Five Unusual Collaborations That Actually Worked

2014 has provided a number of musical collaborations that we didn’t realise we craved until they happened: Flying Lotus and Kendrick Lamar, Röyksopp and Robyn, Sbtrkt and Ezra Koenig…

But sometimes collaborations are as surprising as the continued success of Lil Wayne. This results in either a lot of exasperated groans (see Jay-Z x Linkin Park) or, occasionally, unanticipated collaborative harmony. Here’s a sample of the latter from the recent past.

1. Daft Punk & Paul Williams

If anyone knows their way around a collaborative track, it’s French dance legends Daft Punk. The duo’s 2013 album Random Access Memories is testament to this, featuring artists as diverse as EDM pioneer Giorgio Moroder, The Strokes’ Julian Casablancas and Animal Collective’s Panda Bear. The most peculiar appearance, however, came from then-72-year-old Paul Williams (the man behind The Muppet Movie soundtrack, of all things). Touch is an introspective, jazz-infused eight minutes that wanders blissfully between genres and is widely regarded as the cornerstone of the album. Williams contributes several heartfelt verses that border on spoken word. It must be noted, of course, that he is an internationally acclaimed singer-songwriter beyond Rainbow Connection, having penned hits for the likes of David Bowie and Barbra Streisand. It’s just funnier to think of him as Kermit the Frog’s lyricist.

2. Arctic Monkeys & Dizzee Rascal

You can decide for yourself whether this one was actually a success, but when Arctic Monkeys teamed up with London rapper Dizzee Rascal in 2007, it certainly raised some eyebrows. The indulgently titled Temptation Greets You Like Your Naughty Friend was recorded during the sessions for Arctic Monkeys’ second album, Favourite Worst Nightmare, and eventually appeared on the Brianstorm EP. Apparently Dizzee enjoyed the experience and was keen to work with Alex Turner again. The verse he contributed wasn’t all that abrasive, but perhaps it was for the best that further collaborative work never eventuated.

3. alt-J & Miley Cyrus

Admittedly this wasn’t a collaboration, as such, but questions have been asked about alt-J’s decision to borrow a verse from Miley’s 4×4 in their single Hunger of the Pine. Public opinion is divided; many believe the sample (‘I’m a female rebel’) seems to have been rather awkwardly shoehorned into the track, while others – myself included – can see its artistic merit and the element of unpredictability it provides. The inclusion of the sample came about as a result of alt-J’s drummer, Thom Green, remixing the track during the writing of the band’s second album, This Is All Yours. Apparently Miley’s on board, and has even worked a bit of Fitzpleasure into her Bangerz tour shows.

4. Tyler Touché & His Mum

Brisbane whiz kid Tyler Touché was just 16 when he released Baguette, a bouncy, nu-disco inspired track that garnered significant airplay and earned him a coveted spot at Splendour in the Grass 2013. The most amusing aspect of young Tyler’s success is that the word ‘baguette’ before the chorus was sung by his mum (presumably now known as Mrs Touché). She seems to have retired from her brief stint in the club music scene, though, as Tyler has sourced other vocalists for subsequent releases.

5. Crystal Castles & Robert Smith

When Crystal Castles re-recorded their cover of Platinum Blonde’s 1983 hit Not in Love with The Cure’s Robert Smith on lead vocals, it was a rare moment of cohesion. The recently disbanded Canadian duo were renowned for their glitchy, chaotic and cacophonous music, so releasing something that was effectively a pop song was, in itself, an odd turn of events. The fact that legendary frontman Robert Smith was supplying the vocals (and that it worked so well) made the situation even more surprising.