Music Industry

The 5 Best Music Collaborations of All Time


December 27 2023

Music Industry

The 5 Best Music Collaborations of All Time


December 27 2023

There's a special kind of magic that happens when two exceptional artists come together to create a masterpiece, especially if they both have distinctly different sounds that come together harmoniously. When it comes to music, this could even result in the birth of a sound that transcends any classic genre categorizations. 

Whether it's a groundbreaking music collaboration or a pair of extraordinary voices joining forces for a duet, we’re going to take you on a journey of some of the best music collaborations of all time. These tracks have left their mark on both the industry and the people alike, redefining genres, setting records, and cementing themselves as timeless classics. 

What Makes a Collaboration Legendary?

First things first, it's important to understand what classifies these tracks as the best song duets. We’ve put together the list based on the following criteria:

1. Influence and Innovation

Legendary collaborations will push the boundaries of music to introduce innovative sounds and styles that resonate with a broad audience.

2. Cultural Impact

The best duets and music collaborations transcend time and culture and leave a lasting impact on the music industry and society at large.

3. Chart-Topping Success

A lot of iconic collaborations have dominated the charts and set records in terms of sales and streaming numbers. So, for obvious reasons, taking numbers into account is essential.

4. Longevity

Like any good piece of art, these collabs must be able to stand the test of time and maintain their acclaim amongst generations of music lovers.

Now that we’ve broken down the determining factors, let’s get started on our picks for the best music collaborations of all time (in no particular order).

1. Queen and David Bowie - "Under Pressure"

Not only was Bowie one of the greatest musicians and songwriters to grace the earth, but he was also a master collaborator. His ability to produce some of his best work while partnering with other artists, as well as to bring the very best out of them, was unparalleled. 

"Under Pressure" serves as the perfect example of his collaborative brilliance, and stands - to this day - as a true masterpiece that defies description. You can’t really go wrong when you bring together two musical geniuses like Freddie Mercury and Bowie, but the fact that they were both at the pinnacle of their craft, resulted in a moment of pure artistic mastery. 

Released in 1981, it continues to captivate audiences with its infectious bassline and unforgettable harmonies. If you need further proof of the magic of this track, listen to the acapella recordings of their vocals, recorded late one night in New York in 1979. 

2. Elton John and George Michael - "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me"

Elton John and George Michael's collaboration on "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" is a testament to the power of two powerhouse vocals coming together. Their live performance from 1991 remains a shining example of one of the best singing collaborations ever recorded live. 

The raw and undeniable emotion, and vocal prowess displayed in this duet are quite frankly unmatched, making it a timeless classic that’s cherished by music fans of all generations.

3. Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney - "Say Say Say"

It should be no surprise that a track by the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, and the legendary Paul McCartney would be on this list. 

The two joined forces for "Say Say Say" in 1983. The infectious melody and exceptional songwriting made it an instant hit, and allowed it to stay at the top of Billboard’s Hot 100 for six weeks. 

The vocal chemistry between the two legends was electric, as they effortlessly traded verses and harmonized throughout the track. It’s no wonder it remained a timeless classic and a cornerstone in the pantheon of the best music collaborations ever.

4. Run DMC and Aerosmith - “Walk This Way” 

In a genre known for its collaborative spirit, “Walk This Way”, an iconic partnership, broke the boundaries of both Hip-Hop and Rock. When Rick Rubin, with his visionary foresight, persuaded the renowned rap sensation Run DMC to join forces with the (what became classified as a) “hair-metal” band Aerosmith, no one could’ve anticipated what a game-changing moment it would be. 

Allegedly, there was an initial lack of enthusiasm among the parties involved, with both of them citing concerns about their reputation as a result of the collaboration. Nevertheless, Rubin's determination won them over, and the result was a Rap/Rock masterpiece that some even say birthed an entirely new genre that informed bands and artists like Rage Against The Machine, Linkin Park, Kid Rock, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ice-T, and even Eminem. 

5. Daft Punk, Pharrell, and Nile Rodgers - “Get Lucky”

We thought we’d include a more recent track to round up the list, and one involving a three-way collaboration. 

"Get Lucky" stands out as one of the best musical collaborations of all time for a number of reasons. The hit track brought together the remarkable talents of one of the most influential electronic music duos of our generation, Daft Punk, and the legendary disco and funk artist, Nile Rodgers. The smooth and soulful vocals of Pharrell Williams added an extra layer of depth to the composition, and tied this multi-genre collaboration. 

The result was an infectious, groovy melody that continues to dominate dance floors and radio stations. The track's production quality, which showcases Daft Punk's meticulous attention to detail, is a testament to the fusion of modern technology with classic musical craftsmanship.

With its blend of the retro funk and disco influences of Rodgers with the futuristic electronic sound of Daft Punk, "Get Lucky" managed to evoke a sense of futurism and nostalgia at the same time, while forcing at least a foot tap out.

Honorable Mentions

At MDLBEAST, it’s hard to choose only five of our favorite collaborations. So to keep things fair, here are a few mentions that we cannot bear to part with.

  • Beyoncé and Jay-Z - "Crazy in Love"

  • Frank Sinatra and Aretha Franklin - "What Now My Love"

  • Madlib and Four Tet - “Road of the Lonely Ones”

  • Simon & Garfunkel - "Bridge Over Troubled Water"

  • Johnny Cash and June Carter - "Jackson"

  • Eric Clapton and B.B. King - "Riding with the King"

  • Eminem and Rihanna - "Love the Way You Lie"

  • Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman - "Time to Say Goodbye (Con te partirò)"

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