8 iconic duet parings that may… or may not have worked

When the titans of tunes unite for a duet, it can often be the beginnings of something truly iconic, but not always for the right reasons.

When notable and accomplished artists come together to collaborate on music, it seems fair to say that greatness is expected. After all, the marriage between two renowned musical minds seems like a sure-fire way to make magic happen. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and the cheese rating on some of these duets is off the charts. That being said, these partnerships do frequently bear fruit and result in tracks that do indeed please the ears.

Today we will be exploring the best of both worlds, celebrating the duets that, whether we wanted them to or not, resulted in earworms that still have us tapping our feet to this day.

David Bowie with Mick Jagger, duet, duets
Photo: Denis O’Regan/Getty Images

The Kid LAROI and Miley Cyrus – Without You (2021)

While this track is by far, the youngest on the list, it’s already made massive waves, largely in part to everyone’s favourite trendsetting app Tik Tok. The original version of the song was released in 2020 by The Kid LAROI and saw massive success as part of a trend on Tik Tok. Likely in response to this, Miley Cyrus and LAROI partnered up to create this duet of the track.

Due to the popularity of the original on the platform, the new remix was debuted by Miley Cyrus’ own Tik Tok page and was then released on April 30, 2021. Miley’s raspy vocals definitely add to the song’s dynamic and contrast well with the clean tones of LAROI. The collaboration has sent the new track to the top of the ARIA singles charts and sits at 8th on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Eminem and Rhianna – Love The Way You Lie (2010)

If you spent any time listening to the radio in the early 2010s, it’s more than likely you’ve heard this track at least once. This collaboration between two of the biggest artists of the time saw massive success internationally, spending 20 weeks at the tippy top of the US Billboard Hot 100 charts. Now sitting at over 2.2 billion plays on YouTube, this is a song that at release, seemed to rule the music world, and left a lasting impression.

Eminem and Rhianna’s duet open up the listener’s ears to the dark reality of toxic relationships, and what draws people back into situations of abuse and gaslighting. Taking on the personas of the pair in the relationship, the two deeply explore the destructive behaviour and emotions felt by people in similar situations, and the real horrors that too many people face with the one they love.

Post Malone and Ozzy Osbourne – Take What You Want (2019)

Post Malone is not one to hide away from his rock-loving roots, donning tattoos of some of his biggest musical influences, including Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison. Despite this, it still may come as a surprise that Ozzy Osbourne, the man known for the dark screaming vocals of Black Sabbath, makes an appearance on Post Malone’s 2019 track Take What You Want.

This duet featuring the heavy stylings of Osbourne and Malone’s modern rap saw massive success, as the track reached 8th on the US Billboard Hot 100 and 2nd on the US Rolling Stone Top 100.

John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John – You’re The One That I Want (1978)

Grease (1978) earned its place as a classic film, in no small part due to its soundtrack. The film’s climax sees Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta sing a duet together for the final time in the movie, with a track called You’re The One That I Want. 

While Travolta had earned his place as an A list actor after starring in Saturday Night Fever, the film launched Olivia Newton-John’s career, and cemented the two as a duo, even though they only worked together again once more in 1983’s Two of a Kind.

Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney – Ebony & Ivory (1982)

With this duet, Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney created a song with simple straightforward message. Likening different race to the keys of a piano, the pair question why people can’t “lie together in perfect harmony.” If the ebony keys and ivory keys of a piano are able to harmonise, why can’t people?

The track reached #1 on both the US and UK charts and was accompanied by a music video featuring the two artists, one of very few that depicted both a white and black artist at the time.

Aerosmith and Run-DMC – Walk This Way (1985)

While an unusual pairing, this combination of ’80s rap and rock proved to be massively successful. While Aerosmith recorded the original track in 1975, it wasn’t until a full decade later that the track was reimagined with the assistance of Run-DMC. The vocal lines of the original verses are largely spoken and extremely rhythmic, making the change to Run-DMC’s rap seamless. Combining this with the groovy drum beat and funky nature of the song resulted in the song’s rebirth in a brand new decade and music scene.

After this version was released, Aerosmith continued to sing the track live in the style of the Run-DMC recording, adopting pitch alternations and rhythmic changes.

David Bowie and Mick Jagger – Dancing in the Street (1985)

Without a doubt, this duet turns it up to 11 when it comes to being corny and caked in cheese. Nevertheless, this collaboration between David Bowie and Mick Jagger is undeniably iconic. Created to promote the Live Aid concerts that saw the biggest names in music come together and perform to the entire world, this track earns its way into this list, due in part to its music video.

The clip sees the pair dancing around flamboyantly through the streets, with overemphasised movements and facial expressions. This Martha and the Vandellas cover oozes ’80s, and despite having two of the biggest voices in modern music feature in it, earns its status through its unique ability to make people cringe. Hard.

Queen and David Bowie – Under Pressure (1981)

Though some may mistake the beginning of this track for Vanilla Ice’s Ice Ice Baby, this collaboration between two modern music giants is arguably the most iconic duet of all time. Queen frontman Freddie Mercury and David Bowie had been long time friends prior to the recording of this song, it was only in 1981 when the two met up in Montreux and spent a 24-hour bender fuelled by wine and cocaine, that the pair finally began working together musically.

The recording of this song really does show off the different vocal stylings of the pair, a feature of the track that was completely intentional. Both Mercury and Bowie recorded the vocal parts separately without hearing the others vocals, resulting in a call and response between the singers, and two different ideas of how the vocal line should sound.