Sunday, February 28, 2021

2020’s Most Unexpected Music Collaborations

There were a lot of unexpected moments in 2020 (both good and bad), but by far some of the most unexpected moments in music were some of the music collaborations released throughout the year. Iconic rock star legends collaborated with millennial pop stars, rappers paired with punks and New Jersey natives teamed up for unique collaborations we wouldn’t have even dreamed of.

Take a look below at some of our favorite unexpected collaborations from 2020:

“Chinatown” by Bruce Springsteen x Bleachers

Maybe “Chinatown” is a song we should have seen coming all along since Jack Antonoff and Bruce Springsteen are both, after all, iconic, established songwriters hailing from New Jersey. This alternative/indie track is filled with acoustic guitars and an addictive melody from both Antonoff and Springsteen about wanting to run and chase feelings, referencing Springsteen’s iconic “Born to Run” mentality. The music video, below, highlights the similarities between the two songwriters; it starts off with Antonoff with a guitar in a New Jersey bedroom (a scene Springsteen has often described when reminiscing about his time spent making Greetings from Asbury Park) before being joined by Bruce for a ride. It’s definitely a nostalgic track, and one that will sound even better if you blast it during a drive.

“Lovin’ Me” by Phoebe Bridgers x Kid Cudi

Kid Cudi has been known for his therapeutic humming and candid lyrics about mental health since his first mixtape A Kid Named Cudi was released in 2008. Similarly, Phoebe Bridgers has become well-recognized by fans, critics and even more recently the Recording Academy for her alternative/indie tracks and sentimental vocals since her debut studio album Stranger in the Alps was released in 2017.

Although Kid Cudi has worked with indie artists in the past, like with MGMT for “Pursuit of Happiness” or with HAIM for “Red Eye,” this collaboration with Phoebe was completely unexpected. Even the producer for the track, Dot Da Genius, admitted he had no idea who Phoebe was or how the collaboration would turn out. Although they come from different genres, “Lovin’ Me” blends their vocals and humming together perfectly for a melancholic song about self-doubt and self-love. Next time you’re feeling down, this track’s soft melody and support from Cudi and Bridgers will be sure to pick you back up again.

“Lightning Fields” by The Killers x k.d. Lang

The Killers have been a well-loved band by alternative, indie and rock fans alike since their debut album Hot Fuss came out in 2004 with now iconic tracks like “Mr. Brightside” and “Somebody Told Me” that made them a hit group. They’ve mostly stayed in the alternative genre with few original collaborations on their albums throughout the years, which is why their collaboration with k.d. lang for their latest album Imploding the Mirage was so unexpected. k.d. Lang, a Canadian pop/country singer-songwriter, became popular in the 80s and has been known mostly notably throughout the years for her “cowboy punk” style.

“Lightning Fields” undoubtedly has that signature sound that The Killers are known for, but k.d. lang’s voice on the bridge gives a whole new emotional dimension to the track - even more so when understanding the story behind the track. According to The Killers frontman Brandon Flowers, since “Lightning Fields” was written about his parents’ relationship he felt they needed a female voice on the song. “I didn’t tell her this, but she’s representing my late mother… that’s my mom talking to my dad,” Flowers shared about the collaboration. Like most songs by The Killers, “Lightning Fields” is a great indie track with emotional lyrics that resonate even more with lang’s voice.

“Roses/Lotus/Violet/Iris” by Hayley Williams x boygenius

Hayley Williams has been known as the Paramore frontwoman throughout her career, but her first debut solo album Petals for Amour has been a long awaited project that finally dropped last May. The pop/indie album, which was influenced by Williams’ vulnerability and covers several emotions throughout listening, was welcomed warmly and praised by both fans and critics. Hayley tweeted about the track “Roses/Lotus/Violet/Iris,” below, in March leading up to Petals for Amour’s release. The track is a dark acoustic track about feminism, utilizing flowers and gardens as a metaphor for growth and self-discovery, featuring background vocals from indie rock supergroup boygenius (a group consisting of Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus). Although Hayley and boygenius come from similar genres, the collaboration was still unexpected - but exactly what we needed to hear from some of indie’s leading women in 2020.

“Monsters” by All Time Low x Demi Lovato x Blackbear

“Monsters” was first released as a collaboration by pop punk band All Time Low and indie rapper Blackbear before it was eventually re-released in December as a remix featuring popstar Demi Lovato. The catchy pop punk track, which features a rap verse from blackbear and vocals from Lovato, has been “years in the making” according to All Time Low. The years waiting for this collab to be released was worth it, though. The track has been deemed a successful collaboration by fans and music charts alike and charted at number 1 on Billboard’s Alternative Airplay chart where it remained for several weeks.  

“Bad Karma” by Miley Cyrus x Joan Jett

The most surprising thing about this track? How long it took for Cyrus and Jett to collaborate. Miley has frequently referenced Joan Jett as one of her musical inspirations, and although the two had briefly teamed up for one of Miley’s Backyard Sessions, below, a few years ago, this is the first time they collaborated for a truly original song. Again -- it was worth the wait. The rock track features playful, breathy moans over rock guitars, explosive drums and cheeky lyrics from Cyrus and Jett about their “bad reputations”: Never learned my lesson so I always do it twice / They say it’s bad karma when you live a double life.

Cyrus explained the process of working on the track alongside Mark Ronson during an interview with Apple Music, claiming that she reached out to Jett for the collaboration because if there was “one person who could own this record more than me, it’s Joan Jett.” Despite their bad reputations and bad karma, it’s no surprise that their collaboration was one of the best, most iconic ones from 2020.  

Emily Savidge

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