The Best Duet Songs of All Time

May 20, 2024

Some of the most loved tracks of all time are duets, but what is it about a duet that is special?
What makes people fall in love with them? When it comes to vocal harmonies, the interlacing of a duet is something magical. They work in total harmony - even when they might not sound like they will work at face value.

And there is no single way to do a duet either. A great example of a mash-up style duet is Jay-Z and Linkin Park - Encore. Hugely different acts and genres come together to make a track that is now a classic. But there are also solid classics like Sonny and Cher.

Something you’ll often see when a good duet hits the stage is that their instinct and feelings take over, and the sum of the parts always presents the listeners with something incredible.

So, which acts have given us duets that are hard to forget - and which ones should you be singing at your next karaoke party?

Timeless Classics

They are classics for a reason - almost everyone has heard them, and almost everyone knows at least some, if not all, of the lyrics!

Sonny & Cher - I Got You Babe

Starting with a super sweet duet, I Got You Babe, which was recorded when they were married, it became one of their biggest hits as a duo. Spending three weeks at number 1 on the Hot 100 way back in 1965, it has become a timeless classic in every sense - still being offered up for almost all romantic occasions.

Micheal Jackson and Paul McCartney - The Girl Is Mine

It's a combo that might not be obvious, but they harmonize so wonderfully - and the doggone girl is mine. It is a classic tale of a lady who is adored by two men, and as the song goes on, they both profess their love. And she has to choose. The reason this track came about is because they had a great time on Say Say Say, so went on to record this cheese-fest - but it is a classic nonetheless. It didn’t hit number 1, but it didn’t need to. Pay special attention to 3 minutes on where they discuss it all - like friends.

Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes - Up Where We Belong

Opening up with a gorgeous piano, Up Where We Belong is a love song that many people know from An Officer and a Gentlemen. In 1982, this song had a cool three weeks at number 1 on the Hot 100, and it won a Golden Globe for Best Original Song for a Film and an Academy Award. Joe Cocker’s rougher edge compliments Jennifer Warnes’s soft, delicate vocals.

Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes - (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life

Dirty Dancing, anyone? It is a classic movie scene, and the song has been cemented into the all-time classic duets with ease. Even now, you’ll see people trying to recreate the high lift scene - some fail, some succeed, but it is a testament to the song being one that we all think about when it comes to a classic duet.

Simon & Garfunkle - Mrs Robinson

Here’s to you, Mrs Robinson… woah woah woah! A timeless class and Simon and Garfunkel have more than a few. But this one has been featured in 10 movies and countless TV series too. In fact, this song is such a classic that women with a younger partner might even be referenced as Mrs. Robinson.

Timeless classics come with great lyrics, wonderful vocal harmonies, and their beat.

Cross-Genre Wonder

The art of a cross-genre duet isn’t something you come across every day, which is part of what makes them incredible. They are two artists that you wouldn’t typically find together - and if you listen to one main genre, this is a great way to explore more.

Aerosmith & Run-DMC - Walk This Way

Walk this way! Talk this way! Hip Hop/ Rap mixed with one of the biggest and best rock bands of all time? What more could you need when it comes to a great cross-genre track? We have seen this a few times since, but not all of them manage to be as iconic as this one.

Freddie Mercury & Montserrat Caballe - Barcelona

Freddie had an incredible set of pipes, and while most people are used to his powerful vocals leading the way on a classic rock anthem, Something special happened when he was on track with Montserrat and her high, power-packed operatic tones. Barcelona one mixes opera, power rock vocals, an almost Christmas-like opening, and the harmonies of an orchestra in a way that only Freddie and Montserrat could do.

Kanye West & Bon Iver - Lost In The World

A fusion of Bon Ivers floating, unmistakable vocals, with Kayne’s ear for a beat. The vocals meld into each other through the chorus. Kayne breaks it up again and adds in his trademark rap. Bon Iver is famous for their gentle yet powerful vocal and creates works that are held close to the people who enjoy them, usually with a lot of emotion and meaning. Kayne is more than a little well-known for offering unique beats and unique lyrics, and some people say visionary. The combination? It's an unexpected masterpiece.

