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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Grammy Performances Highlight Collaborations

Written by Jon Williams

The Grammy Awards ceremony took place this past Sunday night. Mumford & Sons (Album of the Year for Babel), Gotye (Record of the Year for “Somebody That I Used to Know”), and fun. (Best New Artist) took home some of the most coveted awards, while the Black Keys and Jay-Z and Kanye West earned three awards apiece. (For a complete list of winners, click here.)

If you watched the broadcast, though, you saw only a handful of those awards presented. Most of the awards are presented beforehand, so the televised ceremony can focus on actual musical performances. Taylor Swift kicked the evening off with an Alice in Wonderland-themed rendition of “We’re Never Ever Getting Back Together,” while Justin Timberlake announced a return to the music world with a two-song performance later in the show.

Over the years, the Grammy Awards ceremony has become known for the unique artist combinations that have taken the stage together. This year’s ceremony boasted a number of collaborations, such as Miguel and Wiz Khalifa, Elton John and Ed Sheeran, Alicia Keys and Maroon 5, and the Black Keys with Dr. John and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Bruno Mars and Sting were joined onstage by Rihanna and Ziggy Marley for a tribute to the late Bob Marley; later, a similar tribute to Levon Helm was done by Elton John, Mavis Staples, Mumford & Sons, the Zac Brown Band, Alabama Shakes, and T Bone Burnett. (For a complete list of performers, click here.)

You don’t often see multi-genre collaborations of this sort outside of the Grammy ceremony; when you do, the results can be transcendant. Here are a few:

Sound City: Real to Reel Soundtrack: The soundtrack to Dave Grohl’s documentary features the Foo Fighters frontman collaborating with a number of artists, such as Stevie Nicks and Trent Reznor. Perhaps the most notable track, though, is “Cut Me Some Slack,” which drew buzz leading up to the 12-12-12 concert for Hurricane Sandy relief as a Nirvana reunion of sorts, with Sir Paul McCartney on lead vocals.

Tony Bennett – Duets: An American Classic: This 2006 album from the jazzy pop singer, released on his 80th birthday, sees him perform duets with a number of today’s stars from various genres. Some, such as Billy Joel and Elton John, don’t seem like much of a stretch. Other songs, however, include the likes of country star Tim McGraw, rock singer Bono (from U2), and Latin rocker Juanes.

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss – Raising Sand: One of classic rock’s most iconic voices, Robert Plant, best known as lead singer for Led Zeppelin, teams up with bluegrass queen Alison Krauss for this understated duet album of cover tunes. Produced by T Bone Burnett, a follow-up collaboration has been in the works since 2009.

Lou Reed and Metallica – Lulu: Singer-songwriter Reed performed with Metallica in 2009 at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary Concert, which led to this album. Metallica was no stranger to unconventional collaborations, having paired their heavy metal catalog with the San Francisco Symphony for S&M in 1999.

Run-D.M.C. and Aerosmith – “Walk This Way”: Okay, so it’s only one song…but what a song. In 1986, rappers Run-D.M.C. covered rock legend Aerosmith’s hit single from 1977, with Steven Tyler and Joe Perry helping out. The song helped propel rap into mainstream consciousness: the video received heavy airplay on MTV, and it became the first rap song to crack Billboard’s Top 5.

What are some of your favorite collaborative albums and songs? Let us know in the comments section below.

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