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I Can’t Get Over How Unexpected These Music Collabs Were

Music has the ability to bring people together, both figuratively and physically. Music collaborations bring fanbases together and, more often than not, create history with their unlikely pairings. 

This phenomenon has been decades in the making, from iconic collabs with David Bowie and Bing Crosby to Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson. Seeing your favorite singers work together, especially if they are from two different genres, evokes a feeling that is unmatched. From rap with country to K-pop with R&B, there are no boundaries in music — here are 13 of the weirdest and most unexpected music collabs.

“Ghost in the Machine” by SZA featuring Phoebe Bridgers

Both SZA and Phoebe Bridgers get Gen Z through heartbreak with their music. Bridgers makes them cry and SZA makes them want to kill their ex and get revenge — both justifiable behaviors, IMO. So, when the two artists collabed in 2022 to bring their different musical styles together in “Ghost in the Machine,” fans were shocked yet completely ready to scream their hearts out. Their voices blended together effortlessly to create the sad girl single of 2022. 

“Churchill Downs” by Jack Harlow featuring Drake

Drake and Jack Harlow have one thing in common besides their taste in music: They were both named it-boy at one point by Gen Z. It was like two worlds colliding when the two collaborated on “Churchill Downs” in 2022. Drake raised us with party hits like “One Dance” and “Hotline Bling” (I can still smell the sweat and awkwardness of a school dance while these songs played). And, Jack Harlow is like the modern-day Drake, reminding us of our party roots with catchy songs like “First Class.”

“South of the Border” by Ed Sheeran featuring Camila Cabello and Cardi B

One is the king of slow-dance songs, one is known for upbeat pop songs, and the other dominates the female rap industry. Would you believe that somehow they all worked together to create a cohesive song? That’s right, Ed Sheeran, Camila Cabello, and Cardi B joined forces to create “South of the Border.” Each artist stuck with their roots with Sheeran boasting his angelic voice, Cabello blending both Spanish and English lyrics, and Cardi B giving what needed to be given with her catchy rap verses. Surprisingly enough, all blended well together, landing them on the Billboard Hot 100 list numerous times.

“Die for You (Remix)” by The Weeknd featuring Ariana Grande

Ariana Grande releasing music in 2023 was unexpected enough due to her hiatus to focus on her role in the Wicked film adaptation. But Grande pulled a fast one on us when she revealed a collab with The Weeknd on a remix of his song “Die for You.” The two worked together previously on a remix of his song “Save Your Tears” in 2021. However, fans weren’t expecting to be reunited with the singers so soon as they have both been laying low.

“FourFiveSeconds” by Rihanna, Kanye West, and Paul McCartney

Let’s be honest, anything Rihanna is featured on is going to be a hit. But when she collabed with Kanye West and Paul McCartney (so random!) on “FourFiveSeconds” in 2015, fans were not prepared for how seamlessly their styles would blend together to make a hit.  The names side-by-side on a tracklist alone are an odd sight to see, but surprisingly it makes sense. Eight years later, the song is still being listened to and some fans were even hoping Rihanna would perform it at her 2023 Superbowl performance.

“Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X featuring Billy Ray Cyrus

Something about country artists and rappers working together is extremely odd yet satisfying. When “Old Town Road” first dropped in 2019, Lil Nas X was scrutinized for the song not being “real country.” Insert: Billy Ray Cyrus. What was just meant to be a saving grace rerelease, turned into an unexpected hit song. The raspy voice of Cyrus matched with the upbeat tone of Lil Nas X made for an iconic and catchy single that is among the nostalgic hits from circa 2020, made even better — and more unexpected — by the “Seoul Town Road” remix featuring RM of BTS.

“Exile” by Taylor Swift featuring Bon Iver

Folklore was an unexpected album from Taylor Swift, as it was a shift from her usual pop style. The fans were introduced to the indie folk side of Swift, especially with her song “Exile” that featured a popular band in the genre, Bon Iver. The two artists might be a weird matchup, but Bon Iver’s deep tones mixed with Swift’s effortless melodic voice was *chef’s kiss*.

“Always Love You” by Elton John featuring Young Thug and Nicki Minaj

Elton John can really do it all. After 54 years in the industry, he never fails to do the unexpected. Let’s just say, you can find John wherever the weirdest collabs are from his work with Miley Cyrus to Dua Lipa. However, his collaboration with Young Thug and Nicki Minaj definitely takes the cake. 

“Always Love You” was a result of John’s random projects during the COVID-19 pandemic, which all came together in an album titled The Lockdown Sessions. I mean, it makes sense that one of the most iconic musicians spent his downtime working on innovative music. I am absolutely living for queen Minaj being in the same credits as John, something about it just makes sense. As for Thug and John, this isn’t their first collaboration: The two also collabed on the single “High” in 2018.

“On the street” by J-Hope featuring J. Cole

It’s true, apparently — rap fans can be K-pop stans, too. An unlikely pairing, BTS’s J-Hope and rapper J. Cole, worked together on J-Hope’s new solo single “On the street.” Though it might seem like the two artists come from different sectors of the industry, J-Hope attributes a lot of his artistry to J. Cole, whom he calls his muse. Songs are a chance to tell stories no matter the genre, and this single did just that. Together, the two made a song that told a deeper message of remembering your roots that blended both their musical niches seamlessly.