B.o.B & Hayley Williams (Paramore) - Airplanes

Both Nothin’ On You with Bruno Mars and this track were on an incredible album packed with features - B.o.B Presents - The Adventures of Bobby Ray. But people loved Airplanes with Hayley Williams in a whole new way. There was a story to the lyrics, and Hayley’s lyrics floated through the chorus.

David Bowie & Bing Crosby - Peace on Earth / Little Drummer Boy

Bowie is the legend of crossing genres all by himself and leaving a stunning legend behind him with one of the original crooners. David and Bing’s vocals wrap around each other and also come forward and move behind the music in parts. Each of them takes the lead from time to time. It is not only a great duet but also a perfect Christmas song.

Unexpected Pairings

Unexpected pairings when it comes to duets don’t quite fit in cross-genre, and they aren’t just a surprise for one reason. They are so out of left field that you’ll need to take an extra look to see if that REALLY is who you think it is.

Sylvester Stallone & Dolly Parton - Sweet Lovin’ Friends

If you have never heard this before, you really did read that duet correctly. It was a song so bad that it won Worst Original Song, and the film it was in also flopped. It was released for their 1984 comedy movie Rhinestone. Sylvester sounds exactly like you think he will, and Dolly is incredible as always - but it wasn’t enough to save this one. They did another track called Woke Up in Love, which is just as unexpected…

Pavarotti & Skunk Anansie - You’ll Follow Me Down

It is an interesting mix of orchestra, rock, Skin’s rich vocals, and Pavarotti’s belting sound combined into one track. The track was featured on the album Pavarotti & Friends - For Cambodia and Tibet.

There are a few other unexpected combinations on the album: Pavarotti with Enrique Iglesias, and the final track with Pavarotti, Savage Garden, Enrique Igelsias, Aqua, Eurythmics, Tracy Chapman, and more.

Wu-tang & Texas - Say What You Want (All Day Everyday)

They also have another track called Hi, but Say What You Want (All Day Everyday), which was the start of a strange musical relationship. The track was performed live at the London Arena in 1998, and the crowd was happy and surprised by the unusual pairing. Method Man and Sharleen roll onto the stage and offer a completely reworked version of Say What You Want - with expert sampling from RZA. And the sample you hear that brings something interesting and fresh? None other than Engelbert Humperdinck’s string stab weaves itself in there—an odd combination, to say the least.

Tom Jones & The Cardigans - Burnin’ Down The House

For those not in the know, this track is a cover from the Talking Heads and is an excellent song that doesn’t need to be covered in this unexpected duet. Nina Persson of The Cardigans has delightfully 90s vocals, but the combination of her effortless cool with Tom Jones’s husky pop isn’t the smoothest duet.

Cliff Richard & The Young Ones - Living Doll

The Young Ones were a loud, loutish, chaotic, drug-taking group of people who lived together for a TV show. Cliff Richard has always positioned himself as a pure type - with nothing but virtue and Christianity. The lyrics are jarring, the burps on reverb, and the general clash of The Young Ones and Cliff make this unexpected paring just about as bad as you can get.

Powerful Ballads

A powerful ballad lets us warm up our own pipes and have a go at blasting out huge notes. Do we hit them every time? No. But is it always fun to try? Yes.

Ballads are great love songs with long rolling notes and big power sections, and here are 5 of the best.

Diana Ross & Lionel Richie - Endless Love

A song that held its top spot for nine weeks and is still one of the ultimate love songs. It’s not about being in love right now; it’s about being in it forever. The track was written for the movie Endless Love, and as a testament to the song - you’ve maybe never even seen the Brooke Shields classic movie - but you probably know the lyrics to the song.

The lyrics are tender, the melody is swooping, and the whole, this is a perfect example of a powerful yet romantic ballad - perhaps one for your Spotify Duo playlist!

