While 2012 may not have ensued in an earth-shattering zombie apocalypse, it sure proved to be a year ripe with radicalism, boundary-breaking creativity, and in this MIT-er’s eyes, a new type of collaboration. Going beyond the realm of popular music and David Guetta feat. everyone-ever-on-Top-40-radio, here is a comprised Top Ten list of duos, trios, and creative projects I’ve found myself grappling with, shocked, intrigued, or inspired by.
Feel free to write in the comments below about collaborations that did the same for you!
10. Breezy and RiRi on ‘Birthday Cake’ and ‘Nobody’s Business’
Okay, so everyone is more or less familiar with the long winded romantic (or not) history between Breezy and RiRi, and whatever your stance on media-hyped celebrity relations, you have to admit that news about the two forbidden lovers collaborating musically again was a little bit shocking. The Spring releases of both Rihanna’s ‘Cake’ and Chris Brown’s ‘Turn Up The Music’ within a few weeks of one another stole radio real estate and filled the Twitterverse with all sorts of speculation. While the two hits don’t exactly amount to lyrical genius, they deserve an honourable mention for a shocking pop duet. Rihanna’s recently released song ‘Nobody’s Business’ off her latest record Unapologetic, however, fits the contemporary post-mod pop bill to a T and while also strikes a few personal chords. Akin to the track’s title, this one serves up a nice big “F You” to the media’s unresting judgement. And for that – not so much musically as conceptually – this bold collaboration deserves a top ten mention.
9. G.O.O.D. Music Cruel Summer
Summer 2012 finally saw the release of the anticipated collaboration album Kanye’s label had promised for so long. After being in the spotlight with Jay-Z for Watch the Throne, Cruel Summer flaunts Ye’s producing and recruiting chops, featuring label artists such as R. Kelly, Pusha T, 2 Chainz, DJ Khaled, John Legend, The-Dream, Teyana Taylor, Kid Cudi, among others. While not quite as possessive of that nameless magical ingredient (perhaps self-proclaimed royalty) present in the Throne, Cruel Summer gives us this us-against-the-world ethos sprinkled with poetic narcissism and an atmosphere akin to friends cracking jokes while shooting some hoops and sipping on import brews. Wherever your sentiments about G.O.O.D. Music Cruel Summer lay, at least the album can be credited with R. Kelly’s revival.
8. Justin Timberlake x Chris Vanderhook x Tim Vanderhook on MySpace
MySpace, the essential pioneer website in music production and consumption in the age of the internet, was revealed in mid November of 2012 to have undergone a complete reinvention and feng shui-ing by JT and his co-owners, Chris and Tim Vanderhook. Working within the same artist-centric vein that founded the site before its infamous fall to Facebook, the new MySpace seems to have enforced its belief in these ideals and accompanied it with a sleek, streamlined design. The smart type search tool and horizontal flip book-like navigation is progressive yet welcoming. If we’re being honest here, streaming Justin’s ‘Some Vintage Soul’ Mix has already got this music-lover on the bandwagon. Justin’s sacred breath of revival into this has-been brand may just be what MySpace needs for its grandiose return to the social networking scene.
7. Gabrielle Aplin x BASTILLE on ‘Dreams’
This is what happens in ‘Dreams’: Two of the most hauntingly beautiful voices work together like the highest quality grade peanut butter and jam spread across freshly baked artisan bread to bring your ears an ethereal version of the classic Fleetwood Mac’s aforementioned song, ‘Dreams’. The song appears in BASTILLE’s Other People’s Heartache Pt. 2, and features the English singer-songwriter Gabrielle Aplin. The original 1977 soft, bluesy rock texture – which is not to be undervalued here – is traded for a slow but steady driving beat accompanied by alternating vocals, harmony, and climactic percussion that produce what can only be described as a tingly eargasm. With golden age rock lyrics like thunder only happens when it’s raining / players only love you when they’re playing / women, they will come and they will go / when the rain washes you clean you’ll know, transplanted into an indie remix genre, hopefully you’ll fall in love too.
6. JR x <many artists> on ‘Turning the World Inside Out’
For all you artists, revolutionaries, or appreciates of both, France-born artist JR is someone you definitely need to check out. Winning the TED Prize in 2011 inspired him to launch the decentralized global art project, ‘Turning the World Inside Out’ in 2012. He’s collaborated with countless unique artists including Chinese ‘disappearing artist’ Liu Bolin in NYC, and other French artist Andre in Miami’s Design District. Also worth mentioning is his ‘Wrinkles of the City’ project, which involved one collaboration with fellow muralist Jose Parla in Havana, Cuba. JR began his career as a graffiti artist, iterating his love for the city as “the largest art gallery in the world”, and eventually made his way into photography, public pastings, and street art. As far as copyright and mainstream media go, his provocative and fearless attitude is conducive to producing pieces that radically challenge the status quo. Not a hindrance to my burning crush on this dreamy Frenchman is the fact that JR wants you to get involved in ‘Turning the World Inside Out’. Visit jr-art.net to get your hands dirty with artistic revolt.
