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The World's 10 Finest Superstar Musical Collaborations

Don't F this up, Snyder.
Don't F this up, Snyder.

Well, folks, it appears we're getting a Superman/Batman movie whether we like it or not. Comics fanboy and Frank Miller obsessive Zack Snyder broke the news a couple weeks back at San Diego Comic-Con that his big-budget sequel to Man of Steel will find a way to shoehorn in the Dark Knight. A much more natural fit for the director's grim 'n gritty sensibilities, perhaps, but given Snyder's middling track record, you'll understand our ambivalence toward this grand plan to make all of the world's money.

Still, the idea's got potential. DC Comics has published more than a few intriguing tales pairing its two biggest icons up over the last 80 years or so, and if nothing else, Snyder has proven that he doesn't mind hewing close to comics canon - provided the tales are violent enough, of course. But even if the forthcoming film gets everything wrong, we'll still probably be checking it out. There's just something irresistible about watching the best of the best team up.

That's as true in the music world as it is in the DC Universe. For every Metallica/Lou Reed clusterfuck, there's a shining example of what the industry's top stars can create when they're able to feed off one another's creativity. To remind ourselves just how good a super-powered team-up can be, what do you say we revisit 10 of the world's finest superstar musical collaborations?

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10. Run-DMC and Aerosmith In 1986, rap stars Run DMC were ready to cross over into the mainstream, and producer Rick Rubin had an idea on how white fans might be convinced that this "rap" stuff wasn't so different from rock. After hearing the duo rap over the drum break at the beginning of Aerosmith's moldy hit "Walk This Way," Rubin asked the group to cover the song, rapping the original lyrics.

Despite their reservations regarding the idea's inherent wackness, Run and DMC were finally convinced by Russell Simmons, and Rubin brought in Steven Tyler and Joe Perry to recreate the song's chorus. The result was a supersonic megahit, blasting Run DMC (and rap) into the pop stratosphere and resurrecting Aerosmith from the hard-rock trash heap.

The World's 10 Finest Superstar Musical Collaborations

9. Temple of the Dog Temple of the Dog was intended as a musical tribute from Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell to his friend Andrew Wood, the Mother Love Bone front man who died of a heroin overdose in 1990. After writing a few songs, Cornell tabbed Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron and Wood's ex-bandmates, Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament, to bring the tunes to life. At the time, Gossard and Ament were working on new music with newcomers Mike McCready and Eddie Vedder, who were invited along to the studio.

The makeshift group recorded enough songs for an album -- which, despite being awesome, was released and forgotten in 1991. It wasn't until a year later, when Soundgarden and a new band called Pearl Jam blew up on MTV, that A&M Records realized what they had: a collaboration between two of the hottest bands in the world. The record was reissued and "Hunger Strike" was released as a single with a music video. The album's all-around excellence was noticed at last, and Temple of the Dog went platinum.

8. Gorillaz Conceived in MTV's dying days as a music-video channel, Gorillaz was born as a commentary by Blur's Damon Albarn and comic creator Jamie Hewlett on the artificial, cartoonish nature of pop music in the late '90s. The fictional, animated band became stars thanks to Hewlett's striking character designs and the superheroic teaming of Albarn with underground hip-hop barnstormer Del The Funky Homosapien and producer Dan the Automator. Together, the trio came up with a hit in "Clint Eastwood," the group's first single, which made them international superstars.

More musical mashups of rock, hip-hop and electronic pop were to come, featuring a rotating cast of musicians swirling around Albarn. Today, the toon celebrities are on indefinite hiatus while Hewlett and Albarn work on separate projects.

 

7. Black Sabbath and Dio In 1979, Black Sabbath was a drugged-out mess that had just delivered its worst album ever in Never Say Die! and been blown off stage every night of its own world tour by openers Van Halen. It was not a happy situation for anyone in the group. Much of the blame was shifted on to singer Ozzy Osbourne, who was summarily axed.