“Sweetest Pie” by Megan Thee Stallion featuring Dua Lipa

Ugh, I love it when two powerhouses in the industry band together. Dua Lipa and Megan Thee Stallion are both queens in their own right, so when they collabed on the single “Sweetest Pie,” it was the best surprise. As one is among the hottest in pop music and the other in rap, it seemed like the two don’t have much in common — think again! Both singers won the Best New Artist award at the Grammys after their breakout years, and both know how to create a hot girl anthem. Despite collaborating at first for merely music purposes, the two now share an “unspoken bond” and are the cutest of friends.

“Hold Me Closer” by Elton John and Britney Spears

I wouldn’t call this match unlikely, but it was a very pleasant surprise. Britney Spears released her first single in 2022 since the termination of her 13-year conservatorship, which ended in November 2021. The single was a collaboration with icon Elton John and a remix of his song “Tiny Dancer.” The song and duo were a breath of fresh air in music.

“Snow on the Beach” by Taylor Swift featuring Lana Del Rey

And we all screamed: Mother! If Midnights, Taylor Swift’s most recent album, wasn’t hyped up enough, then let the highly-anticipated feature from Lana Del Rey be the cherry on top. Both Swift and Rey are beloved musicians of their genre with die-hard fans, so when the collab was revealed the internet nearly broke. “Snow on the Beach” might be unexpected teamwork, but some would say it’s a “cultural reset.”

“Naughty List” by Liam Payne and Dixie D’Amelio

Christmas music, former One Direction star, and a TikToker — no, this isn’t the leadup for a “walked into a bar” joke. When Liam Payne revealed his 2020 Christmas song, “Naughty List,” would be featuring Dixie D’Amelio, fans were… confused, to say the least. How the TikToker landed her second single with a former One Direction star? The world may never know. I will say, though, it sleighs.

“I Don’t Wanna Live Forever” by Taylor Swift and Zayn Malik

When mom and dad of the pop industry, aka Harry Styles and Taylor Swift, broke up in 2013, fans of the two were now children of divorce. As if the breakup wasn’t enough, One Direction started falling apart in 2015 when Zayn Malik was the first of the members to leave. It was one heartbreak after another for Directioners and Swifties, but then came the biggest plot twist of them all when Malik and Swift teamed up to release the single “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever” in 2017, not too long after One Direction’s final split. The children of divorce were really forced to choose a side. Who is it going to be? Mom or dad?

“On” by BTS featuring Sia

K-pop knows no bounds when it comes to unlikely collabs. In 2020, K-pop group BTS teased that two versions of their song “On” will be coming out on their album Map of the Soul: 7, one version being their voices alone and the other featuring Sia. Fans were excited to hear this much-anticipated single, but throwing Sia in the mix was an unexpected curveball. Sia has hit songs of her own, such as “Chandelier” and “Elastic Hearts,” but is more renowned for her songwriting skills behind iconic songs like Rihanna’s “Diamonds.”

“Daddy Lessons” by Beyoncé featuring The Chicks

Though Queen B is known for her R&B melodies, she occasionally pays homage to her roots in Houston, Texas. In 2016, she released the song “Daddy Lessons,” which showcased her country twang, and once again proved she can really do it all. This country song was unexpected enough, but then she upped it a notch when she performed the song live at the 2016 CMAs with the Chicks, a country band also from Texas. They might be a surprising pairing, but one thing for certain is that they did Texas proud with their killer performance.

“Don’t Call Me Angel” by Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus, and Lana Del Rey

If I had to pick a holy trinity of pop singers, it would be this trio right here. When Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus, and Lana Del Rey collabed on “Don’t Call Me Angel” in 2019, a singing group was formed that no one knew we needed until then. The collab was for Charlie’s Angels remake, so it made sense to bring the queens of women empowerment songs together for the occasion. Though all have very different voices and fanbases, the three together create a badass group. 

Hannah Tolley is a contributing writer under the Entertainment and Culture vertical. She covers entertainment releases, fan theories, pop culture news, and more. Aside from Her Campus, Hannah was also a member of the Florida State University (FSU) Her Campus team. During her time with the chapter, she served as a staff writer for three semesters, where she wrote biweekly pieces across campus, culture, and personal verticals. She also was a content editor for two semesters, where she led a team of 6+ writers and oversaw and edited their articles. Hannah was also an editorial intern for Her Campus during her spring and summer term of her second year in college. As an intern, she worked alongside the full-time edit team to curate timely and evergreen pieces across life, culture, career, and style verticals. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from FSU in May 2023, with a Bachelor of Science in Media/Communication Studies with a minor in English. When she's not dissecting the latest pop culture events, you can find her reading a cheesy romance novel or establishing parasocial relationships with fictional TV characters. She loves to rewatch her favorite shows (Gilmore Girls, One Tree Hill, and Friends) or spend the day going down a rabbit hole of reality dating shows.