeous droning backing vocals that meld into the track’s sawing guitar lines, creating a sense of forlorn detachment and utter hopelessness. This was the second time Homme and Casablancas had collaborated after Josh appeared on The Strokes cover of Marvin Gaye’s “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)”.
There was something almost comically about the suggestion that the fragile recluse who retreated to a log cabin to record For Emma, Ever Ago teaming up with Kanye, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj, and Pusha-T. What at first seemed like an odd bit part, became fully realized and utterly essential on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy album closer “Lost In The World”. Bon Iver’s “Woods” was transformed from its humble and bleak origins into a rumbling sprawling epic who overwhelms the listener through sheer maximalist force.
Kanye’s production is relentless as the madness of heartache, excess, paranoia, and gaudy monstrosity stampede onwards. Farcically ambitious the track is another one of Kanye’s ego masterpiece as a love-hate relationship with Amber Rose somehow flows into the scathing political assault of Gil-Scot Heron. Whatever was going on in Kanye’s head when he put this all together hardly matters, when the music is so vibrant.
While the impact of this mix has been considerably dulled by age, I cannot forget the joy and excitement this track induced upon its original release. “We Are Your Friends” took over everything seemingly instantaneously with its sleekly sexy retro-beat and its bellow friendly chorus. Justice had forged a track capable of uniting indie kids, football fans and cheese lovers, because no matter where you went in 2006, you were guarantee to hear his gem.
“We Are Your Friends” was custom made for the end of a drunken evening when no one has pulled, but you’d had a hell of a good time, and just feel like throwing your arms around one another and jumping in a willfully uncoordinated fashion.