10 of Music's Most Disappointing Duets


If you watched True Blood on Sunday night, you probably heard the Nick Cave/Neko Case version of The Zombies’ “She’s Not There” that played over the end credits. We were pretty excited to hear about this collaboration, but unfortunately it proved somewhat less than the sum of its parts – Case’s vocals were decidedly lackluster while Cave, as our own Judy Berman put it, sounded “like the deep-voiced guy on every early-’90s house track.” Ouch. There have been plenty of heinous duets over the years (like this one, which is like the musical equivalent of pairing Beelzebub with Elizabeth Báthory) — but no one expects anything good to come of such things. Somehow it’s more disappointing when it’s two artists you genuinely like and respect who combine to create something that proves a whole less exciting than it sounded on paper. Like this lot, for instance.

Björk and Antony — “The Dull Flame of Desire”

Recording a song with the word “dull” in the title is a risky move, particularly if said song is seven-and-a-half minutes long and based on a Russian poem. Most of Björk’s bold artistic moves over the years have paid off in spades, and we’re big fans of Antony and the Johnsons, but for whatever reason, this song just doesn’t work. Or, in fact, the reason is pretty clear — it drags on and on and on, as Björk and Antony try to out-emote one another with ever more histrionic vocals, and the brass section grows ever more raucous, and we get a headache.

Bat for Lashes and Beck — “Let’s Get Lost”

Not, sadly, a cover of the fantastic Elliott Smith song of the same name, this Twilight-catalyzed collaboration is another of those that sounds great on paper but not so great through your headphones. Its lackluster trip-hop stylings meander through a sea of artificial reverb and Pro Tools strings without ever really arriving anywhere, and Beck and Natasha Khan’s voices fail to mesh throughout. Ho hum.

Best Coast and Wavves — “Got Something For You”

Being as we were huge Pocahaunted fans and still kind of wish Bethany Cosentino’s surfy pop music phase had never happened — and we’re also of the opinion that Nathan Williams’ greatest contribution to the world of music was beating up that pillock from Black Lips — we’re probably biased here. But even so, this throwaway Christmas jingle (made for Target, incidentally) felt like an in-joke that should never have made it into the public domain.

George Michael and Elton John — “Wrap Her Up”

Oh, go on, laugh — but the fact remains that Elton John and George Michael have both been responsible for some pretty cracking pop songs in their time. However, they’re both also, y’know, gay. So what on earth was this song all about? “Wrap her up, take her home with me/Wrap her up, she’s all I need…” Um, OK. If you say so.

Mötörhead and Ice-T — “Born to Raise Hell”

Sure, Run-DMC and Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” was quality, but as ever with something genuinely groundbreaking, it spawned a legion of inferior imitations. As a whole, rap-rock pretty much defines the expression “less than the sum of its parts,” and there are few better demonstrations than this thoroughly underwhelming 1994 collaboration between Mötörhead and Ice-T. It even features Mötörhead breaking through a wall at the beginning of the video, for Chrissakes.

Jay-Z and Beyoncé — “Bonnie and Clyde”

It’s not all “Crazy in Love,” y’know. Jay-Z is pretty much untouchable royalty these days, it seems, but he’s recorded his fair share of horseshit over the years — he did an entire album with R. Kelly, lest we forget. And this was insufferably soppy; we have nothing against Jay-Z doing his best to get it on with Beyoncé, but did he really have to do it on record?

Ben Folds and Regina Spektor — “You Don’t Know Me”

Conclusive proof: two idiosyncratic piano-wielding singer/songwriters on one track is one too many. Unless you’re into insufferably twee balladry, that is. The rinky-dinky, arched-eyebrow, aren’t-we-so-adorably-geeky awfulness of this song is pretty much par for the course for Folds, but God only knows what Spektor was thinking.

Marilyn Manson and Alice Cooper — “Sweet Dreams”

Conclusive proof: two made-up shock-rockers with girls’ names on one track is, yes, one too many. Back when this happened (at Romanian festival B’Estival in 2007), Stereogum speculated that Manson must have lost a bet or something. Whatever the case, it’s both hugely awkward and thoroughly unimpressive.

Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney — “The Girl is Mine”

The late Michael Jackson’s ballads were always his weakest point — they were never as convincing as his more up-tempo classics, and had an unfortunate tendency to lapse into the realms of the saccharine. Paul McCartney, meanwhile, had a string of duet-related stinkers during the ’80s (cf. “Ebony and Ivory” with Stevie Wonder, among others). So this was ill-starred from the outset, and ended up as the beigest song of Jackson’s golden period. McCartney adds absolutely nothing — in fact, there’s an argument to be made that the original, non-duet version of this song is far superior. Listen to the original demo here and make up your own mind.

Mick Jagger and David Bowie — “Dancing in the Street”

Cocaine is a hell of a drug.