We decided it was finally time to make a list concerning the combination of kindred vocals. Duets that is. A guy and a girl is the most popular concoction, but there is certainly room to wiggle with that formula on this list. For frame of reference, we attempted to stay away from two very specific types tracks that may be considered duets. The first area is hip hop tracks. R&B tracks are fine, as long as they don’t interfere with the next criteria, but it seems every hip-hop song has multiple rappers, or at the least one rapper and someone else for the hook. Just seemed a little too muddled. The second criteria we aimed to stay away from were artists that have two vocalists, where almost every one of their tracks might be able to be considered duets. Sorry, but we were looking for duets where the source recording is at most part of a one-off album. As always, I think we crafted a solid list, but am certain we missed something along the way. Feel free to offer suggestions, and enjoy.
10. The Postal Service & Jenny Lewis – “Nothing Better”
Ben Gibbard & Jenny Lewis combine for an electonic-infused back and forth on The Postal Service’s 2003 track “Nothing Better”. The conversational tone of Gibbard and Lewis vocals is about as fun as it gets, and makes us thirst for more than just a Postal Service tour reunion. Record a new album!
9. Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton – “Islands in the Stream”
With most any Kenny Rogers song, you are are going to have to endure a certain amount of cheesiness to get to the goods. So when Dolly Parton chimes in you finally understand why we decided to include “Islands in the Stream” on our list. Bonus points for providing the hook to the track with perhaps ODB’s dirtiest verse of his career (“Ghetto Superstar”).
8. Joe Strummer & Johnny Cash – “Redemption Song”
Pretty much every version of this song is awesome, but this one really takes the cake. The interplay between Cash and Strummer is pristine, with Cash somehow selling the whole thing. Sure, Bob Marley is the best here, but this is the one that I will admit makes me happy.
7. Stevie Nicks & Tom Petty – “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around”
All three of us had the privilege of seeing Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks sing this one at Bonnaroo circa 2005. None of us knew she would be there, but the older more unpredictable Nicks was a delight nevertheless. Petty has never been known for his collaborations, but this is one for the ages.
6. Emmylou Harris & Conor Oberst – “Land Locked Blues”
Todd has some weird disinclination against Emmylou Harris just because she opened up for Dave Matthews once upon a time and didn’t play “Stay” ten times in a row. But, all of us love this intensifying duet between Emmylou and Conor Oberst. The lyrics are so intensely honest, you’d have to be made of stone to turn your back on this one.
5. PJ Harvey & Thom Yorke – “This Mess, We’re In”
All it takes is a little PJ Harvey to balance out the psychotic enigma that is Thom Yorke. I really don’t like the guy, but am being completely serious in my affection for this beautiful tune. I would like to see a collaboration album in their future.
4. Nick Cave & Kylie Minogue – “Where the Wild Roses Grow”
Kylie Minogue is the hottest thing to ever exist, and her brooding collaboration with fellow-Aussie Nick Cave was nothing short of earth-shattering. Minogue took a back seat for a pop star of her magnitude and Cave reeled in his own weirdness to go with Minogue’s whole pop star thing. Bravo.
3. Allison Krauss & Robert Plant – “Killing the Blues”
Krauss and Plant crafted perhaps the greatest duets album of all time. The best part was that there was nothing artificial about the whole affair. Perhaps the greatest voice in rock n’ roll history bowed down to the best voice in modern female bluegrass, and what sprang up was a truly moving record.
2. Serge Gainsbourg & Brigitte Bardot – “Bonnie & Clyde”
I literally first heard this song on an episode of Mad Men this season, and I’m assuming my fellow writers did as well. This song is fantastic though. Serge calmly walks through the basics while Bardot does a nice little call and response. Thank you to Matt Weiner and co. for pulling this gem out of hibernation.
1. Queen & David Bowie – “Under Pressure”
This may be the greatest song of all time, not just the greatest duet of all time. Not only do Bowie and Mercury have the perfect chemistry, they found the perfect song to display it on. David and Freddie get to both belt it out and that makes listeners very happy campers.
Todd: Allison Krauss & Brad Paisley – “Whiskey Lullaby”
Todd once described the voice of Brad Paisley as “the most interesting in modern country”. High praise from a man who once met his heroes Kenny Chesney and Uncle Kracker when setting up for their concert. So, it is natural Todd would go straight to the well of Paisley and choose the forgotten gem “Whiskey Lullaby”. This is a lullaby often sung by Todd himself, but not near as beautifully as Brad and Ally.
Wes: Monica & Brandy – “The Boy is Mine”
Wes considered the Gram Parsons & Emmylou Harris spiritual “In My Hour of Darkness”, but instead opted for the man-whore tug-o-war “The Boy is Mine”. Nothing reminds Wes more of his high school days as a two-timing playboy than the two R&B legends verbally sparring over whom the “boy” belongs to. It’s little delights like this hit that provide Wes a tiny respite from his decision to become a one-woman man.
Austin: Jordin Sparks & Chris Brown – “No Air”
I may have taken some liberties with the above two “just misses”, but only to shame Todd and Wes on the same level I am choosing to shame myself with my own pick. There is just something about “No Air” that makes it rise above the standard R&B duet. The track combines the subtle piano strokes of Moby’s “Porcelein” and the lyrical delivery of Rihanna on “Umbrella”. Plus, whenever you get a chance to applaud the work of Chris Brown, you have to do it. Right?