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Forget Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus — there are some *truly* weird musical collaborations floating around the interwebs. We like to keep our music compartmentalized into country, rock, pop, and hip-hop, declaring our love for some styles and our willful ignorance of others, but if "Old Town Road" taught us anything, it's that strictly adhering to genres will soon be a thing of the past.
If you vibe with another musician, it doesn't matter if your a rapper, a singer, or bluegrass fiddle player. You can still make some beautiful music. From Shawn Mendes and Zac Brown Band to Steve Aoki and Bill Nye, we found the strangest star-crossed pairings that actually worked.
We have CMT's genre-bending series Crossroads to thank for a lot of the strangest artist mashups over the past decade and a half, but they really broke the mold with this holy pairing between Shawn Mendes and the Zac Brown Band. While some of the episodes feel like a mismatched pair at karaoke, Shawn and the band showed a shared musicianship and a respect for each other's work during their multi-song set which included songs from both of their extensive catalogs. In "Colder Weather," you can really see these two artists coming together that appreciate the emotion of the song, and the epic fiddle solo in "Mercy" was nothing short of inspired.
Listen to "Colder Weather" on YouTube.
Listen to "Mercy" on YouTube.
Ariana Grande and Seth MacFarlane could really be considered regular collaborators at this point, following their 2016 Roger & Hammerstein's Cinderella mashup with another Broadway blast in Apple Music's Carpool Karaoke a year later. Real fans know that Ari got her start in 13 The Musical on Broadway and has never shied away from her theatre-kid roots, but it's always a surprise when the mastermind behind Family Guy shows his soft, gooey Sinatra center. Seth has released five traditional pop albums (which is what the Recording Academy likes to call swing music and sh*t that sounds like it was made in the 1940s), three of which have received Grammy nominations. This unlikely duo belts in harmony and reminds us that you can have clout and still be a drama nerd.
Listen to "Suddenly Seymour" from Carpool Karaoke on YouTube.
BBC 2 via YouTube
It's been so long since we've listened to Marina that we didn't even know she'd ditched "The Diamonds." The Welsh singer's dark vocals haven't changed a bit since her Electra Heart days, and she still spends her days crafting dance-pop hits in the UK. "Baby" was produced by Clean Bandit, a British electronic band known for blending classical and dance music, but their decision to bring in Luis Fonsi alongside Marina and create a Latin-leaning track had to reason to work as well as it has. Marina's vocals fit the flamenco-inspired flare, while the inclusion of Luis prevents the song from feeling exploitative or appropriative.
Listen to "Baby" on YouTube.
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Just because Miley Cyrus decided to make an album full of Bangerz didn't mean that rap's top brass had to pay attention. For all intents and purposes, it would have made way more sense for veteran hip-hop artists to dismiss a young, white pop star trying to claim a space that wasn't hers, even if "We Can't Stop" and "4x4" lived up to the album's title. Back in his Snoop Lion days, Snoop Dogg collaborated with Miley on the single "Ashtrays and Heartbreaks," and regardless of how you feel about Miley's wild days or her questionable subsequent comments on hip-hop in 2017, you've got to admit that her twangy vocals added to the reggae fusion melody. Still, Snoop's best out-of-nowhere collab remains his television show with Martha Stewart, a real O.G.
Listen to "Ashtrays and Heartbreaks" on YouTube.
Dua Lipa is still pretty new on the scene, despite her breakout success with "New Rules." It's a bop for sure, but the dance-pop single didn't really scream "powerhouse vocalist." Looks like Dua is having the last laugh with a featured appearance on prolific Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli's first new album in fourteen years, Sí. Andrea explained his decision to collaborate with Dua to Billboard, describing her voice as "unique, recognizable, expressive and as brilliant as her interpretative intelligence." Okay, go off, sis. Try to listen to their duet, "If Only," without either crying or immediately being transported into a Disney musical. Spoiler: You can't.
Listen to "If Only" on YouTube.
Steve Aoki's latest album Neon Future III was filled with seemingly random collaborators in the most blantant and skillful grab for clout we've ever seen. Louis Tomlinson, BTS, blink-182, Lady Antebellum, and Bella Thorne all contribute to the strangest bops you'll ever hear, but their combined shock value is completey dwarfed by the surprise appearence by Bill Nye on the album's final song, "Noble Gas." Bill didn't just lend his voice to the track — he also helped write the song about a supernova explosion that begins the universe.
Listen to "Noble Gas" on iHeartRadio.
How did we never notice that "In Case You Didn't Know" has all of the makings of an R&B banger? You'd think that after learning Beyoncé's "Irreplaceable" was originally written for Shania Twain, we as a society would have realized how similar the two most niche genres really have in common, but we were still shook by Boyz II Men riffing and harmonizing their way through the Brett Young track alongside the country crooner himself. TBH, Brett needs to learn how to *blend* for like a second, but the bridge alone makes this a blessed union.
Listen to "In Case You Didn't Know" on YouTube.
"Cruise" is a song that was just asking for a five-part harmony. Haters already think Flordia Georgia Line is too pop for country, so it should come as no surprise that they meshed perfectly with the most iconic boy group of all time (sorry, One Direction). Before taking the stage on Crossroads, Florida Georgia Line and BSB teamed up for the 2017 single "God, Your Mama, and Me," which you'll still hear bumping on country radio to this day. Nick Carter and the country duo have been friends for a minute, but we never dreamed it would lead to a collab between the superstar acts.
