Genre-crossing collaborations happen all the time in music, with fusions like pop-rock, folk-metal and country-rap even becoming genres of their own. But sometimes — like when The Weeknd paired with comedy legend Jim Carrey for his Dawn FM project — a team-up makes you do a double take.
Whether it’s a Billboard Hot 100 hit or a big miss, here are some of the most memorable, unexpected collaborations in music history.
The Weeknd & Jim Carrey, Dawn FM (2022)
When The Weeknd announced that the highly anticipated follow-up to his 2020 smash album After Hours would feature Jim Carrey — yes, the superstar actor behind Ace Ventura, Bruce Almighty, The Mask and more blockbusters — fans had questions. With a title like Dawn FM, of course the Starboy needed a radio host, and the actor/comedian perfectly plays the role.
Rihanna, Kanye West & Paul McCartney, “FourFiveSeconds” (2015)
Ye has collaborated with both Rihanna and Paul McCartney on separate occasions, but “FourFiveSeconds” is the first and only track to bring together all three of the cross-generational hitmakers.
Jimmy Fallon, Ariana Grande & Megan Thee Stallion, “It Was A… (Masked Christmas)” (2021)
Arianators and Hotties were treated to an early Christmas present at the start of the 2021 holiday season: a perfect pandemic Christmas anthem. “It Was A… (Masked Christmas)” reminded us that, yes, we can still celebrate the most wonderful time of the year with a mask on.
Bradley Cooper & Lady Gaga, “Shallow” (2018)
The 2018 remake of A Star Is Born marked firsts for both its stars: it was Lady Gaga’s feature film debut in a leading role and Bradley Cooper’s first and only role playing a musician. Their duet “Shallow” peaked at No. 1 on the Hot 100 and set the record for the longest-charting Oscar winner for best original song.
Halsey & Nine Inch Nails, If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power (2021)
Halsey has spent their life admiring Nine Inch Nails, but their fourth studio album If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power marked their first collaboration with the rock band. Members Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross were initially sent just a handful of songs, but eventually ended up co-producing the entire album.
James Newton Howard, Jennifer Lawrence & The Lumineers, “The Hanging Tree” (2014)
Though The Lumineers aren’t heard on “The Hanging Tree,” band members Wesley Schultz and Jeremiah Fraites wrote the melody to the standout from The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1. The song, orchestrated by James Newton Howard and featuring vocals from the movie’s star and Academy Award winner Jennifer Lawrence, gained traction worldwide — so much so that it even received a dance remix.
Kanye West & Bon Iver, “Lost in the World” (2010)
Yeezy tapped Justin Vernon to reinterpret the Bon Iver song “Woods” for his My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy single “Lost in the World,” and the resulting track made a sterling hip-hop hook out of a folk song.
Elton John & Eminem, “Stan” (2001)
Eminem’s original stalker anthem, featuring Dido, is powerful enough, but “Stan” took on a new life after Slim Shady hooked up with Sir Elton to perform the track at the 2001 Grammy Awards. The controversial pairing ended in a triumphant embrace from the two musical icons.
Paula Abdul & MC Skat Kat, “Opposites Attract” (1989)
Want to improve your infectious radio single? You should probably invite a rapping animated feline along for the ride. Before her American Idol days, Abdul scored a smash with “Opposites Attract,” with an unforgettable intro courtesy of the highly talented, highly fictional MC Skat Kat.
David Bowie & Bing Crosby, “Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy” (1977)
Recorded in 1977 for Crosby’s Christmas TV special, “Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy” is a now-classic example of two wildly different musical personalities coming together for a killer rendition of a holiday staple. Sadly, Crosby passed away a month before the special aired.
Michael Jackson & The Notorious B.I.G., “This Time Around” (1995)
Michael Jackson’s HIStory album features a series of collabs with artists like Boyz II Men, Slash and Shaquille O’Neal (!), but his team-up with Biggie Smalls effectively brought together the King of Pop and one of the greatest rappers ever. It may have been only released as a promo single, but “This Time Around” endures as a highly enjoyable funk track.
Limp Bizkit & Method Man, “N 2 Gether Now” (1999)
The third single from Limp Bizkit’s Significant Other marked Method Man’s first time working with a rock band. The song’s producer DJ Premier initially declined working with Fred Durst until he met him in person and heard a Wu-Tang Clan member would be involved.
Jay-Z feat. Chris Martin, “Beach Chair” (2006)
One year before Kanye West recruited the Coldplay singer to provide the hook for “Homecoming,” Chris Martin teamed up with Jay-Z for the closing track on 2006’s Kingdom Come. The track didn’t arrive without criticism — as both fans and critics didn’t expect such a dreamy end to Hov’s post-retirement album.
Anthrax feat. Chuck D, “Bring the Noise” (1988)
A fan-favorite track from Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back got the rap-rock treatment by heavy metal group Anthrax, who got a shout-out in the original version of “Bring the Noise.” The collaborative version appeared on Public Enemy’s Apocalypse 91… The Enemy Strikes Black and was followed by a joint tour between the two bands.
Jonas Brothers & Common, “Don’t Charge Me for the Crime” (2009)
What do you get when you combine a boy band and Common’s streetwise poetry? “Don’t Charge Me for the Crime” from the Jonas Brothers’ final album before their 10-year break up opens with a rap and proceeds to tell the story of being an accomplice to a bank robbery (yes, you read that right).
Jack White & Insane Clown Posse, “Leck Mich Im Arsch” (2011)
This 7-inch single in which Insane Clown Posse rap over a Jack White-produced song interpolates an obscure Mozart piece that translates to “Lick me in the arse.” Living up to its odd name, “Leck Mich Im Arsch” is a truly out of this world collaboration.
Weezer & Lil Wayne, “Can’t Stop Partying” (2009)
Remember when Rivers Cuomo wrote intimate, biting alt-rock songs like “Say It Ain’t So” and “Tired of Sex”? Weezer does a complete 180 with “Can’t Stop Partying,” featuring Lil Wayne, from their 2009 album Raditude.