The year is running down, and like everyone else, we are bundling up our most memorable musical moments from the year into a slew of Best Of’s. Before we get to the more obvious lists — the best albums, the best songs — we thought we would have a little fun. First up: 9 delightful collaborations, made all the more so for their unexpectedness. We aren’t talking Watch The Throne-style of-course-they-would team-ups, we’re talking collaborations that we couldn’t in our wildest dreams have imagined or that we thought we would never see, like — well, these nine:
Barton Hollow is totally “an indie record much cooler than mine,” but more careful observer might have predicted this unlikely but delightful collaboration, as Swift began yammering about her fellow Nashville transplants The Civil Wars on twitter long before this was even a possibility. We, however, were left breathless upon learning that one of the day’s biggest pop stars had teamed-up with one of our favorite You Oughta Know acts — and for a song for such a pivotal moment in the Hunger Games movie, no less! Joy Williams harmonizing turns Taylor’s girlish coo haunting, and John Paul White‘s patient guitar plucking gets the whole thing swirling. See also: “The Last Time,” Taylor’s distressed duet with Gary Lightbody of Northern Ireland’s mostly absent as of late folk rock set Snow Patrol. Taylor is a slick machine when it comes to her music, and it was a surprise to see her reaching out of bounds for this one.
Hard to believe as it may be given the boom box beats and all the sing-rapping that resulted, Warrior is allegedly a tribute to the genre Ke$ha loves the most: rock and roll. If you really strain your ears, you may hear some of that “old hippie rock” in the breakdown of “Die Young.” You won’t have to try so hard with “Dirty Pop,” which features Iggy Pop, a true and blue rock star and someone Ke$ha has spent a lot of time talking about through the years. The joy she must have felt the first time she heard him call her “Wild Child” on her own song is evident. See also: “2012,” K$’s duet with fellow weirdos The Flaming Lips.
This song arrived as “Call Me Maybe” fever was spiking and we were begining to wonder if Carly Rae Jepsen would ever be able to move on. Owl City, a quiet and off-beat pop star most famous for his chart topper “Fireflies,” didn’t really seem like the one that could push her forward. But as it turns out, these two have great chemistry, her breathiness the perfect foil to his monotone but sincere singing style. Wo-oo-ooooh oh it’s always a good time sounds about right!
Getting these three — the rap mogul, the hip hop legend, and the ultra-relevant pop star with a television show gig ripe for a debut — together on a song is so obvious we almost can’t believe it happened. It’s that fake VH1 Diva’s line-up of hip-hop singles, too calculated to success to be true. But alas, it’s real and it’s got a pretty stunning video to boot. And also, it’s pretty good. Levine should think about lending himself to hip hop more often.
A cynic might suggest that this odd grouping was a heat-seeking move on the part of Madonna, but we like to believe that the aging-but-still-badass saw something she could relate to in M.I.A. and Nicki Minaj. Namely, attitude. These are different kinds of girls, and their records certainly don’t sound like the rest — they don’t have to cheer so much, we’re totally happy to give these three all our love.
This unlikely duo — an up and coming Compton rapper and a pop star from New York via outer-space — began hyping a collaboration. But then Kendrick’s album dropped without a trace of Gaga. Ultimately this probably doesn’t work as well as the Gaga-free version that made the album cut, but good on them for making something of their kinship.
Blame/thank the persuasive powers of the internet for this one. And think what you may about it’s existence, but you can’t deny that the song is catchy and that Kennedy-love story video is one (literally and figuratively) for the history books. This right here is about as 2012 as it gets.
These two went ahead and made their “Nobody’s Business” business everybody’s business when they came together for what is the most difficult to reckon with but easiest to dance — or, you know, make-out in a Lexus — to song off the Rihanna’s mostly good, otherwise generally steely and definitely about you know who album. Whether or not this song should exist is another question, but certainly “Nobody’s Business” is Rihanna at her most Unapologetic, and — questionable as the song’s existence may be — at her best.
1. Frank Ocean and John Mayer, “Pyramids”
Over the summer, an Instagram of Frank Ocean and John Mayer together in the studio got the internet spinning with theories as to what on earth the eccentric crooner and the guitar Cassanova could be up to. Turns out Mayer was cutting that gnarly and oh-s0-perfect guitar solo that hits at the very end of “Pyramids,” Ocean’s nearly 10-minute reflection on strippers. The “bros” consummated their collaboration with the what was definitely the most memorable Saturday Night Live performance of the year.
“The Big & Best of 2012: A Year End Celebration Presented by T-Mobile” goes LIVE at 12 p.m. ET on 12/12/12. Watch at BigAndBestOf2012.com for eight hours of live performances from stars like Bruno Mars and Miguel, surprise guest appearances, prize giveaways, special editions of “RapFix Live,” “Big Morning Buzz Live,” “MTV After Hours,” “You Oughta Know” and much more!