Listen to "Cruise" on YouTube.
Sure, Bon Iver's contribution to Lizzo's debut album was a little out of nowhere, but the indie folk band (and, specifically, their frontman Justin Vernon) worked so well with Kanye West that he's been featured on nine Kanye tracks in the past ten years and counting. Kanye once told BBC Radio 1 that he loves Justin "the way Kanye loves Kanye," Justin credits Kanye's 2013 Zane Lowe interview with inspiring him to come back to music with 22, A Million, and producer Mike Dean told Pitchfork that "Justin Vernon is one of the collaborators Kanye will always go to." The hip hop king and the soft-sung indie darling were brought together when Ye wanted to sample "Woods" on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantast and in one conversation, a beautiful partnership was formed.
Listen to "Lost In The World" on YouTube.
Justin Bieber was discovered by Usher, but that hasn't given the once and future wunderkind any rap cred. Purpose, the artist's fourth and best full-length release, saw the Biebs finally leaning into the R&B style his musical Gandolf seems to have seen as his destiny from the beginning. This isn't Nas's best verse, obviously — it seems like this relationship might have benefitted Justin a bit more than his Def Jam labelmate, but "We Are" is an underrated bop that contributed to Justin's constant campaign for rap relevance.
Listen to "We Are" on Spotify.
If you didn't know about "Irreplacable"'s former life as a country hit, you might not understand how the Sugarland/Beyoncé performance of the chart-topper came to be. As a Houston native, Bey has some big fans in country music including Miranda Lambert and Reba, and clearly the feeling is mutual, with Beyoncé's foray into the genre through "Daddy Lessons." Sugarland almost immediately began covering "Irreplacable" after its release, so the country duo teamed up with Beyoncé at the 2007 AMAs for a twangy reimagining of the tune. Nine years later, Beyoncé would team up with another girl power duo, The Dixie Chicks, for a CMA performance, continuing her campaign for musical world peace. Can't we all just get along?
Listen to "Irreplacable" on YouTube.
Paul McCartney doesn't sing on "FourFiveSeconds," but in his own words to BBC, "Whay's wrong with that?" The former Beatles star co-wrote the song alongside Rihanna, Kanye West, and Ty Dolla Sign (WTF, right?), co-produced, and played guitar on the track that ended his longest break between top-ten Hot 100 hits. Sir Paul and Kanye also collabed on the 2014 song "Only One," but adding Rihanna to lead vocals proved to be the magic touch.
Listen to "FourFiveSeconds" on Spotify.
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We didn't expect to see Kendrick Lamar collaborating with the folktronica artist that gave us "White Flag" and "Thank You," aka stuff that our moms went ape-sh*t to when we were in kindergarten, but Eminem sampled the latter on his career-definiting hit "Stan," so maybe Dido is lowkey hard AF and we were just too basic to notice. Even listening to the beginning of "Let Us Move On," it's hard to see where (or why) a Kendrick verse would make sense, but the MC honestly goes *in* at the bridge, and we're here for it.
Listen to "Let Us Move On" on Spotify.
Demi Lovato was definitely a pop-punker in a former life. Her skyscraping vocals have always had a bit of Hayley Williams shining through her emotional belts and vowel sounds, and after that whole "punched a backdancer after a coke binge" fiasco, Demi has more thug clout than 99% of the popular pop-punk bands from the '00s. Fall Out Boy's lead singer Patrick Stump has some serious vocal chops to bring to the table as well, so the band recruited Demi for their 2016 single "Irresistible." "Get Back" still slaps harder than anything Fall Out Boy has ever done, but we'll always support Demi giving it 110%.
Listen to "Irresistible" on Spotify.
"waves (Remix)" is one of the best songs on this list, hands down. Kacey Musgraves has had her share of unexpected collaborations, never dimming her "Dimestore Cowgirl" twang to fit into new genres. As such, in instances where her contribution to a song is so beautifully integrated as it is in "waves," she ends up inventing genres of her own. Kacey explores a side she rarely lets shine while giving the track a sensual darkness not present in its original iteration. Miguel and Kacey's languid sensibilities prove to be the perfect odd coupling on a surf-themed track that makes an entirely different kind of splash.
Listen to "waves (Remix)" on Spotify.
Tinashe is hella underrated. If you only know her from the accident-prone Rent: Live! that aired in 2018, you're doing yourself a disservice. Nightride and its companion Joyride are pop-fused R&B at its best, and our girl can dance like no other pop diva before her — except, of course, Britney Spears. The pop stalwart paired with the *only* up-and-coming queen that's effectively channelling her on a sultry single from her ninth studio album that's one of her best songs in years.
Listen to "Slumber Party" on Spotify.
Keith Urban is a sun-kissed country star with a loving wife and two daughters. John Mayer looks like he's never been outside, makes melancholy folk songs, and is notoriously horrible at relationships. It seems like the only thing these two artists have in common is that they're both total daddies (sorry, not sorry), but their mashup on Crossroads brought out the country-folk blend John's never really hidden and the bleeding heart that we all knew was lurking beneath Keith's surface. Honestly, these two are twin souls, and the only people who didn't know are the ones who weren't paying attention.
Listen to "Gravity" on YouTube.