Two show-stopping voices are better than one in collaborations that topped the charts this year. These five songs each have their own unique, sometimes drama-filled, story. One is real-life love ballad, another was insulted by Kanye, and one was so catchy that we couldn’t get it out of our heads the entire summer.
1. Robin Thicke & Pharrell — ‘Blurred Lines’
This catchy summer anthem was the longest running No. 1 single of 2013. In an interview with GQ, Thicke revealed the story behind the song:
Pharrell and I were in the studio and I told him that one of my favorite songs of all time was Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up.” I was like, “Damn, we should make something like that, something with that groove.” Then he started playing a little something and we literally wrote the song in about a half hour and recorded it.
The suggestive song definitely lived up to its name, by blurring the lines when it comes to appropriate music videos. Thicke and Pharrell (T.I sings a verse) released a music video where scantily clad models — Emily Ratajkowski, Elle Evans and Jessi M’Bengue — prance around them. But in the video’s unrated version, the models are topless, wearing only nude G-strings. This version was banned from Youtube for a time.
Feminist blogger Lisa Huyne called it a “rape song”, saying:
Basically, the majority of the song (creepily named “Blurred Lines”) has the R&B singer murmurming “I know you want it” over and over into a girl’s ear. Call me a cynic, but that phrase does not exactly encompass the notion of consent in sexual activity.
Thicke responded to the controversy by saying:
We tried to do everything that was taboo. Bestiality, drug injections, and everything that is completely derogatory towards women. Because all three of us are happily married with children, we were like, “We’re the perfect guys to make fun of this.” People say, “Hey, do you think this is degrading to women?” I’m like, “Of course it is. What a pleasure it is to degrade a woman.”
2. Lady Gaga & R. Kelly — ‘Do What U Want’
Released in October on Lady Gaga’s Artpop album, this sultry ballad has been accompanied by equally seductive performances by the pop singer and R&B vocalist.
The pair turned heads at the American Music Awards this year when they boldly performed this single. The backdrop to the performance was a pseudo Oval Office, and Gaga was the secretary to R. Kelly’s president. As she danced atop his desk, Kelly sat in a chair, observing. Then, he joined her on the desk, and some frisky dancing ensued.
In early December, Kelly was interviewed by Elliott Wilson for his CRWN series. When describing his musical connection to Gaga, he said, “When I met her, I felt like I met my match.”
3. Pink & Nate Ruess — ‘Just Give Me a Reason’
The band fun.‘s frontman and Pink co-wrote this touching song about mending a broken relationship. It was nominated for two Grammys for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance and Song of the Year. The ballad, off Pink’s The Truth About Love album, reached No. 1 on the Adult Top 40 chart. This is Pink’s eighth No. 1 song on that list.
The video shows Pink and Ruess singing to one other, holding just microphones in front of a white background, but also cuts to scenes of Pink with her husband, Carey Hart. It won the MTV Video Music Award for Best Collaboration.
Ruess, who is a rock singer, explained to MTV that collaborating with Pink was a new endeavor for him. “Writing the song was a whole different learning experience and was really fueled by the fact that Alecia is so strong and independent and so very much herself,” he said.
4. John Mayer & Katy Perry — ‘Who You Love’
The real-life couple used this song off Mayer’s Paradise Valley album as a public display of their affection. In December, the couple had their first interview together on Good Morning America, where they revealed the song’s music video.
In the video, actual couples blissfully ride a mechanical bull. Between those scenes, Mayer and Perry sing seductively into each other’s eyes. In the interview, Mayer said, “This is the first time we’ve put ourselves out there for music.”
The infamous serial dater, who has been linked to Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Jessica Simpson, Cameron Diaz and Taylor Swift in the past, seems to have settled down (for now, at least) and wants to share that accomplishment with the world.
In an interview Mayer did with with Billboard, he described the ballad as a “confessional for myself.” He explained that these lyrics were written with Katy in mind:
My girl, she ain’t the one that I saw coming
And sometimes I don’t know which way to go
And I tried to run before
But I’m not running anymore
5. Justin Timberlake & Jay Z — ‘Suit & Tie’
Two of the biggest names in music put together this fashionable duet, nominated for a Grammy for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. Featured on Justin’s CD, The 20/20 Experience, it was part of his highly buzzed-about comeback after a six-year music hiatus.
In an interview with HipHop-n-More.com, Justin credits Beyonce for sparking up the song. “We were working on some stuff for Beyonce. And she made the mistake of letting Jay and I have another room at the studio.”
The above video of their performance on Saturday Night Live caused some controversy with none other than Kanye West. West had dissed Justin at his concert in London, where he sang, “I got love for Hov, but I ain’t f–kin’ with that ‘Suit & Tie.'”
Justin retaliated by changing a line while singing on SNL. Instead of saying the original line of “Sh-t so sick got a hit and picked up a habit,” Timberlake sang, “My hit’s so sick got rappers acting dramatic.”