Friday Top 5: Unusual Collaborations
Artists don’t always make the best decisions. Perhaps they just get bored. Reinventing themselves after every album must get tiresome. I guess that’s why some musicians choose to collaborate with people from other genres. Leaps of faith, even if they are doomed to failure, are more interesting than repeating the same old song and dance. Finding out the hard way that something is a bad idea is more exciting than going through the motions of what has been done before. Oftentimes though, it’s best to stick with what you know. Otherwise you end up with the kind of collaborative catastrophes listed here. Let’s take a look shall we? See the Top 5 Unusual Collaborations below:
When David Bowie appeared with Bing Crosby on a 1970’s Christmas special to sing Little Drummer Boy it was pretty surreal. But when Bowie got Crosby in the studio to record a psychedelic space opera, that was just plain cuckoo for Cocopuffs. I’m sure it seemed like a good idea at the time, but having Bing deadpan lines like: “Doing acid on the moon/ on a sunny afternoon,” made the unfinished track “Interstellar Space Voyage Part 1” commercially unviable, and -perhaps more importantly- deeply silly. Though the track never saw a proper release, it continues to have a cult following among ardent Bowie fetishists.
What is better than Garth Brooks? Garth Brooks with fantastic emo hair! When Garth Brooks decided to invent dark rock-and-roll alter ego Chris Gaines, music fans responded with a collective: “Uhhhh. . .come again?” And who can blame them? The 90’s already had an alt prince of darkness in the form of one Trent Reznor. That’s probably why Brooks enlisted Reznor to help with production duties on the Chris Gaines album “Greatest Hits” (warning: the songs contained within are not great, nor are they hits). Reznor was so embarrassed by the results of his work on the record that he had his name removed from the production credits.
No one’s quite sure how Andrew W.K. ended up on stage with Animal Collective at a Parisian nightclub a few years back. But even from the grainy Youtube footage available, it’s clear the results were, as they say in France, “Très freaky-deaky.” For the most part, Mr. W.K. actually seemed at home amongst the electro-blooping of the Collective, but somewhere midway through the set, A.W.K. started a hair whipping frenzy that was obviously lost in translation for the French crowd.
There’s no shame in an artist trying to emulate Michael Jackson, but sometimes it’s best to stop short of buying the Elephant Man’s bones. Just because Michael got Paul McCartney to sing on the “The Girl Is Mine,” it was not necessarily a great idea for Usher to get Ringo Starr to sing back up on his track “Girl You Got It.” But hey, a Beatle’s a Beatle right? Too bad Ringo doesn’t have much to do on this track but awkwardly sing the chorus: “Girl you got it/ You got what I need/ you got the bread/ I want to knead.” Yes, they really rhyme “need” with “knead.” To be fair though, no lyrics could match the singular genius of “the doggone girl is mine!” It’s probably for the best “Girl You Got It” was shelved in the U.S. The track was quietly released as a single in Japan (a place where Usher is considered a legitimate heir to Michael Jackson), but never saw widespread distribution.
In the mid 1980’s, John Denver –along with Dee Snider and Frank Zappa– testified in front of a Senate committee that was targeting “obscene” lyrics in contemporary music. Denver spoke passionately against censorship of any kind. Fast forward five years. Miami rap group 2 Live Crew had the dubious distinction of being the only group to have an album legally declared obscene. Though Denver did not always see eye-to-eye with 2 Live Crew, he did wish to express his support for the cause against censorship, and showed it by playing a brief guitar part that is sampled in the 2 Live Crew’s “Banned in the U.S.A.” Sadly, Denver did not further express his solidarity by getting on the mic and spitting a few verses about how he loved vaginas. Which is sad, because if you look any picture of John Denver, you know he had that in him.