Every now and then, rockstars align to bring us a classic we never saw coming. No matter what the genre, you have plenty of examples of two (sometimes three or more) powerhouses coming together to back each other up with a set of voices that are usually so different that they sound like they were made for each other. The songs almost make us wish they'd just fucking ditch their other bands and go on the road together. While rarely the case, there are plenty of instances where a momentary union of rock-meets-hip-hop or country-meets-gospel or weirdo-meets-weirdo can turn out some fine background vocals that make a song better than it would've been otherwise. These are our picks for the top 10 best back-up vocal collaborations.
10. Gwen Stefani and Eve “Rich Girl”, Love.Angel.Music.Baby (2004)
The ridiculously catchy second single off Gwen Stefani's debut solo album, Love.Angel.Music.Baby. (2004) is based off of the song “If I Were a Rich Man” in the musical Fiddler off on the Roof. As if swiping a song concept from a Jewish folk tune for a pop song wasn't ballsy enough, Stefani also added rapper Eve to the mix, who fired off some support bars that turned the song into a less-than-traditional club hit.
9. Moby and Gwen Stefani “South Side”, Play (1999)
The original release of “South Side” off Moby's fifth album Play (1999) was without Gwen Stefani's vocal's and was was actually his least favorite song off that record at first because he didn't think that he could mix her vocal's into the song to the best of his abilities. He had released the album without her vocals and a year later, he gave the track to a friend who remixed the song bring to us this lovely complete version.
8. Temple of the Dog (Chris Cornell and Eddie Vedder), “Hunger Strike” Temple of the Dog (1991)
“Hunger Strike,” written by Chris Cornell, would not be the song it is if it was not for Pearl Jam or Eddie Vedder's baritone vocals on this track. The intensity and contrast between the two men's voices makes this song distinct from anything else that either of them had done up to that point. This song was recorded before Pearl Jam released Ten, and it was on Temple of the Dog (1991), the sole eponymous of Cornell and Vedder's grunge supergroup.
7. Blink 182 and Robert Smith “All of This”, All of This (2003)
Before Blink 182 took a hiatus in the mid 00's, they released their 2003 self-titled record, which was an album unlike everything else they had put out and “All of This” (2003) was a song that demonstrated how different their sound could be. With vocal help from Robert Smith of the Cure, it gave this song the dark edge that the lyrics have. Recorded in four different studios, the emotional continuity of the song ensures that you'd never know it. It's still pretty hard to believe that this came from the same guys who made Dude Ranch.
6. Public Enemy and Anthrax “Bring the Noise”, Apocolypse 91…The Enemy Strikes Black 1991
Although there are no vocals added extra from Anthrax for “Bring the Noise” featured on both Anthrax Attack of the Killer B's (1991) and Public Enemy's Apocolypse 91…The Enemy Strikes Black (1991), Scott Ian's guitar did plenty of talking for this Public Enemy song and furthered the experiment of had combining metal and rap together as one amped up, pissed off medium. Chuck D had said ” These two kinds of music have always been similar in attitude; I never understood why there wasn't more cross overs.”
5. Run DMC and Aerosmith “Walk this Way”, Raising Hell (1986)
Every time you play this song, know that you are listening to the impetus of the rap/rock/metal cross over. On Raising Hell (1986), Run DMC took a classic Aerosmith song “Walk this Way” and, with help on vocals from Joe Perry and Steven Tyler, made it the wall-smashing moment of sonic unity that we all know and love.
4. Deftones and Maynard James Keenan “Passengers”, White Pony (2000)
Maynard James Keenan of Tool and A Perfect Circle was only supposed to be helping as a producer for Deftones album White Pony (2000). Of course that didn't stop the iconic frontman from grabbing the mic during a session and adding his alchemy of ghostly whispers and earth-rumbling screams that danced with Chino Moreno's tortured vocals to create on of the best and most haunting songs on the album.
3. Kris Kristofferson and Johnny Cash “Sunday Morning Coming Down”, Kristofferson (1970)
Kris Kristofferson's debut album Kristofferson (1970) had feature the song “Sunday Morning Coming Down.” This song was actually written with Johnny Cash in mind. Kristofferson had worked as a janitor in the studio Cash used to record in which allowed him to pitch songs to the Man in Black, which he didn't pick up. Kristofferson had actually flown his helicopter to Cash's front lawn and would not leave to he would listen to the song. Apparently, Cash was just playing hard to get, later admitting, ” I liked his songs so much that I would take them off and not let anybody else hear them.”
2. Placebo and David Bowie ” Without you I'm Nothing “, Once More with Feeling (2004)
“Without you I'm Nothing” (1998) was originally sang without David Bowie on Without you I'm Nothing, but in 2004 Placebo released a greatest hits record called Once More with Feeling (2004) and upon it was the redone version with David Bowie singing back up vocals. And with the addition of the Thin White Duke on background vocals, the song is indeed quite something.
1. Queen and David Bowie, “Under Pressure”, Hot Space (1982)
In 1982, we saw the union between two of classic rock's unitard-wearing geniuses when Freddie Mercury and David Bowie joined forces for the song “Under Pressure” on Queen's album Hot Space. And while the bass line tends to snag a lot of the glory, there's no denying that these two created an epic swirl of drama needed to make a song about the everyday perils of life feel like a life-defining moment every time you hear it.