The idea of mashing genres together in the music world is nothing new. For some, it’s an easy foray into another audience that they may not usually be so welcomed in and for others, it’s simply just a way to continue to experiment with their sound. Artists take inspiration from other artists; artists befriend other artists and the umbrella of it all: artists don’t actually like to be confined to just one box.
From pop and R&B to Reggaeton and hip hop, there have been many genre-defying collabs over the years. Whether it’s two of the biggest stars in the world teaming up or artists we never thought even knew other, they’ve all made a pretty good impression and become some of the biggest hits of the last decade. Here are our 10 favourites.
Taylor Swift and Kendrick Lamar – ‘Bad Blood’ (Pop and Hip Hop/Rap)
The collab between pop and hip hop is page one out of the genre-defying book. To jazz up a pop star’s sound, they’ll often look to hip hop artists to lend a verse and make them accessible to a whole new audience. And while there are many examples to choose from, Taylor Swift enlisting Kendrick Lamar for the reworked version of ‘Bad Blood’ has to be one of our favourites. Not only because the song is absolutely fantastic, but because it paired two complete parallels and actually worked. At the time, Swift was as far as one could be from the hip hop world, but this track simply changed the game. Not only did she become more accessible, but her entire sound and look changed. We can pinpoint ‘Bad Blood’ as essentially being the beginning of Reputation.
Justin Bieber, Daddy Yankee and Luis Fonsi – ‘Despacito’ (Pop, Latin pop and Reggaeton)
Remember when this song quite literally ruled the world in 2017? There was a reason. By popping Justin Bieber on the reworked version, the track smashed an unbelievable amount of records and has been credited by music critics and journalists alike as being the catalyst of popularising Latin music in the West again. Featuring Bieber singing Spanish, the crossover was just too much to handle. This track is absolutely iconic and will probably forever remain one of the best examples of mixing Latin and Western pop together, let alone an incredible genre-defying collab.
Post Malone, Ozzy Osbourne and Travis Scott – ‘Take What You Want’ (Hip Hop, Trap and Rock)
It’s hard to pin Post Malone down to just one genre. The artist is constantly breaking boundaries in whatever he does, but this track was something we’d never seen from him before. With the help of Travis Scott and amazingly, Ozzy Osbourne, Malone creates one hell of a trap-rock tune. With his gravelly register that seems fit for a rock band, Malone blends with Osbourne perfectly and Scott comes in to add his trademark trap verse. The song sounds so natural that it’s difficult to even pick out the different genres. Malone is an artist precisely for the new generation; and we’re taking notes of every musical decision he decides to make.
Lana Del Rey, A$AP Rocky and Playboi Carti – ‘Summer Bummer’ (Indie pop, Trap and Hip Hop/Rap)
The sound of Lana Del Rey is pretty recognisable; which is why when she creates something like this, heads turn. A trap Lana Del Rey song sounds wrong in theory, but this tune surprisingly works. With A$AP Rocky’s smooth rapping and Playboi Carti’s intermittent adlibs, Del Rey floats through the trap and hip hop influenced beat with ease. Combining not only genres but entire aesthetics, this one is definitely a favourite. It held a huge risk, but it definitely paid off. Turns out Del Rey’s voice just suits anything.
Rihanna, Kanye West and Paul McCartney – ‘FourFiveSeconds’ (R&B, Folk and Pop rock)
A collab that probably nobody saw coming, this one is truly unmatched. The 2015 hit features both Rihanna and Kanye West singing over a simple acoustic guitar melody played by none other than Paul McCartney. Not only does the track defy genres, it’s quite literally completed the cycle of old and current music. Nobody would’ve ever thought to pair two of hip hop’s finest (from the last decade) with a member of The Beatles, but it works so well you’d think they’d been making music together all along. A great example of how hip hop plays so well with any genre, and an even better example to show your dad who keeps ranting on about how “old music was so much better.”
Selena Gomez and BLACKPINK – ‘Ice Cream’ (Electropop and K-pop)
The recent collab from K-pop girl group BLACKPINK and pop princess Selena Gomez has already taken the world by storm. Probably in part because it sees two of the biggest female artists in the world right now teaming up, but also because it’s just a really good tune. Combing both Gomez’ knack for catchy pop and the already genre-defying talents of BLACKPINK, the track helps K-pop move more into the mainstream. And with the added elements of trap and Lisa’s rap that dips in and out of both English and Korean, the layers of the song just keep unfolding the deeper you go.
Machine Gun Kelly, YUNGBLUD and Travis Barker – ‘I Think I’m OKAY’ (Hip Hop/Rap and Pop Punk)
Machine Gun Kelly is becoming one of the most versatile artists today. Starting out as purely a rapper, the star has slowly moved into elements of pop punk and rock and started singing more than actually rapping. Helping him break through those boundaries are Blink 182’s Travis Barker (who has helped produce MGK’s upcoming pop punk album) and modern-day-punk YUNGBLUD. Teaming up, all three help to deliver both a nostalgic yet modernised pop punk record. It’s a unique genre to suddenly step into, but MGK has quickly become today’s pop punk poster child. And as a new wave of the 2000s genre emerges, we have him to thank.
J Balvin, Bad Bunny and Cardi B – ‘I Like It’ (Latin, Trap and Hip Hop/Rap)
Hailed by Rolling Stone as “the best summer song of all time,” this track is beloved for many reasons. Not only is it unbelievably catchy (to the point where you literally can’t ever forget it), it’s a wonderful mix of genres. Blending both Western hip hop and trap with Latin hip hop and trap; as well as Reggaeton dance and salsa, there’s a lot going on. It’s a great representation of Latin culture, with all three collaborators celebrating their roots and heritage. Combining two of the biggest musical genres in the world right now, everything about this song is just smart. And it’s clearly paid off pretty well.
Nicki Minaj and BTS – ‘IDOL’ (K-Pop and Hip Hop/Rap)
Just when the world thought the hit from BTS couldn’t get any better, Nicki Minaj jumped on for the reworked version and added her hip hop flair. K-pop as a whole already combines a multitude of genres, so when a Western artist jumps on a track to add another one, it almost becomes legendary. Perhaps no one is suited best for a K-pop music video than Minaj, a star who has been adding her bubblegum, utopian aesthetic to hip hop for years. It was only a matter of time before she stumbled into the K-pop world. This one just feels like a match made in heaven.
Hailee Steinfeld, Florida Georgia Line, Alesso and Watt – ‘Let Me Go’ (Country, Pop, EDM)
An interesting blend of flavours, but the end product is surprisingly tasty. As country as a genre moves more and more into the mainstream and less as just something your grandparents listened to, it becomes harder to define its actual sound. A lot of country artists are dipping their toes into EDM and pop, helping to create some of the best hits from the past few years. This one is no different. Hailee Steinfeld and country duo Florida Georgia Line work together perfectly in this track, accompanied by the melodies of DJ Alesso and producer Watt. The song is just a perfect example of when genre-defying collaborations really, really work.