The other day I got into a discussion with my fellow music-geeks, some of whom happen to be my closest friends as well, about the present state of music these days. A favorite topic of ours, when we vehemently mourn the death of an era when Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey would show the world what being a vocalist is all about, while Madonna and Janet Jackson would revolutionize pop culture through their music, videos and live performances. When Michael Jackson could record his sneeze on tape and that would become the next multi-platinum extravaganza. When albums would sell like a juicy plump turkey on the eve of Thanksgiving, and artists would thrive on their individuality to reach the coveted top spot on the charts. Duets and collaborations were a part of it all, but mostly as a vehicle to explore the musical and artistic creativity.
The era saw Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney, Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey, Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood, Janet Jackson and Michael Jackson, Santana and Rob Thomas, Elton John and Mary J Blige, Celine Dion and Barbra Streisand, George Michael and Aretha Franklin, En Vogue and Salt-n-Pepa and a host of other superstars come together to create some of the most spectacular collaborations the music industry has witnessed.
And then came the i-pod and the digital era. And good music died (RIP). Well, mostly. Fast forward to a decade, and we have reigning kings and queens of this era struggling to sell a fraction of what their peers have shifted. Apart from a handful, notably Amy Winehouse, Adele, Taylor Swift, Josh Groban, Carrie Underwood, Eminem, Susan Boyle, Alicia Keys etc, most artists barely have respectable album sales. And to promote another few hundred copies of their albums and get their singles to the coveted top spot, artists these days have a series of interesting promos hidden inside that freshly prepared dress they wear, that was once a healthy cow (RIP cow). And collaborations seem to be the most sought after route to survive.
So now we have everybody collaborating with anything and everything that has functional vocal cords, or looks good in a video or has been a part of a reality show. Smart move actually, considering the fact that pre-kindergarten toddlers are the in thing in music these days, they need some help to be shown around before they head back home to finish their homework. So we have Justin Bieber collaborating with Ludacris, Britney with Kesha and Nicki Minaj, Nicki Minaj collaborating with everything that crosses her path except arch enemy Lil’ Kim, Lady Gaga and Beyoncé collaborating twice, Rihanna pretty much going Nicki Minaj’s way and pouncing on any collaboration that comes her way, Katy Perry collaborating with Kanye and Missy to get a whopping 5 # 1 singles while her album crosses the incredible total of 1.7 million units only after an entire year of its release in the US.
Like i said, good music died a long time ago. And we all need to adapt to the changing times. Which means we need to get used to wearing a dress created out of a fresh bovine and then get comfy with the idea of copulating with the next alien that crosses our paths. But then I’m not complaining now. Like any music aficionado, I feel it’s best to move on and embrace the changing times, and I’m comfortable with it now. Well, mostly.
So it was during one such discussion, and in the middle of listening to a profound rendition of Whitney and Mariah’s ‘When You Believe‘ by a dear friend, that I started thinking about artists who’ve never worked with each other ever, and what would’ve happened had they actually collaborated. And I could think of a gazillion. Here’s a list of 10 collaborations (in no particular order) from that gazillion that I would’ve loved to have witnessed. I’ll post the rest of them in future posts as well.
1. Josh Groban and Mariah Carey
When it comes to vocal prowess, few men in the game can overpower Josh Groban’s voice. And Mariah Carey..well, she needs no introduction. It’ll be nothing short of an extravaganza when two of the most powerful voices in music unite. Hopefully we’ll get to witness this in the near future.
2. Adele and Amy Winehouse
Alas, this is one collaboration that the world will not witness. But when it comes to 2 of the most prolific vocalists of our time, the British divas have it on lock. The late Winehouse blazed a trail for Adele to follow, and a duet would have been nothing short of spectacular.
3. Bjork and Lady Gaga
The fact that both seem to reside in a different milky way altogether could only enhance the power of a collaboration between them. Bjork’s musical style and eclectic music videos have been around for the past 2 decades now, and it’s artists like Gaga who’ve gotten hold of that sound and style and have incorporated it into mainstream music today. It’ll certainly be interesting to watch a video featuring them. Wonder if the video would feature Bjork’s infamous ‘swan dress’ and Gaga’s ‘meat dress’..both of which have caused enough controversy already.
