Over the past month, two less typical collaborations surfaced on iTunes and Beatport: “Out of Sight,” between the Bloody Beetroots and Paul McCartney, and “Wake Me Up,” an effort with Avicii and singer Aloe Blacc. While the former has received generally positive reviews and saw its video come out this past week, “Wake Me Up” incited controversy as far back as March, when Avicii debuted it during his second set at Ultra 2013.
Of course, with the for-better-or-for-worse growing popularity of electronic music, similar collaborations have popped up over the past three years – some memorable efforts and others that best be forgotten.
Bloody Beetroots vs. Paul McCartney – “Out of Sight”
Announced in mid-June, the Bloody Beetroots’ collaboration with Paul McCartney turned out to be an excellent surprise. What would seem to be an awkward melding of two distinct genres turns into a seamless blend: stadium rock meets big-room electronic music, retaining classic elements of both without siding entirely with one genre or the other.
“Out of Sight” opens with guitar strains soon leading into a drop, with a handful of dubstep elements thrown in. Rather than go in and out, the guitar tones pervade, while the former Beatle’s voice, strained and harsh at times, veers close to unrecognizable.
McCartney long departed from his Fab Four heyday, with latest release Kisses on the Bottom an album of romantic ballads, but through McCartney II, his solo career briefly dabbled with some synths in the early ‘80s. That appreciation is felt on “Out of Sight” and is perhaps one of the reasons this seemingly-odd combination actually works.
Skrillex vs. The Doors – “Breakin’ a Sweat”
What works with “Out of Sight” fails miserably with Skrillex’s collaboration with The Doors. The entire track – from the Tangerine Dream-esque opening keyboards to Skrillex’s brand of brostep spaced throughout to an uncomfortable sample from the late Jim Morrison to rap-like chanting – feels disjointed from start to end. As much as producer Sonny Moore’s been heralded as a sort-of rock savior for his work with Korn, “Breakin’ a Sweat” barrels through the notion that all dubstep production blends well with guitars and drums.
What’s even more confusing about this pair is, the track was apparently based on Miles Davis’ “Milestones.” If there’s some semblance, it’s highly obscured.
Borgore vs. Miley Cyrus – “Decisions”
When Miley Cyrus is helping your career, you know you don’t have much going for you. Yet, in spite of producing Skrillex-like dubstep (dubbed Gorestep) since 2009, Borgore really didn’t experience a breakthrough until this clunker surfaced last year.
Thankfully, Cyrus herself is reduced to nothing more than wispy backing vocals and a music video spot. Beyond the amateurish production that’s just a couple of steps above Al Walser-level badness, the recurring metaphor of cake – as in, having your cake and eating it, too, but said more crudely – has to be the worst EDM lyric in recent memory.
Avicii vs. Aloe Blacc – “Wake Me Up”
Released at the same time as “Out of Sight,” “Wake Me Up” is far more divisive – and perhaps one of the more confusing electronic tracks short of New Order attempting rap in the early 1990s. Debuting at Ultra 2013 to nearly negative reviews and reactions, “Wake Me Up” starts off as a run-of-the-mill folk-country track – albeit with a bit more soul and less cheese than what passes as country music these days.
But even if Blacc’s warm vocals make you keep the radio on a few seconds more than Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble” (a sort-of dubstep-meets-country hybrid itself), “Wake Me Up” never gels fully. Avicii’s melodic instinct takes hold at the 1:13 mark, sounding like a synthesized Irish fiddle. It’s as if two tracks are going on – a jangly ballad and a knee-slapping synthesizer hoedown – and never entirely mesh together.
Fortunately, in spite of derisive comparisons, “Wake Me Up” is far more palatable than Rednex’s “Cotton Eye Joe,” even if its Billboard chart performance isn’t as strong, and hasn’t yet appeared to destroy Avicii’s career.
Major Lazer vs. La Roux – Lazerproof
Rather than a single song, an entire collaborative mixtape created while Diplo and Switch recorded in Jamaica in 2010 patches together elements of synthpop, dancehall, reggae, and hip-hop. On paper, the blend has too many elements to work coherently, but with sounds transitioning from one to another, all of it surprisingly does. If you think Major Lazer’s own releases or La Roux’s one album are one-note efforts, Lazerproof possesses more depth, cohesion, and variety while simultaneously being all over the place.
Major Lazer vs. Ezra Koenig – “Jessica”
If there’s a such thing as a soporific dancehall song, “Jessica” manages to be this and a testament to Diplo’s habit of Jamaican cultural appropriation. Not only is the production, which includes distorted vocals from Vampire Weekend’s Koenig, dull, this Free the Universe filler track meanders on far too long, not fast enough for the EDM crowd and too mainstream for Koenig’s subservient hipster following.
Avicii vs. ABBA – “We Write the Story”
A track submitted for the Eurovision Song Contest this year, “We Write This Story” had potential to be great: Avicii’s present-day popularity and ability to craft a memorable melody coupled with ABBA’s string of 1970s disco hits could’ve been the new-disco track to rival Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.”
Instead, listeners were treated (or, more like forced to sit through) something more appropriate for an ‘80s Christmas music special or a Polyphonic Spree album. From the cornball synths to the children’s choir, it’s all very cringe worthy.