Unexpected Musical Collaborations

Determining whether or not an audio collaboration is unexpected can be tricky. ‘Unexpected’ is such a subjective term, isn’t it? However, at Tonic Audio we like doing the unexpected, so we’re going to take a shot at it. Here are a few examples of relatively recent collaborations that could be unexpected:

  • Ed Sheeran and Bring Me the Horizon: In 2021, Ed Sheeran released a new song called “Bad Habits” featuring Bring Me the Horizon. This collaboration was unexpected because Sheeran is known for his pop music, while Bring Me the Horizon is a rock band. However, the two artists’ different styles blended well together, and the song was a success.
  • The Weeknd and Jim Carrey: In 2022, The Weeknd released his fifth studio album, Dawn FM. The album features a number of guest appearances, including one from Jim Carrey. Carrey voices the radio host on the album, and he also appears in the music video for the song “Out of Time.” This collaboration was unexpected because Carrey is an actor, not a musician. However, his performance on the album was well-received by fans.
  • Justin Bieber and Benny Blanco: In 2022, Justin Bieber released his sixth studio album, Justice. The album features a number of unexpected collaborations, including one with hip-hop producer, Benny Blanco. Blanco co-wrote and produced several songs on the album, including the lead single, “Peaches.”

These are just a few examples of unexpected musical collaborations. These collaborations can be risky, but they can also be very rewarding. When two artists from different genres come together, they can create something truly unique and special. In fact, entirely new genres have been born this way! 

Let’s dig, in-depth, into one of the earliest ‘unexpected collaborations’, one that was a strong influence on nu-metal’s creation as a genre— “Walk This Way” a collaboration between hip-hop group Run-DMC and hard rock progenitors, Aerosmith.

Walk This Way

“Walk This Way” is a song by the American rock band Aerosmith. Written by Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, the song was originally released as the second single from the album Toys in the Attic (1975). It peaked at number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1977, part of a string of successful hit singles for the band in the 1970s.

In 1986, the hip hop group Run-DMC covered “Walk This Way”, in collaboration with Aerosmith (with its leaders Steven Tyler and Joe Perry on vocals and guitars, respectively). The song was released as the lead single from Run-DMC’s third album, Raising Hell. The song was a massive success, reaching number four on the Billboard Hot 100 and becoming the first rap single to reach the top 10. It also helped to revitalize Aerosmith’s career, which had been in decline in the early 1980s.

The “Walk This Way” collaboration is considered to be one of the most important moments in the history of rock and rap music; it helped to break down the barriers between the two genres and paved the way for future collaborations between rock and rap artists. The song is also credited with helping to popularize rap music among white audiences.

The music video for “Walk This Way” features both Run-DMC and Aerosmith performing the song in a variety of locations, including a concert hall, a street, and a recording studio. The video was also notable for its use of special effects, including slow-motion and split-screen photography. Between the music itself, and the accompanying video, this collaboration pushed the boundaries of what could be done in popular music.

What It Meant

“Walk This Way” is a classic rock and rap song that has stood the test of time. It is a groundbreaking song that helped to bridge the gap between two different genres of music. The song is still popular today and is often played on classic rock and rap radio stations. Along with Anthrax and Public Enemy’s team-up on “Bring The Noise”, “Walk This Way” showed the world the power of a drum machine matched to an electric guitar.

Old Town Road

Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus are two very different artists from different generations (and genres!), but they came together in 2019 to create a hit song that broke down barriers between genres.

Lil Nas X is a 22-year-old rapper from Atlanta, Georgia. He first gained attention in 2019 with his song “Old Town Road,” which was a fusion of country and hip hop. The song was a huge hit, topping the charts for 19 weeks in three charts: pop, rap and country, and becoming the longest-running number one song in the history of the Billboard Hot 100.

Billy Ray Cyrus is a 59-year-old country music star who first rose to fame in the 1990s with his hit song “Achy Breaky Heart.” He is the father of Miley Cyrus, who is also a successful singer.

In 2019, Lil Nas X released a remix of “Old Town Road” featuring Billy Ray Cyrus. The remix was a huge success, reaching number one on the charts and becoming one of the most popular songs of the year. The collaboration helped to introduce Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus to  new audiences and showed that country and hip hop could be successfully blended together.

What It Meant

The success of “Old Town Road” was a breakthrough moment for both Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus. It showed that artists from different genres could come together and create something special—that preconceptions were made to be broken!

Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus are two very different artists, but they have one thing in common: they are both talented musicians who are not afraid to experiment. Their collaboration on “Old Town Road” was a success because it was a genuine collaboration between two artists who respected each other’s work. The song is a testament to the power of music to bring people together.

Black Ribbons

Now, let’s turn our attention to a collaboration that should meet ANYONE’S definition of unexpected. Let’s examine one of the oddest musical collaborations we, at Tonic Audio, have ever run across: Shooter Jennings, son of outlaw country legend Waylon Jennings, and his collaboration with renowned horror author, Stephen King.

Shooter Jennings is an American singer-songwriter, musician, and record producer. Stephen King is an American author of horror, fantasy, suspense, science fiction, and mystery novels. He has published over 60 novels, including Carrie, The Shining, The Stand, and It. He has also written numerous short stories, screenplays, and comic books.

Jennings and King first met in 2007 when Jennings was working on his album The Hierophant. King was a fan of Jennings’s music and agreed to write the liner notes for the album. The two men became friends and have collaborated on several projects since then.

In 2010, Jennings released his album Black Ribbons. The album is a dystopian concept album that tells the story of a future America that has been taken over by a totalitarian government. King provides the narration for the album, playing the role of a late-night radio host who is broadcasting from underground.

In 2013, Jennings and King collaborated on a short film called The Last Outpost. The film is a horror story about a group of people trapped in a small town that is being overrun by zombies; King wrote the screenplay for the film and Jennings composed the score.

Jennings’ and King’s collaborations have produced some of the most unique and exciting work in both music and film.

Even More

Here are a few more surprising collaborations from various artists. We encourage you to listen to the songs, read interviews about their collaborative process, and draw inspiration for yourself. If they did it, you can do it, too!

  • Megan Thee Stallion and Jimmy Fallon: In 2021, Megan Thee Stallion teamed up with Jimmy Fallon for a surprise performance of her song “Body” on The Tonight Show. The performance was met with positive reviews from critics and fans alike, praising the unlikely pairing of the rapper and the late-night host.
  • Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran (the guy REALLY likes to collaborate!): In 2021, they released a surprise duet called “The Joker and the Queen.” The song was a huge hit, reaching number one on the charts in several countries. It was also nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.
  • Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett: In 2021, Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett released their second collaborative album, Love for Sale. The album features a number of classic jazz standards, as well as some original songs. The album was a critical and commercial success, and it won a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album.
  • Kanye West and Sir Paul McCartney – Power: This collaboration between a hip-hop superstar and a rock legend was a groundbreaking moment in music history. The song’s powerful beat and anthemic chorus made it a hit with both hip-hop and rock fans alike. It also gave us the immortal question, “Who’s that guy playing with Kanye?”