By Ian Gassman
From the "Whatupwitu" video. This is what a bad duet looks like.
In music, duets are supposed to be simple: Take a composition, divvy it up between two performers and prepare to be wowed. Recently, though, the duet has been put through the wringer by washed-up pop stars hacking it up alongside other celebrity singers who're searching for a hit. With apologies to several great musical pairings, the duet has often become a gimmick. For proof we offer this: the ten worst duets ever. Let us know about your least favorite duets in the comments.
10. Tony Bennett and Amy Winehouse: "Body and Soul" In 2011 classic crooner Tony Bennett paired up with a cavalcade of pop stars to record some standards, resulting in a mostly great but occasionally horrendous album, Duets II. A few of Bennett's choices are just wrong, like his rendition of "Stranger in Paradise" with adult-contemporary hotshot Andrea Bocelli. But it's his version of "Body and Soul" with a slurring Amy Winehouse that is most cringeworthy. Yeah, it is Winehouse's last performance before her untimely death and, sadly, it's not that great.
9. Britney and Jamie Lynn Spears: "Chilln' with You" By now, it should be explicitly clear that Britney Spears was at best fleetingly gifted at singing or writing songs. "Chillin' with You," off her 2013 (!!) album, Britney Jean, is not her finest hour. Throughout the first half of the song, Spears sings about getting drunk in a heavily AutoTuned voice over a club beat that sounds like it was produced on a laptop at 3 a.m. by an intoxicated DJ. Then, things get really chill when Jamie Lynn Spears shows up for the second verse with her equally pitch-corrected whine.
8. Huey Lewis and Gwyneth Paltrow: "Cruisin'" Have you ever seen the movie Duets? The film is a real heartwarmer about competitive karaoke that stars Gwyneth Paltrow, Huey Lewis and Paul Giamatti. In a pivotal scene, Paltrow joins Lewis on stage to sing Smokey Robison's "Cruisin'," and soon, the duo is cruising right along into a hopelessly cheesy version of the Motown classic.
7. Jeff Tweedy (Wilco) and Feist: "You and I" There comes a point in every young rocker's life where he or she grows up, has a few kids and starts singing sappy songs -- in the case of Jeff Tweedy, with Feist. On the band's 2009 album, Wilco (The Album), Feist joins Tweedy for the twee love song "You and I." Not only are Feist and Tweedy a bad pair vocally, but "You and I" just feels like a phoned-in tune.
6. Donnie and Marie Osmond: "A Little Bit Country, Little Bit Rock 'n' Roll" It's understandable if you want to tap your feet and sing along to "A Little Bit Country, a Little Bit Rock 'n' Roll" by Donnie and Marie Osmond, but don't do it. This duet is a travesty that put country and rock music into fun, wholesome categories the whole family could embrace every week on the Donnie & Marie variety show. With Marie's twangy, country-tinged voice and Donnie's edgier presentation, each listener got a healthy dose of country and rock, without ever having to listen to actual country or rock music.
5. Paul McCartney and Carl Perkins: "Get It" Paul McCartney has done a lot of worthless duets in his time, including "The Girl Is Mine" with Michael Jackson and "Heal the Pain" with George Michael, but "Get It," with the rockabilly legend Carl Perkins, might be his most wasted effort to date. Thrown onto McCartney's 1982 album Tug of War (which produced the hit duet "Ebony and Ivory"), "Get It" sticks out like a sore thumb. On the track, both Perkins and McCartney saunter along to a goofy rockabilly beat, singing about love and gettin' stuff. It's a shame McCartney didn't do more with Perkins' talents.
4. Mick Jagger and Dave Matthews: "Wild Horses" During the Rolling Stones 1997 Bridges to Babylon tour, the band filmed a live DVD in which Dave Matthews sings "Wild Horses" alongside Mick Jagger. Although it was filmed as a live cut and never became a single, the duet is still out there for the world to hear. The whispered inflection of Matthews, trying to match Jagger's wild accent on the refrain of the song, just doesn't work. A Jagger and Matthews' version of "Crash Into Me," however, would be amazing. 3. John Mayer and Buddy Guy: "Feels Like Rain" Back in 2005, when John Mayer started letting all that bluesy crap out of his system, he did a version of John Hiatt's "Feels like Rain" with blues legend Buddy Guy on PBS's Soundstage. While their individual guitar styles meshed well, Mayer's delivery was too "blue eyed soul" for Guy's tried-and-true voice. With all of his embellishments and croons, Mayer ended up sounding like the baby faced pop star that he is, while Guy just played it cool. Eventually, Mayer shuts up, opting instead to play the guitar.
2. David Byrne and St. Vincent: "Who" David Byrne and St. Vincent's collaboration album, Love this Giant, was hipsterism at its finest. The music that came out of this back-scratching was far from hip, though. It's evident on the funky but rambling duet "Who." Yeah, there are a lot of quirky little parts, and St. Vincent does this neat vocal line, but the abstract, frenetic energy that defines both artists' other work is completely absent.
1. Eddie Murphy and Michael Jackson: "Whatzupwitu" Eddie Murphy is a stand-up comedian through and through, but if he calls himself an "entertainer," he can be a singer if he wants to. Murphy's 1993 duet with Michael Jackson, "Whatzupwitu," proved he should have stuck with jokes. Jackson's powerful voice can't even hang around Murphy's monotone, near-spoken-word babbling and random falsetto outbursts. Add that to an already ridiculous song about God and humanity, with lyrics like, "We can't stop this world, 'cause it's not our world, we can just jack each other up," and you have a worst duet ever.
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