In the last 15 years, music has seen a surge in collaborations between artists to create magic that is only possible when two singers join forces. Or because fans are suckers and having two sets of suckers often increase a song’s chance of breaking out. Here are 15 collaborations you thought would break chart records but ended up breaking nothing but our expectations. The sum of the whole is not always greater than the sum of its parts.
Birthday Cake by Rihanna and Chris Brown
I love Rihanna but sometimes I can’t understand her. She’s that friend you keep on reminding to let go of the toxic and abusive relationship she’s in. But for reasons beyond your comprehension, she anyway keeps on coming back to it. And you just get tired of it and hope she wakes up one day realizing it’s not worth destroying yourself over anyone. No matter how controversial this pairing is, and strong the output might be, it didn’t do much and I’m actually happy it tanked.
Homecoming by Kanye West and Chris Martin
There was a time when Kanye was not yet crazy and Chris Martin did not get flack for being too mainstream. And during that time, the two geniuses collaborated on “Homecoming”. The contrast in their musical styles works perfectly to amplify the bittersweet nature of leaving everything and everyone behind in the pursuit of your dreams. And the intensity in Kanye’s delivery and warmth in Chris’s voice is the combination that brings you closer to home.
Up Out My Face by Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj
While you’ve probably never heard of it, Mariah and Nicki collaborated back in 2010. It’s funny to think they joined forces before to take a jab at men who were not worth their times. And flash forward a few years later, they would feud in every single episode of American Idol.
Control Myself by LL Cool J and Jennifer Lopez
After the success of “All I Have”, I’m not surprised the LL Cool J and J Lo decided to re-unite for another track. Of course, I imagined it would be for another ballad but they decided to rock the boat and make a club jam instead. While the change in trajectory was admirable, the sound came out too alienating for its time.
My Life by 50 Cent, Adam Levine and Eminem
50 Cent wanted to top “In da Club” before retiring from the music scene. And what better way to secure his ambition than to team up with Eminem and Adam Levine? Even today, the clubs have not forgotten about his debut single and plays it when the atmosphere calls for a throwback. Most, however, would not remember this, or are even aware of its existence for that matter.
Beautiful Liar by Shakira and Beyonce
Everybody remembers “Beautiful Liar” but there was something restrained and understated about it that one cannot help but feel underwhelmed when it was released. I cannot imagine Beyonce releasing another track in this direction, or even performing it live. The same would happen years later when Shakira would team up with Rihanna for “Can’t Remember to Forget You”.
Another Way to Die by Alicia Keys and Jack White
It’s almost like all 007-inspired singles are meant to not click with the general public. And while Adele and Sam Smith would garner accolades for their contribution to the Bond music legacy, Alicia Keys and Jack White would get roasted for it. If they came in after Adele resurrected the acclaim to the franchise soundtrack, they might have just gone and won awards themselves. In my opinion that will likely not be shared, this is miles better than “Skyfall” or “Writings on the Wall”.
Work It by Nelly and Justin Timberlake
If any song deserves credit for making collaborations popular, it would have to be “Dilemma” by Nelly and Kelly Rowland. And if Kelly Rowland’s popularity is nowhere close to Justin Timberlake’s, then it’s a no-brainer that “Work It” should destroy and annihilate any song it comes across. Unfortunately, no one got worked up about it and for good reason.
Pretty Girls by Britney Spears and Iggy Azalea
Britney was supposed to make a comeback and Iggy needed some damage control after a successful debut but controversial finish. While it wasn’t meant to challenge Plato’s world views, “Pretty Girls” was intended to re-establish their relevance in popular music. Instead, it ended up being a blame game for the song’s underwhelming chart performance.
Half of My Heart by John Mayer and Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift and John Mayer ended bitterly and wrote songs about it that it’s hard to picture they used to sing together about half of their hearts believing the relationship will prevail. “Half of My Heart” gives us vocals, although little, from Taylor Swift that I have yet to hear in another Taylor Swift with an ex-track called “This is What You Came for”.
Revolver by Madonna and Lil Wayne
What I don’t understand about Madonna in the last decade is why she keeps on pairing up with hip-hop artists. Except for “4 Minutes”, all their inclusions have made the songs unbearable and have not increased her reach. Lil Wayne’s verses in “Revolver” are at best unnecessary, and at worst, atrocious.
Bubble Butt by Major Lazer, Bruno Mars, Mystic, Tyga and 2 Chainz
Bruno Mars can do no wrong. Or could he? Many of the topnotch collaborations released in the past few years have benefited significantly from his ethereal voice – “Billionaire”, “Nothin’ on You”, “Lighters” and “Uptown Funk”. And while he can be forgiven for “Bubble Butt”, it can never be forgotten. This happened before Major Lazer broke out and I guess that’s a good thing.
Incredible by Celine Dion and Ne-Yo
Celine Dion’s ballads dominated the 90s but she has not had much commercial success since. In a bid to captivate current audiences, she updated with the sound of Ne-Yo. And while the song would’ve been incredible two decades ago, it unfortunately didn’t catch on.
Beautiful by Enrique Iglesias and Kylie Minogue
The track sounds so auto-tuned that it takes away any beauty in “Beautiful”. Here are two of the hottest singers in my lifetime, managing to make love sound manufactured and robotic, it actually made hearts colder. Where is the Kylie Minogue responsible for “Especially for You”?
Just a Fool by Christina Aguilera and Blake Shelton
The Voice has done wonders for Maroon 5. It resurrected dying interest in the group, kicked off with the release of “Moves Like Jagger”, a collaboration with Adam’s co-coach Christina Aguilera. In another judge pair-up attempting to re-establish relevance, Christina paired up with Blake Shelton for “Just a Fool”. And while you couldn’t make out if the sound was country or pop, it undoubtedly showcased Christina’s vocal chops, which has aged but not decreased in power. But while Blake Shelton has garnered an insurmountable amount of country success because of the show, Christina was a fool to think the show and collaborating with co-coaches would be enough. She even did one with Cee Lo Green and that one went by and no one noticed.