5. Snoop Dogg (Lion?) x Tupac at Coachella
A Top Ten list of collaborations in 2012 cannot go without mentioning the infamous resurrection of Tupac at Coachella – via hologram. We never thought this day would come. Or did we? Although rumours about Makaveli’s performance had leaked a few days before the concert, witnessing his ‘presence’ and hearing him yell out “What the f**k is up Coachellaaa!” was still equal parts awe-striking, shocking, and macabre. His long time pal Snoop Dogg (sorry, Snoop Lion*) joined Pac on stage following his lifelike performance of “Hail Mary”, and the rappers exchanged a few verses on behalf of the West side. While Snoop – by the looks of the Coachella video – probably believed Pac could actually hear him, thousands of fans also seemed to accept the deceased’s return to the musical stage. Logically and ethically, the tall order of resurrecting a famous corpse undoubtedly raises major concerns regarding ethics, ownership, and capital (images of the moonwalking Michael Jackson and the soulful Whitney Houston on world tour suddenly come to mind). With the more-or-less widespread acceptance of this hologram performance, it looks like we’re one step closer to fulfilling Kurzweil’s dream of the Singularity. Still, despite obvious controversy, Snoop and 2Pac definitely deserve a mention for one of the most provocative collaborations of the year.
4. Disney x Lucasfilm Merge (Iger x Lucas)
Perhaps this pick isn’t a collaboration per se, but it is definitely among the top partnerships/agreements/fraternizations that caught many an eye this past year. This is it. The mega-super-corporation is here. Disney acquired Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion in October, and as if that wasn’t a big enough deal, they immediately announced that Star Wars: Episode 5 will be produced by Disney and released in 2015, followed by Episodes 8 and 9. Evidently, this deal also ties up the loose ends in an historical loop between the two corporations: Disney bought Pixar from Steve Jobs in 2006 for a grand total of 7.4 B’s, after Jobs had bought the the company from its original creator, George Lucas, in 1986 for a mere 5 billion. Now that Lucas and Pixar are together again, let’s see what kind of magic they can make. Also, good luck to anyone who tries to remix any source material Iger and Lucas put out – my guess is it won’t be Creative-Commons-approved for a while.
3. Gareth Evans x Iko Uwais on The Raid: Redemption
Sort of a fringe Indonesian film, The Raid didn’t gain nearly as much international attention as it deserved. The cinematic offspring of Welsh-born director Gareth Evans and top-billed Indonesian martial artist Iko Uwais was created in 2011 but released in North America in 2012, and features good party mix of drug lords, an elite vigilante SWAT team, and pure manichaeism. This is the duo’s second collaboration since Merantu, released in 2009. Evan’s film takes the contemporary conception of a good action film and turns it on its head by producing an entire 101 minutes of white knuckles and heart palpitations with a mere handful of firearms. The best of the action is all fought in hand-to-hand combat and choreographed by Iko Uwais; from the tender age of ten he was was trained in the art of Pencak Silat, which should really translate to ‘Bad Ass’. Word on the street is Evans is hoping to make this a trilogy series, with the sequel Berandal already in the works. If you’ve got the stomach for it, any film that can get rid of that many bad guys from a refrigerator explosion is certainly worth a watch.
2. Macklemore x Ryan Lewis on The Heist
By now you’ve probably heard the sweet sounds of ‘Thrift Shop’ bumping at The Spoke or Ceeps, which I for one fully condone. Because the thing about The Heist is that, simply, there are just no bad tracks. From beginning to end, Seattle-ite Macklemore and his hip-hop counterpart Ryan Lewis have infused this record with inventive, addictive, and inspiring melodies. Haggerty’s lyrics could most likely elicit an entire novel from me, but I’ll refrain. A provocateur in social commentary and spitting mad rhymes (yes, they truly are mad), Macklemore has come up with a recipe for a flawless soulful-yet-progressive progressive hip-hop album. The team’s incredible drive for raw honesty and originality in both their final work and production process (they refuse to outsource tasks such as music video production to large agencies) speaks numbers about their integrity and shines through their music. Among many musical collaborations this year, The Heist deserves undivided attention for both artists’ incredible talent and dedication to the art of creating quality music.
1. Tom Tykwer x Andy Wachowski x Lana Wachowski on Cloud Atlas
A German sci-fi drama adapted to the screen by directors Tim Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, and Lana Wachowski from the original 2004 novel by David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas literally left me speechless. With flavourful hints of Inception and Looper, the film tides in and out of six different time periods and character journeys to show how one act of kindness or malice can reverberate throughout generations. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a dangnab workout. But the casting is spot-on: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Sturgess, and Hugh Grant masquerade through time and space like cinematic chameleons in ways not many others could. Despite the film’s polarized reception (Roger Ebert virtually worshiped it while TIME called it the Worst Movie of the Year), hopefully many can agree perhaps not on its greatness, but on its cultural importance. Films like these are fleeting and rare, but certainly worth a watch. Or five. And if you end up hating it, at least you’ll never again have to wonder what an Asian Jim Sturgess looks like.
–Ainsleigh Burelle becomes an official OPENWIDE Staff Writer with this post!