A look at some of music’s strangest collaborations

Chris Letso

Every so often in the bizarre confines of the musical world, two artists from opposite ends of the aural spectrum shockingly decide to collaborate on a song or album. The result is usually laughable, sometimes embarrassing, but once in a while, successful. 

It is highly amusing to imagine Phil Collins sneaking backstage at a Bone Thugs-N-Harmony concert and letting Krayzie Bone and the crew know that he was dying to work with them on what turned out to be the 2002 Bone Thugs single “Home.” 

Within the last two weeks, two such collaborations have surfaced on the Internet. Both of them happen to involve Kanye West, but let’s just call that a coincidence.

Regardless of how or why these peculiar musical moments come about, here is a look at some of the most interesting collaborations in recent history, starting with the two previously mentioned Kanye jams.

Kanye West, Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj and Bon Iver — “Monster”

Two weeks ago, Kanye took to his blog and posted this track, a juxtaposition of vocals from Justin Vernon of indie-folk band Bon Iver and verses from some of the biggest names in rap. 

Even after his appearance on the “Twilight: New Moon” soundtrack, it was hard to imagine Vernon climbing the mainstream ladder all the way up to Kanye status, but thankfully, it happened. Vernon drops the falsetto and lends some thicker-sounding, distorted vocals, which complement the minimal beat nicely. Decent verses from Ross, Hova and West are saved by Minaj’s ferocious, brain-wrecking performance.

Verdict: Awesome.

 Justin Bieber, Kanye West and Raekwon — “Runaway Love (Remix)”

We’ve seen that Twitter can help catch criminals and spread news of important events in an instant, but the world witnessed the true downside of the massively popular microblogging website just last week. It happened when the aforementioned West, Wu-Tang MC Raekwon and Canada’s worst export Justin Bieber all decided through a few tweets to do a song together. Unfortunately, the mighty instrumental of “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing Ta F’ Wit” was remixed and desecrated by the appalling sounds of Bieber’s womanly voice. In all fairness, it could have turned out worse, but still, it’s Justin Bieber.

Verdict: For shame, Raekwon.

Danger Mouse, Sparklehorse and David Lynch — “Dark Night of the Soul”

David Lynch is a bit of a renaissance man. Aside from creating masterfully imaginative and dark films such as “Blue Velvet” and “Mulholland Drive,” Lynch sells his own line of coffee, advocates transcendental meditation, creates visual art and now sings. 

This song, taken from the 2010 album of the same name, brings together Gnarls Barkley producer Danger Mouse and the late Mark Linkous of rock group Sparklehorse, while Lynch provides his typically creepy vocals. 

This song is essentially an audio translation of Lynch’s film work, meaning, it is beautifully chilling and a memorable experience.

Verdict: Haunting and wonderful.

R.E.M. and KRS-One — “Radio Song”

R.E.M. decided to kick off their 1991 album “Out of Time” with this little number, a musical mish-mosh of funk-rock, sweeping orchestration and a few “hey, hey, hey’s” for good measure. Just for the heck of it, Michael Stipe invited his good buddy KRS-One, head of rap outfit Boogie Down Productions, to spit some rhymes over the song. KRS is undoubtedly a great rapper, but lines like “When I got to the show, yo ho ho” must have done some serious damage to his credibility back in 1991. “Radio Song” is a serious musical blunder typical of the ‘90s in that it attempts to blend rock and hip-hop in a misguided fashion. Maybe if Lil Wayne had listened to this song first, he would have thought better than to actually release that “Rebirth” album.

Verdict: At least “Losing My Religion” comes on next.

Michael Bolton and Bob Dylan — “Steel Bars”

There is some music that causes any level-headed listener to feel a great sense of embarrassment for the mere fact that it exists and was created by fellow human beings. The music of Michael Bolton usually falls under that category, and it seems like the type of junk Bob Dylan would ostracize. 

However, in what was hopefully an attempt at some brilliant joke that went over the collective head of the listening public, Dylan decided to co-write a song with Bolton. 

Luckily, Dylan did not lend his vocals or instrumentation to the track, so we can all forget this ever happened and listen to “Visions of Johanna.”

Verdict: Hah, good one, Bob!

Sonic Youth and Cypress Hill — “I Love You Mary Jane”

One is a group of super-hip noise rock legends from New York, the other, a California hip-hop collective known for its love of toking up. By some inexplicable twist of fate, the two collaborated on a song for the soundtrack to 1993 Emilio Estevez action thriller “Judgement Night,” something that could have only happened in the early ’90s. 

The Internet is a wonderful thing for allowing those of us who misplaced our copies of the “Judgement Night” original soundtrack to listen to this chilled out jam. 

Kim Gordon’s laid back hook, Sonic Youth’s signature guitar squelches and the eccentric rhymes and beats of Cypress Hill make for solid summer afternoon listening.

Verdict: Hard to believe it exists, but worth a listen.