Unchained Melody - The Righteous Brothers

You might prefer the Robson and Jerome version or the original Harry Belafonte, but either way - this is the epitome of a duet ballad that is timeless. Elvis even covered this song and offered up a moving rendition.

Although the song was released many years before, with the release of the movie Ghost, it shot back into the hearts and minds of millions - who can forget that incredible pottery scene with Demi and Patrick?

Mariah Carey & Whitney Houston - When You Believe

A song that comes right out of a Disney movie, The Prince of Egypt, had an incredible soundtrack, but this stunning ballad from two absolutely vocal powerhouse women is outstanding. It is not surprising that this one took the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1999. It's a song about faith and hope, told in two angelic tones with all of the long and high-pitched notes that you’d expect from both Whitney and Mariah.

Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper - Shallow

A modern ballad that took the world by storm when the movie A Star Is Born was released. Although the recording is great, you should check out the YouTube video live from the Oscars. For Bradley Cooper, it was a big step outside of his acting box, and it paid off with a phenomenal ballad. And more importantly, in the video, you can see the chemistry between Lady Gaga and Bradley, which makes it absolutely electric.

Here is the link to the performance because it is a must-see: Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper Shallow.

Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell - Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

A song that Dusty Springfield coveted, but songwriters Ashford and Simpsons knew they wanted Motown, and they declined her. It landed on the laps of Tammi and Marvin, and they had a huge hit when it was released in 1967. The song has found its way into a few movies, including Stepmom and Guardians of the Galaxy.

Diana Ross also scored her first solo number one with this track when she recorded and released it with a different arrangement.

Cultural Fusion

Sometimes, duets don’t just cross the lines of genre; they dance across continents and produce something that everyone can enjoy. Here are some of the best cultural mash-up tracks from duos.

Justin Bieber & J Balvin - Sorry

Reggaeton has been a thing for a long time; it’s vibrant, bouncy, sensual, and so rich in layers. J Balvin is known as the Prince of Reggaeton and is a phenomenally popular Latin music artist. This brings us neatly to the Prince of Pop, Justin Bieber. Together, they create some with a big Reggaeton flavor. The Latino remix is the version you are looking for - the perfect cultural, musical fusion.

BTS & Coldplay - My Universe

All the classic trademarks of a Coldplay song, with an ultra-cool twist from the Korean boy-band sensation BTS. How did it happen? The song is said to be a big celebration of the power that music has to bring people together - a big helping of unity and hope. It is reflected in the lyrics with things like, “and they said we can’t be together because we come from different sides,” but balancing it out with “we are made of each other baby, you are my universe.”

Happy, poppy, and something almost anyone can enjoy.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo & Paul Simon - Homeless

The South African vocal group is more than a little well-known for their stunning vocal arrangements, and in combination with Paul Simon, it creates a strong story in the track Homeless. They have worked together on a few tracks, and another one that has more than enough beat and vocalizations to have your shoulders swaying is Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes.

Sting & Orville Richard Burrell CD - Don’t Make Me Wait

Perhaps the name Ovilla Richard Burrell CD doesn’t ring any bells, but perhaps his stage name, Shaggy, does! Sting and Shaggy put an album together with a lot of Jamaican beats and vibes. After meeting in 2017, they quickly found they had a lot in common and began working on their album 44/876. The album hit number one on the Billboard Reggae Albums charts and was a huge success.

Fireboy DML & Ed Sheeran - Peru

Peru is a gorgeous blend of traditional African beats and rhythms with a super catchy hook. Fireboy DML, aka Adedamola Oyinlola Adefolahan, is a Nigerian singer whose tracks are a stunning blend of A&B, Soul, and Afrobeats. Ed Sheeran has long been known for dabbling and appearing in many unusual duets. Everything about Peru makes sense. Originally written by Fireboy DML, after it hit number one in the UK Afrobeats charts, he reached out to Ed, and now we have Peru - the perfect fusion.

