We all remember how mortified we felt in 2019 when Adam Levine and Travis Scott started bouncing around the stage together, Levine strumming a few power chords on the guitar, trying to excite a crowd that he knew was vehemently disinterested in him.
But the embarrassment we felt for the Maroon 5 frontman’s dated rocker boy antics didn’t distract us from seeing the performance in its shirtless, misogynistic entirety. There’s a particular sort of dread that comes when celebrities clash–when fans’ rose-tinted glasses come off and we witness something highly anticipated dissolve into a debacle. We can’t look away, as much as we so desperately want to.
In music especially there’s been a slew of uncomfortable collaborations that we can’t believe actually happened. Fergie actually butchered “Sweet Child O’ Mine” next to Slash himself at Super Bowl XLV in front of millions of people. We didn’t just have a fever dream.
Here are other absurd music collaborations that should never have happened, but unfortunately did.
Justin Bieber and Busta Rhymes
Off of Bieber’s oddly beloved 2011 Christmas album, Under The Mistletoe, the Busta Rhymes collaboration on “Drummer Boy” was a lost cause once the high-hats started kicking from the tracks start. At first glance, it’s easy to think that a splash of high hat drums is the only slight variation to the 1940 carol, but then the song completely breaks down and mutates into an agonizing hip-hop beat, with Bieber spitting bars like: “I’m surprised you didn’t hear this from the bible / I’m so tight I might go psycho.”
Busta Rhymes serves as a splash of gasoline on the already raging dumpster fire, merely telling the story about how he came to be featured on this song and just not mentioning Christmas at all: “At the table with the family, havin’ dinner / Blackberry on our hip and then it gave a little flicker / Then I took a look to see before it activates the ringer / Came to realize my homie Bieber hit me on Twitter.” The whole ordeal is just bizarre.
Dolly Parton and Sylvester Stallone
The best movie plot ever: Jake Farris (Dolly Parton) a down and out country singer stuck performing at a sleazy urban cowboy nightclub in the Big Apple, tells the club manager that she bets the remainder of her contract she can turn anyone into a country star in two weeks. The club manager agrees to the bet, but if she loses then another five years will be added to her tenure, and she’ll have to sleep with him. He also gets to pick the man, so he picks Rambo.
A critical and commercial failure, 1984’s Rhinestone should never have happened. Sylvester Stallone’s tone-deaf grumbles cripple every ounce of charm this movie could have had, even when Parton’s talent swoops in to save the day. The film went on to be nominated for five Golden Raspberry Awards, winning Worst Actor (Stallone) and Worst Song (“Drinkenstein.”)
Brad Paisley and LL Cool J
The title of the song alone is enough to warrant a fat cancellation in 2020, but the song itself, a country power ballad that equates slavery to the fight “of yesterday,” somehow finds a way to even further trivialize racism. “The relationship between the Mason-Dixon needs some fixin,” raps LL Cool J in complete seriousness. “The past is the past; you feel me?”
“I think it’s ludicrous to think for a second that I would ever trivialize slavery,” LL said on The Ellen Show after the track’s inevitable backlash. “I don’t feel like African Americans have to be upset. I don’t define myself by slavery…I just wanted to have a real honest conversation with a guy about being a human being first.” The track in and of itself is a cringe ballad, but the sentiment of being an “Accidental Racist” really drove home the point that this piece of work should never have happened.
Brian May and Dappy
One of them is one of Rock and Roll’s most famous guitarists, and the other is from N-Dubz. Apparently, May was a massive fan of Dappy’s work and wrote to the rapper, telling him he should “win an Ivor Novello for lyrics.” “He told me, ‘You are a very different artist and unique, so carry on what you’re doing. There’s nobody else challenging you,” Dappy said of his conversation with May.
The bizarre mash-up is like a bastard child of the Nu Metal era. It sounds like the rap of B.o.B got swallowed up by Dance Gavin Dance. The result is genuinely atrocious.
Eddie Murphy and Michael Jackson
While it has all the makings of an effective parody, 1993’s “Whatzupwitu” was 100% serious. Murphy had tried his hand at making music on more than one occasion, but his third studio effort, Love’s Alright, was particularly cringe-worthy. Jackson became involved in “Whatzupwitu” after hearing the lyrics and thinking they had a positive message (“Men ain’t got no power / He kills nothing but himself / men is a creation / men is nothing else, so”).
The track’s coinciding music video, which features Jackson and Murphy aimlessly floating around a computer graphic made-background that looks jankier than those on Apple’s Photobooth, was ranked by MTV viewers in 1999 as the third-worst music video of all time. From the sad clown at the video’s beginning saying “the elephant is dying” to the animated graphic of three elephants standing on top of a sea turtle while holding Earth on their backs, this collaboration simply made no logical sense.
Jack White and Insane Clown Posse
In August of 2011, Jack White contacted the Posse and invited the horrorcore duo to his mansion to collaborate. The rocker showed them a track he had been working on: an absurd arrangement of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Leck mich im arsch,” the title of which translated to “Lick My A**.”
The end result is absolute chaos, with a haunting choir singing “lick my ass” alongside rocking guitars, as the ludicrous duo rap about licking butts. Yet the collaboration somehow… works? I found myself humming the track’s absurd chorus afterward, so that’s something, isn’t it? Maybe some music is so strange, it’s good.