Unlikely Collaborations: The 6 Strangest Musical Pairings in History

tim cornell

Musical collaborations are almost always exciting sonic adventures for fans on both sides of the mashup, and we’ve seen some truly strange pairings over the years. 

Chris Cornell & Timbaland 

Most Chris Cornell fans anticipated Scream, his third solo effort and much-hyped collaboration with Timbaland, with a fluctuating mix of trepidation and pessimistic confusion. As selfish, demanding fans go, we’ve been longing for that classic signature wail from the man that was once the God of Seattle- we want something with meat, a new flash of the flame that drew us all like moths in the first place. But Scream did not deliver. To pop that hood and look at it through any sort of rock purist lens would inevitably lead to an immediate determination that the album is a showcase of such horrific, malignant blasphemy as to render it utterly unlistenable, except in such cases where it’s necessary to present a shining example of Where It All Went Wrong.


Metallica & Lou Reed

Despite the oceans of hype and industry foaming, there is no escaping what the Metallica & Lou Reed collaborative album Lulu truly is: the single worst mash-up record ever made. It was, without question, the greatest musical dud of 2011 on this side of Limp Bizkit’s record released in the same period. On its face, it’s an odd union of two iconic cross-generational powerhouses (even if in name only), for no discernible reason other than to send one act off into his accelerating decomposition on a power-chord buzz. If it stands as a matter of personal indulgence in creative experimentation, it stands as an inside-joke that pitifully few will appreciate. It’s a club-handed ode to high art from a century ago, translated for the hordes of morebetterfasterNOW.

Chuck Klosterman said it best: “We don’t live in a vacuum. We live on Earth. And that means we have to accept the real-life consequences of a culture in which recorded music no longer has monetary value, and one of those consequences is Lulu.”


Nelly and Tim McGraw 

This very strange duo collaborated on “Over and Over” in 2004 as a crossover entrypoint for country and hip-hop, two genres with deeply opposed roots. Nelly, who makes all kinds of ridiculous gestures as Tim McGraw looks pensive and sad in the video above, told Entertainment Weekly  “(Both musical genres) come out of poverty-stricken communities, so putting those together, it’s gonna work — it just has to be done right.” Unfortunately for him, this wasn’t done right. It sounds like a complete mess, and Nelly has since fallen off the musical radar. 


Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and Phil Collins  

“Home” was the sample-driven collaboration between legendary pop underdog Phil Collins and scatty rap collective Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, and strangely enough, the collaboration was a success. Sampling his 1985 hit “Take Me Home,” the track became a positive novelty for both sides of the genre coin. But one interesting point to note: Have we heard from either act since then? Hmm.


Aerosmith and Run DMC 

Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” collaboration with legendary Queens rap crew Run-DMC began with a funk rhythm laud down by drummer Joey Kramer at a soundcheck in Honolulu. Soon enough guitarist Joe Perry had picked out the signature lick, and Tyler sketched out a vocal, but found a new challenge in the sound design. 

“The groove kind of lent itself to rap,” he explained. “It kind of pissed me off at first that they weren’t following the lyrics, but they were following the rhythm. But I would scat, and then write the lyrics in after. I wrote them on the hallway wall. They were so rhythmical that I didn’t have a melody line to follow so it was more ‘backstreet lover, going under cover.’ I didn’t really know too much about hip-hop at the time.”

Superproducer Rick Rubin came up with the collaborative idea of bringing in a rap crew to spice up the song. The only problem? Run DMC wasn’t feeling the song. But they eventually gave into the rhythm, and soon enough a recording session took place that most would give their firstborn to witness. The Beastie Boys were reportedly in the room as well, messing around during recording. In the process, one of the most successful genre-splicing collaborations of all time was born. It was weird, but it worked perfectly.


Wyclef Jean and Kenny Rogers 

Imagine Kenny Rogers, the surgically altered, fried-chicken-slinging country star from a generation past, rapping over a Wyclef Jean beat. Yes, this actually happened, and “The Gambler (Remix)” exactly as weird as you’d think. Wyclef remixed country star Kenny Rogers’ hit “The Gambler,” and the results are discomforting enough to inspire indigestion in the listener.