Influential Duets

Are there duets that have changed the world? Or what about the ones that have inspired millions? There are a couple of tracks and duets that make a huge impact.

Beyonce & Jay-Z - Bonnie & Clyde

Jay-Z and Beyonce have been a couple for a long time now, and it all started with Crazy in Love and Bonnie & Clyde. It would be hard to find another duet that has had the impact of these on the world. And even now, they are putting out tracks that are inspirational to millions.

Johnny Cash & June Carter - Jackson

Another story of musicians working together, only to fall in love. And, as complicated as this was - as seen in the movie Walk The Line, they stayed in it for the long haul. Performing together for years. Both artists have inspired millions of others, movies, songs about them, and more.

The Carpenters - (They Long To Be) Close To You

The Carpenters had a stream of hits throughout the 1970s, but this is one of their standout tracks. The airy melody, Karen’s soft vocals, combined with Richard’s lyrics, and versatility made them a sister-brother duo that made sense. They inspired many other family groups to sing, too. And even though this wasn’t an original, it was an Engelbert Humperdinck cover; if pressed about whose song it was - you’d likely say the carpenters.

David Bowie & Queen - Under Pressure

So, while Queen isn’t technically just one man, the combination of Bowie and Mercury was something quite special. A song that has outlasted both of them (sadly), and it will continue to do so. This is the cream of the crop for almost any list when it comes to iconic tracks. David and Freddie had a unique style and swagger, and they inspired generations of people with their style and music.

Olivia Newton-John & John Travolta - You’re The One That I Want

Ooo, ooo, ooo - honey! When Grease hit the screens, there wasn’t a person watching who didn’t fancy themselves as a Sandy or a Danny. The iconic outfits were seen everywhere; people could hum the tune to almost every song, and even now, it makes perfect Friday night with popcorn viewing. A movie with a soundtrack that influenced millions of teenagers then and still does now.

Modern Masterpieces

We’ve already had some of the modern but unforgettable and incredible duets, but there is always room for a few more! We see more often that tracks will have featured artists, and we will be counting those as fully-fledged duets for this category.

Taylor Swift & Brendon Urie - Me!

Their high-pitched vocals work perfectly, and although Swifty has a few other duets with the likes of Ed Sheeran and The National, this one is punchy, poppy, and everything that they both do well. Plus, the music video is just as fun as the track itself.

Jay-Z & Alicia Keys - Empire State Of Mind

If there is one thing that Jay-Z always comes with, it is his very specific tone, which is no exception. With Alicia's incredibly soulful vocals - even the opening beat has made its way into the minds of the millions. The song is a homage to starting on the bottom and making it to the top - and not giving up on what you really want to achieve. Something with Jay-Z still talks about it.

Rihanna & Drake - Work

Drake is the sweetheart of the streaming charts, being one of the biggest and most streamed artists across multiple platforms. And while Rihanna may be on a hiatus right now, her set of 4 duets with Drake have all been massive hits. Work was a club favorite, while Take Care was more of a modern take on a love song. What’s My Name and Too Good were both smash hits, and if we are lucky, we will see these two work together in the future.

As a duet, these two just work, work, work, work, work…

Justin Bieber & Ed Sheeran - I Don’t Care

An upbeat. Pop-filled track - with the right amount of cheese and heart to make it a monster hit. It has been four years since it was released, and one of the most notable things they did for the video was just to have fun. Wearing costumes, using a green screen, and just enjoying the process. But what makes this one special is that it isn’t just about the lyrics but the melody and the loops. Ed & Justin - like ice cream and sprinkles - perfect.

A couple of honorable mentions for:

  • Peter Gabriel & Kate Bush - Don't Give Up
  • Nick Cave & Kylie Minogue - Where The Wild Roses Grow
  • Eminem & Dido - Stan
  • Philip Bailey & Phil Collins - Easy Lover
  • Youssou N'Dour & Neneh Cherry - 7 Seconds

Did you favorite duet of all time make the list? If not, feel free to leave yours in comments.

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