Halsey and the team of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross constitute one of the unlikeliest and most intriguing artist/producer match-ups in recent years. Halsey is one of the top pop singers of the past half-dozen years, while Reznor and Ross are masterminds of the industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails (who have built a very successful second career with their film and TV scores).
When the nominations for the 64th annual Grammy Awards are announced Nov. 23, we’ll find out if the album they worked on together, If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power, will be recognized for album of the year and/or in a genre album category. Capitol submitted the album for best alternative music album, though the Grammy screening committee makes the final determination. Should it win in alternative, this would be the second year in a row that a female solo artist has won there. Fiona Apple won in March for Fetch the Bolt Cutters.
In the meantime, here are 11 other unlikely artist/producer pairings that were noticed by Grammy voters.
Glen Campbell and Lambert & Potter: Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter, best known for writing and/or producing such punchy pop hits as Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds’ “Don’t Pull Your Love,” teamed with the country star, best known for such sublime ballads as “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” and “Wichita Lineman.” They met in the middle with “Rhinestone Cowboy,” which became Campbell’s first No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 and received a 1975 Grammy nod for record of the year. The slickly produced, but still heartfelt, song was Campbell’s signature song for the rest of his life.
Kenny Rogers and Lionel Richie: Richie produced Kenny Rogers’ “Lady,” which became Rogers’ first No. 1 hit on the Hot 100 and received a 1980 Grammy nod for record of the year. This pairing may not sound like much of a cross-genre reach today, especially since a few Commodores hits were country-shaded, but think back to 1980: Richie was the leader of Commodores, one of the top R&B groups of the era, while Rogers was the hottest artist in country music. In the far less genre-fluid world of 1980, this was seen as a union of people from different worlds.
David Bowie and Nile Rodgers. Rodgers, several years removed from his big hits as a co-founder of Chic, teamed with Bowie to co-produce Let’s Dance, a 1983 album of the year nominee. The album reached No. 4 on the Billboard 200 and brought Bowie his first and only Grammy nod in a Big Four category. The title track became Bowie’s second No. 1 hit on the Hot 100. Rodgers went on to write, produce and play on hits by a wide range of artists, including Madonna, Duran Duran and Daft Punk.
Johnny Cash and Rick Rubin: Rubin produced a series of albums with the country legend, starting with American Recordings, which won a 1994 Grammy as best contemporary folk album. It was Cash’s first Grammy win in a competitive music category since 1970, when he won for a collab with his wife, June Carter Cash. It was Rubin’s first Grammy win. Rubin was best known at the time for rap and rock releases, though he has gone on to work with artists of just about every stripe. At the 2006 awards, Rubin produced or co-produced a record-setting three of the five album of the year nominees.
Eric Clapton and Babyface: Babyface produced Clapton’s “Change the World,” the 1996 winner for record of the year. The soothing message song reached No. 5 on the Hot 100. The two pros had very different backgrounds: Clapton received his first Grammy nod as a member of the rock supergroup Cream. Babyface received his first for co-writing Bobby Brown’s R&B crossover smash “Don’t Be Cruel.”
Hanson and Dust Brothers: The Dust Brothers (Michael “E.Z.” Simpson and John “Gizmo” King) produced Hanson’s “MMMBop,” a 1997 nominee for record of the year. The power-pop smash topped the Hot 100 for three weeks, becoming the biggest hit for the teen brother trio. Dust Brothers had previously made their name with such rap and alternative albums as Tone Loc’s Loc-ed After Dark, Young MC’s Stone Cold Rhymin, Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique and Beck’s Odelay.
Shania Twain and Robert John “Mutt” Lange: Lange produced Twain’s Come on Over, a 1998 album of the year nominee, and “You’re Still the One,” a record of the year nominee that same year. The album reached No. 2 on the Billboard 200. The single logged nine weeks at No. 2 on the Hot 100. Lange was best known for rock and hard rock releases by such artists as Graham Parker, AC/DC, Foreigner, Def Leppard, The Cars and Bryan Adams before he teamed with the country star in 1995 for a long personal and professional union.
Loretta Lynn and Jack White: White, the leader of The White Stripes, produced the country legend’s Van Lear Rose, the 2004 Grammy winner for best country album. This was Lynn’s first Grammy win in 33 years, since a 1971 collab with her longtime duet partner, Conway Twitty. A track from the album, “Portland, Oregon,” won for best country collaboration with vocals, giving Lynn the only two-Grammy night of her career. White had won a pair of Grammys the year before for work with The White Stripes. Van Lear Rose reached No. 24 on the Billboard 200 – Lynn’s highest ranking to that point.
Mavis Staples and Jeff Tweedy: Tweedy, a founding member of Wilco, produced Staples’ You Are Not Alone, the 2010 winner for best Americana album. Staples rose to fame in the gospel-turned-R&B family group The Staple Singers. This was Staples’ first competitive Grammy win. It was Tweedy’s second, following Wilco’s 2004 win for best alternative music album for A Ghost Is Born. You Are Not Alone reached No. 69 on the Billboard 200.
Taylor Swift and Max Martin & Shellback: Swift’s move from country to pop was so seamless it’s easy to lose sight of just how risky it was. What if it hadn’t worked? Swift, who rose to fame with highly autobiographical country songs, landed three record of the year nods in the space of four years with the pop smashes “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” (2012), “Shake It Off” (2014) and “Blank Space” (2015). All three of these hits topped the Hot 100. Swift co-produced the first of these hits with Martin and Shellback, but the Swedish dynamos (who had previously co-produced such hits as Britney Spears’ “3” and Pink’s “Raise Your Glass,” were the only credited producers on the next two.
Michael Bublé and Bob Rock: Rock produced Bublé’s To Be Loved, the 2013 Grammy winner for best traditional pop vocal album. It was Buble’s fourth win in that category; Rock’s only Grammy win (to date). The album reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200. Rock is best known for producing rock bands such as Metallica, Mötley Crüe, Aerosmith, Bon Jovi and Skid Row. He has also stepped out of that world to produce Cher, Nelly Furtado and Jann Arden, among others.