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Back in the Spotlight – 90s collaborations!

September 22, 2023

We’re celebrating the 90s all month and what better way than by revisiting some classic collaborations. Whether you’re looking for inspiration for your next karaoke partner, or swapping hands with the hairbrush, these songs are as immortal as Sonic the Hedgehog. 

This month marks thirty years since Take That released ‘Relight My Fire’, their iconic collaboration with the absolutely fabulous Lulu. Taken from their second album Everything Changes, it was the group’s second UK number one and Lulu’s first! A volcanic 90s hit and a classic duet, the track was a cover of a 1979 disco song by American musician Dan Hartman. With an incendiary video to boot, even after three decades this song refuses to cool down.

 

Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey – When You Believe (1998)

A duet between two of the greatest singers of all time, this huge ballad is a moment in pop history. Written by composer Stephen Schwartz for the Dreamwork’s feature The Prince of Egypt, the track leans heavily into religious imagery, describing the miracles that can occur when one has faith. Coincidentally, Mariah described her opportunity to collaborate with Whitney as just that, miraculous. The track won an Oscar for Best Song in 1999 at the 71st Academy Awards and Whitney and Mariah both performed at the ceremony accompanied by a full gospel choir. 

George Michael and Elton John – Don’t Let The Sun Go Down (1991)

A massive hit in the 90s, the origins of this song date all the way back to 1974. Originally recorded by Elton for his eighth album Caribou, it found success in both the UK and US. Over a decade later, while performing at Wembley Stadium for charity concert Live Aid, Elton brought George out to duet with him on the song. At the time, WHAM! were at the height of their fame and Andrew Ridgeley joined the pair on stage to perform backing vocals alongside Kiki Dee. It took a further six years for George and Elton to record the track together, but once released it rocketed to number one spots around the world. Earlier this year, Elton performed the song during his farewell headline set at Glastonbury festival, dedicating it to George. 

Céline Dion and Barbra Streisand – Tell Him (1997)

In 1997, Celine Dion became the first ever artist to perform twice at the same Oscars ceremony, filling in at the last minute to sing Barbra Streisand’s I Finally Found Someone. After watching her performance, Barbra reached out and the pair struck up a dialogue. The result is this monster of a ballad. For Celine, she got to perform with one of her idols. For the rest of us, we have two of music’s most formidable voices on one song. Elegant, moving and impossible to master at karaoke (don’t even try it) there’s a reason this song features on every greatest hits release both artists have ever put out. 

Nas and Ms. Lauryn Hill – If I Ruled The World (Imagine That) (1996)

This collaboration between two of hip hop’s greats may have been the last track on Nas’ second album It Was Written, but it’s by no means the least. His biggest hit to date, certified platinum in the US, it also marked the first time Ms. Lauryn Hill had performed outside of Fugees. Two years later she released her seminal and sole solo record The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. A smooth and suggestive cut of RnB, the track brings together defining influences, sampling Friends by Whodini, interpolating Walk Right Up To The Sun by The Delfonics and referencing its namesake by Kurtis Blow. The single was accompanied by a warmly-graded and richly stylised video directed by Hype Williams drawing its narrative from the song’s social commentary. The pair performed the song together later that year at MTV’s VMAs in New York as part of a Fugees medley. 

Mariah Carey and Jay Z – Heartbreaker (1999)

Rounding off a decade of duets with the likes of Luther Vandross, Boyz II Men and of course, Whitney Houston, Mariah dropped this massive hit in the summer of 1999. Try this one at karaoke and we guarantee the room will join you for the rollercoaster “Oh Why” of the chorus. The video is a masterpiece too with an inspired action scene like none other! Taking cues from movies Grease and Enter The Dragon, its tongue in cheek story follows Mariah as she catches her boyfriend cheating on her at the movies. Directed by Brett Ratner and starring actor Jerry O’Connell, it’s also one of the most expensive music videos of all time, costing over $2.5 million. 

Santana and Rob Thomas – Smooth (1999)

Urban legend has it that Jamiroquai provided the original inspiration for this godzilla of a hit. The unlikely pairing of Carlos Santana and Matchbox Twenty’s Rob Thomas, Smooth became one of the biggest songs of the decade. Originally called Room 17, it was written by American composer Itaal Shur. Rob was brought in to rework the track and originally had George Michael in mind to sing his part, but after hearing the song, Santana wanted Rob to record it. The final masterpiece balances Rob’s charged vocals with Carlos’ streamy guitar solos, creating a fiery track hotter than a latin summer’s night. It was number one in the US for twelve consecutive weeks, and the last of the decade as well as the first of 2000s.

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