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The 8 Most Surprising Music Collaborations of 2009

Last week, when video emerged of a chest-bearing Thom Yorke dancing next to his new bandmate Flea, it seemed like things were a bit backwards. Had Yorke lost a bet? Had we? But the collaboration appeared to be a success, perhaps because it took both Yorke and Flea out of their element. After all, when was the last time Flea wore a shirt?

From Patrick Wolf and Tilda Swinton to Lil’ Wayne and Weezer, 2009 has been the year of surprising collaborations. Though previous years yielded some amazing partnerships (Johnny Marr and Modest Mouse, Mike Watt with Kelly Clarkson), the past ten months have seen collabs that initially seemed improbable, or, technically impossible (see: Black Keys and Ol’ Dirty Bastard). Check out our favorites from this year below, and a couple of predictions for the rest of 2009.

8. Björk and Dirty Projectors
A rather predictable collaboration between mutual admirers, their joint charity show was still awesome, for those who could afford tickets.

7. Diplo and Lil’ Jon
If we had to guess who Lil’ Jon would work with in 2009, it would have been Vampire Weekend. Here’s hoping their collaboration appears on Lil’ Jon’s long-delayed solo LP, due next month.

6. Blackroc (The Black Keys and Damon Dash)
The Black Keys sat down for an interview with GZA for Pitchfork TV earlier this year, so it makes some sense that they’d eventually collaborate with some of their other favorite rappers, living (Mos Def, Jim Jones, RZA) and dead (Ol’ Dirty Bastard).

5. Black Lips and GZA
GZA, however, showed up with another unlikely project, a song with Atlanta’s Black Lips, proving the Lips can collaborate as well as aggravate.

4. Tilda Swinton and Patrick Wolf
“My feeling is that we almost certainly come from the same planet,” Swinton said of Wolf. This planet gets zero sunlight.

3. MGMT and Jay-Z
The results of MGMT’s guest slot never made it to The Blueprint 3‘s tracklist, though Billboard had reported that the Brooklyn band and Brooklyn MC were working together. We’re hoping the song sees light sometime in 2010.

2. Michael McDonald and Grizzly Bear / Holy Ghost
After 2008’s Yacht Rock series on Channel 101, it was only a matter of time before musicians wanted a part of McDonald.

Holy Ghost hasn’t yet released the track with Michael McDonald, so here’s a video of “What a Fool Believes,” live in Japan.

1. Thom Yorke and Flea
See above.

Predictions for the rest of ’09

3. Kanye West and anyone
West has a million mea culpas to make. Next year may be the time to make them. We predict a Lady Gaga and West collaboration, if not a Taylor Swift / Barack Obama charity single by the close of 2009.

2. Mandy Moore and Ryan Adams
These improbable newlyweds could make beautiful music together. Moore’s tweets show that Adams has been trying to open his wife’s mind to new sounds. She could introduce him to new hair colors.

1. Jay-Z and Grizzly Bear
August’s bizarro sighting led to Jay-Z praising Grizzly Bear, and the world of indie-rock entire, as an exciting underground movement. Maybe he hadn’t caught Grizzly Bear’s three or so late-night talk-show appearances. Nevermind. We predict that they’ll find a way to work together, somewhere around the 80 BPM mark.

Have a favorite ’09 collaboration that we missed? Let us know in the comments below!

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