4. Whitney Houston and Mary J Blige
Whitney’s voice is legendary. Period. It’s ‘The Voice‘. And Queen Of Hip-Hop/Soul Mary J Blige has gone from strength to strength and is an icon herself. They’ve both been in the game for decades, and have legacies that only a handful can compete with. Both have performed live together, and it’s probably every rhythm and blues fan’s dream to see these two women collaborate.
5. George Michael and Justin Timberlake
Both George and Justin have had an incredible chart run, both initially being a part of a band and then as solo artists. Among the male artists who’ve ventured into dance-pop, these two stand out in their respective generations for revolutionizing the era of pop. I’ve always wondered what they would sound like if they collaborated.
6. A R Rahman and Enya
A whole lotta you peeps might be gawking at this collaboration. I’ve grown up listening to A R Rahman as well as Enya. And when it comes to harmonies and melodies,especially ‘layering’ of vocals in a song to create the perfect sound, these two global superstars have an uncannily similar style. And the rate at which Rahman’s becoming a global name in music, I would not be surprised if this collaboration actually happened in the near future. In fact in the song ‘If I Rise‘ by Rahman, I feel Enya would be as great as Dido..or maybe better. Check out the following songs by them, both of which received Academy Award nominations.
7. Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera
If you’ve grown up in the late 90’s, then you’ve probably witnessed the revolution brought about in pop music by Miss Spears when she released ‘Baby One More Time‘. While she opened the door, many including fellow Mickey Mouse Club member Christina Aguilera, Jessica Simpson, Mandy Moore etc jumped on to the bandwagon. Aguilera went on to become one of the most popular vocalists of the decade, and Britney’s biggest rival. Both have witnessed a meteoric rise to fame, chart success, crazy-ass album sales and critical acclaim. Both have spiraled down with their own personal demons. And both have managed to stage triumphant returns to the stage and spotlight. And a collaboration between the two would be a milestone in both their careers.
8. Fiona Apple and Tori Amos
I’ve been a fan of both Tori and Fiona for more than a decade and a half now. Tori’s ‘Little Earthquakes‘ and ‘The Beekeeper‘ would probably be two of my favorite albums of all time. The reclusive Fiona has just released 3 albums over the past 15 years, out of which her début album, the tripple platinum certified ‘Tidal‘ released in 1996 has been her best work and a personal favorite as well. Both have exceptionally brilliant song-writing abilities…with Fiona already being a Grammy winner for the song ‘Criminal‘, while Tori has received 8 Grammy nominations so far. With alternative-rock-pop being their signature style of music, a collaboration between the two would be incredible!
9. Sade and Nina Simone
Another duet that the world will not get to witness. I’ve always imagined Sade to be the only artist to do justice to the late Nina Simone’s rendition of ‘I Loves You,Porgy‘ or ‘The Other Woman‘…while Nina could have owned Sade’s ‘By Your Side‘ or ‘Skin‘. Just thinking about a possible collaboration between them gets me all mellow!
10. Janet Jackson and Madonna
If there’s one collaboration that i want to see before i die, it has to be a collaboration between these two living legends. For 3 decades, Madonna and Janet have revolutionized pop culture as a whole, and have secured their places in history as two of the biggest selling artists of all time. Fierce rivals, they constantly re-invented themselves and went a step ahead of the other whenever they released new music, and in that process owned the industry in the 80’s,90’s and 00’s. With Janet already on her sold-out world tour this year, and Madonna heading back to the studio to record her new album, new music from the icons is highly anticipated indeed, especially since both released their last album of new material almost 3 and a half years ago, and both of which went to # 1 on the charts. And a duet between the two on their new albums would be off the hook, and probably the biggest thing that the music industry gets to witness in a long time!
That sums up just about 10 of the many duets that i would really wanna witness in this lifetime. There are a gazillion more that i would wanna write about, but I’ll save that for another post sometime. Enjoy the videos, and do write in about your dream collaborations as well!
(All pics from VH1 Diva’s Live)