Both PJ Harvey and Björk have been in the news this week, but for very different reasons. Harvey’s been publicly recording her follow-up to ‘Let England Shake’ in her much-hyped pay-to-watch sessions at Somerset House, with fans able to observe her working on new music behind a glass booth; it’s a bold, strange experiment that opens up the normally cloak-and-dagger recording sessions to the masses. Björk, meanwhile, was forced into action by others: after her ‘Vulnicura’ LP leaked online, she rush-released it on iTunes.
But having them both in the headlines at the same time has reminded us at NME of something rather special – a time when two of music’s most talented, unique icons joined forces for just one night. At the 1994 Brit Awards, Harvey and Björk teamed up for a take on The Rolling Stones’ ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’). It’s still one of the best awards duets ever; a genuine ‘WOAH-WHAT-THE-FUCK?’ thrill.
And so while we’ve been watching their 20 year-old duet on repeat all over again, and getting giddily excited as if it only happened last night, we’ve been reminiscing about other staggering awards-shows collaborations, too. Here are seven of our favourites…
PJ Harvey and Björk – Brit Awards, 1994
It’s the devilish look on PJ Harvey’s face that really makes it: that evil, gleeful smile as she takes a hoary old rock classic and makes it more sinister, and more eerie, than it has any right to be. And then, after Polly makes the verse sound like a scary threat, Björk’s voice joins in on the chorus – all manic, blood-thumping energy compared to Harvey’s slower, grinding vocal. A magical moment, and a reminder of why this pair are two of rock’s most formidable, awe-inspiring forces.
Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, Steve Winwood, Steve Ferrone, Marc Mann, Dhani Harrison and Prince – Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, 2004
Even without the Purple One’s involvement, this would still have been a memorable collaboration: a congregation of some of the world’s most notable guitarist, spearheaded by Dhani Harrison as a tribute to his late father and Beatles legend George. But let’s be honest, Prince steals the show and upstages all of them with his amazing, and totally batshit, guitar solo at the end. Remarkably, he claimed he’d only heard the song for the first time earlier that morning.
Beyoncé and Prince – Grammy Awards, 2004
If there’s one lesson to be learned from this blog, it is thus: everything is better with Prince. Whatever you have planned, whatever you want to do, whatever daft scheme you’ve dreamt up to steal the show from your peers at a glitzy bash, it will be better with Prince involved. The same year he upstaged his collaborators at the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, he and the world’s best popstar, Beyoncé, were the triumph at the Grammy’s, too, racing through a his’n’hers medley culminating with ‘Crazy In Love’, for which he provided the guitar. “Don’t hate us cos we’re fabulous,” he yelled at the end. What an utter hero.
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Rihanna and Klaxons – Brit Awards, 2008
It’s hard to imagine the Brits giving the go-ahead for a collaboration like this nowadays. A strange coming-together of one of the world’s most famous popstars and a trio of Nu-Rave tykes from London? That’s too fraught with peril, too ripe for chaos, just too strange-a-mismatch, for Ant and Dec, isn’t it? But then, in 2015, it’s slightly bonkers to think this ever happened at all, when you consider how their respective stars have fared in the past seven years.
Jarvis Cocker and Beth Ditto – NME Awards, 2008
Two years before Dizzee Rascal and Florence Welch’s ‘You Got The Dirtee Love’ at the Brit Awards in 2010, Jarvis and Beth did it better. Way better. Here, two of indie’s wryest, wittiest heroes team up for their cover of Heaven 17’s ‘Temptation’. It’s still amazing.
Pet Shop Boys, Lady Gaga and Brandon Flowers – Brit Awards, 2009
An awards show menage-a-trois made in heaven? Pet Shop Boys are synth-pop legends, one of the smartest, subtlest and most underrated groups to ever hail from these isles. And their influence is all over disciples like Lady Gaga and Brandon Flowers, who returned the favour in 2009 for this 10-minute medley. Rejoice.
Metronomy and MKS – NME Awards, 2014
The great and the good of 21st century pop came together at last year’s NME Awards, as Joe Mount and co performed ‘Love Letters’ with Mutya, Keisha and Siobahn, aka the original Sugababes. A classic moment.