Paul McCartney is one of the most iconic living musicians of all time. Whether you like him or not (and you like him, because who doesn’t love Paul, the best Beatle?) there’s absolutely no denying his cultural significance and immense musical talent, especially since his legacy is an ongoing one. That’s right: Paul McCartney is by no means done making music or a cultural impact. To celebrate the legend, and the release of his new single with Rihanna and Kanye West, “FourFiveSeconds”, we’re looking back at the times Paul McCartney shocked us with curveball collaborations. From Carly Simon or his secret band The Fireman, to rocking out on stage with Jay-Z and Linkin Park, these are the most unexpected Paul McCartney alliances we’ve been blessed with.
“FourFiveSeconds” with Rihanna and Kayne West (2015)
Would you have ever thought, at any point over Paul McCartney’s expansive 58 year career, that we’d be here? His beautiful single with Rihanna and Kanye West is as unexpected as it is welcome (although he has collaborated with Kayne before, more on that momentarily). Imagine being a Beatles fan in the ’60s and ’70s and seeing your hero performing with one of the most controversial and sexy contemporary pop artists (RiRi). It’s really mind blowing when you put it in a historical context like that. It’s also incidentally a perfect marriage of talents.
“Only One” with Kanye West (2014)
Paul’s first collab with Kanye was the real shock. The two came up with the gorgeous “Only One” while recording in Mexico, allegedly while Paul played randomized riffs and Kayne freestyled. That seems like the kind of music-making jam session that could only be handled with such style by the rock and hip hop legends respectively. The weird part is that Kayne claims it wasn’t him singing, and that he was actually possessed by the spirit of his deceased mother, Donda, who was using him to speak through. Just when you were starting to think “Awwww,” right?
“Receptacle For the Respectable” with Super Furry Animals (2001)
It’s unexpected enough to see Paul McCartney working with an contemporary psychedelic/experimental band, but what’s truly unexpected here is the nature of his contribution to the band’s “Receptacle For the Respectable.” Sir Paul appeared on the track as a percussionist, but his contribution was more organic, as he was responsible for the “carrot and celery rhythm track.”
“Heal The Pain” with George Michael (2006)
When you hear the name “George Michael” you don’t necessarily think “Paul McCartney.” For one, their music styles are completely different, as are their target audiences. They are both, however, supremely talented, so their joint effort “Heal The Pain”, which they wrote together (and which has clear Paul/Beatles undertones), is a wonderful little duet.
The Fireman with Youth (1993-present)
The public was shocked to find out that Paul McCartney was in a band with producer Youth called The Fireman when they were officially outed in 2008. The experimental band had remained “anonymous” since their first release in 1993, although we’re sure real die hard Paul fans were in the know the whole time.
“Numb/Encore” with Jay-Z and Linkin Park (at the 2006 Grammys)
Jay-Z and Linkin Park collaborating on “Numb/Encore” in the mid-’00s was weird enough, but Paul McCartney joining them on stage at the 2006 Grammys to perform the song was downright absurd. No one expected it, and as he came out onto the stage singing a verse of “Yesterday”, you couldn’t help to get goosebumps, despite the surprise weirdness of it all.
“New Moon over Jamaica” with Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash, Linda McCartney and Tom T. Hall (1988)
Talk about all-star power-couple collab! Sir Paul duet-ed with Johnny Cash in the late ’80s, and the two were backed by their much loved wives, Linda and June. Now that’s one dinner party we would have loved to be invited to.
“Cut Me Some Slack” with Nirvana (2012)
It might seem antithetical to Paul McCartney to have a song with a grunge band, but he’s got one with Nirvana. Considering both The Beatles, McCartney and Nirvana are some of the most iconic names in rock however, it’s not total nonsense. Unexpected, yes, but nonsense, no. They played their track “Cut Me Some Slack” for the first time live at The Concert For Sandy Relief in 2012, and McCartney performed alongside surviving Nirvana members Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic and Pat Smear.
“Out Of Sight” with The Bloody Beetroots and Youth (2013)
If you thought McCartney plus grunge was unexpected, what about McCartney plus electronic music? “Out of Sight” with The Bloody Beetroots and Youth (his collaborator in The Fireman) is something of a sound collage, a foray into the musique concrete techniques that McCartney was fascinated by in the mid-’60s. It’s a mishmash of rock and electronic, and works quite well despite the incongruence of genres. It’s a testament to Paul’s awesome talent, that he can collaborate with almost anyone and still come out with an awesome track.
“Dance Tonight” with Kylie Minogue (on Jools Holland in 2007)
No one imagined that the ultimate antipodean pop princess would make a perfect pairing with Sir Paul McCartney, rock God. But when they performed “Dance Tonight” on Jools Holland everyone agreed that this was the duet we never knew we actually wanted.