Like the outstretched digits of Adam and God in Michelangelo’s famous fresco, after reaching out to one another for so long the epic forces of Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber have finally, inevitably met on the duet I Don’t Care. In which our heroes sing about being at some stuffy buttoned-up party, feeling awkward, until a special lady takes them by the hand and makes everything OK. The true subtext of which is plain to read: say what you like about these two fun-lovin’ young bajillionaires teaming up to string together some throwaway summertime goofy tropical pop nonsense just for the laughs and the buck, they literally do not care. As the streaming counts smash records like plates at a Greek wedding, partners in bumfluff Ed’n’Biebz’ laissez-faire attitude to life and music is handsomely rewarded.
But look, kids – gather round and let your old dad teach you something: biblically large meetings of pairs of solo stars at the peak of their respective powers, let’s call them super-duos, are no new thing. Far from it in fact – be it Elvis singing with Sinatra or when Placido Domingo serenaded Miss Piggy, the super-duo is in fact an established trope of any bank balance-respecting hit musician’s rum years. The results can dazzle like fire meeting ice, like superheroes allied, like gourmet food paired with the finest of wines. Or they can just be really bad.
Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash – Girl from the North Country, 1969
The folk Judas and the Man in Black were good friends for 40 years, but only once ever appeared on record together (although they recorded 15 songs in two days, which are readily available on bootlegs) – on a reworking of Dylan’s tender country ode to an estranged lover, which opened his 1969 album Nashville Skyline. Loose and unrehearsed, the timing is off and their harmonies are ropey. And yet it feels just perfect, like lightning in a jar. They sang it live together in a cheesy ersatz living room on The Johnny Cash Show a few months later – Dylan looking plainly nervous in the presence of his idol.
Mick Jagger and David Bowie – Dancing in the Street, 1985
Doing nothing to dispel rumours that the pair of them had been closet lovers for years, rubber-legged Rolling Stone Mick and the Thin White Spider from Mars finally officially got it together (in song), with a happy-go-lucky cover of Martha and the Vandellas’ Motown ode to shaking the