Pop music is full of truly great musical collaborations peppered throughout its history. Among them are Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, the Traveling Wilburys, Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, the Million Dollar Quartet, and Jack White and Loretta Lynn. There are countless others, but what about the other ones, those music collaborations that just didn’t and shouldn’t have panned out? Here’s my list of the four most painfully awful music collaborations in pop music history, in no particular order.
The Beach Boys and The Fat Boys, “Wipe Out”
This abysmal cover of the Surfaris’ hit “Wipe Out” appeared on The Fat Boys’ 1987 album, “Crushin’.” The single made it to No. 12 on the Billboard chart that year, surprisingly.
I wish I could have been present in the room when this idea came to fruition. I can imagine a high-powered music executive saying, “Hey, I know! Let’s get The Fat Boys and The Beach Boys together to cover a song with virtually no words. The Fat Boys can beatbox through it, and The Beach Boys can do their 'wah wah wah' thing. And it would be funny because it’s The Fat Boys and The Beach Boys. Get it?"
No, we don’t. And 26 years later, it’s gone from bad to painfully embarrassing, especially for the creators of the legendary album “Pet Sounds.”
Puff Daddy featuring Jimmy Page, “Come with Me”
Oh man. This is the first song I thought of when I began this list.
“Come with Me” was featured on the soundtrack for the horrendous 1998 "Godzilla" remake by Roland Emmerich. I don’t know which one is worse, the film itself or this song.
The song unfortunately recreated the 1975 Led Zeppelin song “Kashmir” and surprisingly went to No. 2 in the United Kingdom and No. 4 in the United States. I’m really not sure how. And even more surprisingly, Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave fame (and currently playing with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band) produced it, as well as supplied guitar and bass for the song. And in the middle of those two fine musicians, we’ve got Puff Daddy, whose horrible rapping, arm waving and general noisemaking completely pollute the really good music accompanying him. It’s quite tragic. The only redeeming factors to this are watching Puff Daddy trying to act tough, as if he’s challenging Godzilla to a fight, and the really bad CGI.
Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson, “Say Say Say”
I actually had this song on 45 when it was released in 1983. My cousin bought it, and we listened to it over and over again. And at the time, I really liked it. And you know what? I still kind of do, purely for nostalgic reasons.
“Say Say Say” was not only performed by Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson, two legendary musicians, but it was also written by them, which is astonishing to me because it’s just not that good. And I know McCartney goes through phases of mediocrity with his songwriting, but you would think with Jackson’s help (in the middle of his superstardom, I might add) the song would be much better than it is. And here’s the kicker. George Martin, the genius producer behind all of The Beatles' classic albums, the fifth Beatle if there ever was a fifth Beatle, produced it. Wow.
Really, there are two reasons this song made it to the list.
One, musically, it’s dated. It was released in 1983, and back then, you could get away with all of those silly pop-centric horns. Well, not really. The only pop music that can get away with that much horn is some good 1960s soul and Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, and even Springsteen occasionally borders on too much (RIP Clarence Clemons). And synthesizer is rarely, if ever, acceptable. I’m pretty sure there’s some slap bass going on, too. Even for McCartney, that’s not cool.
The second reason is that silly video, which is described as a "short film" and features McCartney and Jackson posing as con artists who call themselves “Mac and Jack.” Really. It should be noted, however, that the video is credited for the introduction of dialogue and storyline in music videos. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. And there’s bad acting all the way around, from Mac and Jack to Linda McCartney and even by Art Carney and Harry Dean Stanton, who play an audience member at the vaudeville show and a pool shark, respectively.
And, if you would like to delve deeper into some of the themes from the music video, uh, I mean short film, check this out.
Nelly and Tim McGraw, “Over and Over”
Why Nelly and Tim McGraw? Why?
Let’s get one thing straight. Blending rap (or, in this case, hip-hop) and country is never a good idea, ever. They are the polar opposite of each other, separate sides of the music spectrum. I really don’t have to explain it. This just shouldn’t have happened. But it did. And, for some reason, it peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard top 100 in 2004.
If you pause the video at 1:33, you can see Nelly making one of many funny faces throughout this travesty of a music video.
I’m sure I missed some. Which ones are on your list? Let me know in the comments below.
Charlie Moss writes about local history and popular culture, including music, movies and comics. You can contact him on Facebook, Twitter or by email. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.