Sharon Arden, the daughter of Sabbath manager Don Arden (and Ozzy's future wife), suggested ex-Rainbow singer Ronnie James Dio to replace Osbourne. The result was a band reborn, with Dio wailing effortlessly over Sabbath's more uptempo rock in the early '80s. The group delivered two stellar albums in Heaven and Hell and The Mob Rules before interpersonal paranoia ended their run. Sabbath would reunite with Dio twice more in the studio, however, before the singer died in 2010.

The World's 10 Finest Superstar Musical Collaborations

6. Snoop Doggy Dogg and Dr. Dre When the hard-hitting theme song to film Deep Cover was released in 1992, no one had any idea that the pairing of former N.W.A. member Dr. Dre and newcomer Snoop Doggy Dogg would be the first salvo in a G-Funk explosion that would soon launch both men to solo superstardom. Dre's classic solo debut, The Chronic, featured a number of high-profile appearances from Snoop, who helped the album become a gangsta-rap touchstone that dominated the charts.

Though both rappers have more or less left gangsta rap in the rearview in 2013, their music careers remain inextricably linked. They've reunited several times to tour and record in the years since The Chronic, and it seems only a matter of time before they pop up together again.

5. Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong While the idea of pairing two jazz icons on the same record probably set off an entire factory's worth of cash registers in label executives' heads, nobody had any idea that the pairing of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong would be anywhere near as great as it turned out. Ella's super-sweet singing and Armstrong's charming rasp couldn't have been more different from one another, but they came together beautifully on the pair's first album of duets in 1956.

It was such a hit that they collaborated on two more full-lengths, including an album of tunes from Gershwin's Porgy & Bess that became, somewhat incredibly, the most popular of the three by far.

 

4. Crosby, Stills, and Nash... and Young When Crosby, Stills & Nash was released in 1969, it was a much bigger hit than anticipated, spawning two Top 40 singles. Suddenly, it was clear that the group would have to tour - a fact made problematic by the fact that Stephen Stills had played most of the instruments himself on the album.

To help fill out their live sound, Atlantic Records' legendary label head Ahmet Ertegun suggested Stills' former Buffalo Springfield bandmate Neil Young. Though initially reluctant to have TWO guys from Buffalo Springfield onstage together, the group quickly discovered that Young complemented their sound perfectly and added his name to the their own. Young would go on to write a great deal of the group's material, including the Top 20 hit "Ohio."

3. The Beatles and Eric Clapton For a long time, there were no guest musicians invited to record with the Beatles. After all, who could hang with the biggest stars in the world? One guy with both the musical chops and star power to give it a shot was Eric Clapton, England's Greatest Guitarist and a close friend of George Harrison.

Slowhand was apparently reluctant at first, but Harrison insisted that his new song "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" needed the kind of solo that only Clapton could provide. The result was one of the most affecting and incendiary cuts of the Beatles' career.

The World's 10 Finest Superstar Musical Collaborations

2. Queen and David Bowie David Bowie has always displayed a particular predilection for superstar collaborations, dueting memorably over the decades with everyone from Trent Reznor to Bing fucking Crosby. Perhaps his best-loved team-up, though, was with with the similarly eclectic British icons Queen.

Together, they created "Under Pressure," the massive hit that marked the high point of both camps' early '80s output. Though the classic single's popularity has never faded much, it was given a rather bizarre and mega-successful second life when its unforgettable bass line was sampled for the chorus of Vanilla Ice's breakthrough signature track, "Ice Ice Baby" in 1990. After a high-profile lawsuit over the song, Ice eventually purchased the rights to "Under Pressure" rather than continue paying royalties on his hit.

 

1. Kanye West and Jay-Z The fruitful partnership of Jay-Z and Kanye West dates back to the former's production work on the latter's 2000 album The Dynasty: Roc la Familia. In the years since, the pair have collaborated on more than 20 musical projects -- most notably 2011's monster duet album, Watch the Throne.

Though both artists are busy currently with their respective solo empires, it's a good bet that they'll continue to reunite periodically as long as the musical ideas remain interesting.

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