7 forgotten Grammy collaborations

Posted at 9:14 PM, Feb 06, 2015
and last updated 2015-02-06 21:14:59-05

This year’s Grammy Awards will feature a long list of A-list musical acts taking the stage during what promises to be a lengthy telecast. As usual, listed among the ranks of solo performers is a lineup of intriguing collaborative performances, bringing together artists who may never otherwise share a stage.

Among the collaborations scheduled for Sunday night are Annie Lennox and Hozier, Mary J. Blige and Sam Smith, Chris Martin and Beck, as well as Herbie Hancock and Ed Sheeran. Only time will tell if those collaborations will make for a magic musical moment or just leave the audience feeling awkward.

Here are seven collaborations from past Grammy Award shows that have largely been forgotten:

Jay Z, Linkin Park and Paul McCartney (2006)
“Numb / Encore / Yesterday”

At Sunday’s Grammy Awards, Paul McCartney is expected to share the stage with Kanye West for a performance. Less than ten years ago, he stepped onto the Grammy stage with West’s mentor Jay Z and rap-rock band Linkin Park for a strange collaboration. Mercifully, Sir Paul didn’t rap.

Elton John and Backstreet Boys (2000)
“Philadelphia Freedom”

In the history of the Grammy Awards, Elton John may go down as the all-time king of interesting collaborations. His performances with Eminem and Lady Gaga at the awards show are classics, but the same cannot be said for this 2000 rendition of his hit “Philadelphia Freedom” with Backstreet Boys.

Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus (2009)

The 2009 Grammy Awards could have easily been confused for the Teen Choice Awards. In addition to an awkward performance from Stevie Wonder featuring the Jonas Brothers, the audience was treated to an acoustic duet from this young pair. Taylor Swift was 19 years old and Miley Cyrus just 16 when they sang Swift’s song “Fifteen” together at the Grammys. A year later, Swift would become the youngest artist to ever win album of the year honors, while Cyrus was about three years away from a drastic change to her public image.

Usher and James Brown (2005)
“Caught Up / Sex Machine”

This was one of those rare Grammy collaborations that worked on every level. The 2005 audience witnessed a torch being passed from one electric performer to another. Usher’s dance break toward the end of “Caught Up” is worth a watch alone but when a septuagenarian James Brown shows up in a sparkly red suit, it gets real. A year later, Brown would be dead.

Metallica and Lang Lang (2014)

It only happened last year but you probably already forgot about it. Hard rock icons Metallica took to the Grammy stage to play a 26-year-old song with a Chinese concert pianist that almost nobody in the audience had heard of. The performance itself was theatrical but in a year where Kendrick Lamar and Imagine Dragons tore up the stage together, this one was pretty forgettable.

Mumford and Sons, The Avett Brothers and Bob Dylan (2011)
“The Cave / Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise / Maggie’s Farm”

In 2011, Mumford and Sons led a resurgence of the folk sound on mainstream American radio. Nearing the height of its power, the band united onstage with Bob Dylan and The Avett Brothers for this collaboration on the Grammy stage. The whole arena got into it when the large ensemble of players broke into Dylan’s classic “Maggie’s Farm” to close the medley.

Dave Matthews, Sting, Vince Gill and Pharrell Williams (2004)
“I Saw Her Standing There”

Quite possibly the strangest all-star band ever put together. When these four performed the classic Beatles tune in tribute of the legendary group, Pharrell Williams was by far the least-known person onstage (he’s playing drums but the cameras hardly show him). Dave Matthews got the performance off to a rough start by flubbing the title line, instead singing, “I saw her dancing there.”

Clint Davis is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @MrClintDavis.