The Year of Odd Musical Couples: 8 Collabs We Definitely Didn’t See Coming in 2015

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This year, we got plenty of weird in the world of musical collaboration. But weird doesn’t always mean embarrassingly bad; in every meeting of musical minds, there’s always a chance that genius might occur. When they first appeared, it seemed like the implausibility of these collabs were going to yield disastrous results. Some of them turned out to be quite the opposite, resulting in cross-cultural phenomena that might not have happened otherwise. Having said that, we’re not kidding anyone here – some of these are hilarious failures. Either way, these are the most memorable and head-scratching collaborations of the year. –Marcos Hassan


Justin Bieber ft. J Balvin - “Sorry” (Latino Remix) and Major Lazer ft. J Balvin - “Lean On”

2015 was a banner year for J Balvin; he became one of the biggest names in reggaeton, even garnering credit for revitalizing the genre with his fresh style. Considering this, it’s no surprise that Justin Bieber, an artist who’s rebounding from tabloid scandals and into critical and popular acclaim, enlisted Balvin for the Latino remix of his massive “Sorry.” The results elevated the song to another level. Balvin worked his magic once more on “Lean On,” the polycultural hit of the summer. Although “Lean On” was simple and catchy enough to become a radio staple, its malleable rhythms and diverse musical references made it ripe for remixing in tons of different styles. In a year full of “Lean On” reworks, Balvin made the song his own without much effort. –Marcos Hassan


Bomba Estéreo and Will Smith - "Fiesta" (Remix)

It’s been a long time since Will Smith stepped inside the studio to drop some bars. So long, in fact, that I’m sure lots of people (some of our readers included) were surprised to discover that dude can still rap. The WTF floodgates opened for them and the rest of the world when none other than Bomba Estéreo announced a remix/collaboration with the Fresh Prince himself. The opening lines are cringeworthy (“oye mamacita, go get me a beer-a”), and the whole thing is pretty unnecessary, but it did give our Colombian fam a ton of well-earned and long overdue exposure. So, um, thanks Will? –Afroxander


Maná and Steve Aoki - "La Prisión Remix"

Out of all the WTF collaborations that took place in 2015, Maná and Steve Aoki‘s really takes the cake. The producer’s remix of “La Prisión” is still giving nightmares to the poor souls who were masochistic enough to listen to it in the first place. Hell, it even inspired us to round up some musical collaborations that should never have happened. Maná’s incredibly underwhelming attempt to rejuvenate their sound through Aoki’s stadium-sized synth stabs and drops is the actual prison we’re all trapped in. We can only hope something like this never happens again, but the world is full of surprises. –Cheky


Yandel ft. Future – “Mi Combo (Spiff TV)”

Dangerous, Yandel’s third studio album, found the reggaeton stalwart trying out different styles and collaborating with a wide range of guests, including a handful American MCs. “Mi Combo (Spiff TV)” with Future is the most interesting of these partnerships, as it is a true hybrid of the styles both artists are known for. The production oscillates from gritty trap to more traditional dembow, which they both attack gamely. Aside from being a great listen, though, the track indicates a desire from both artists to break into each other’s respective markets. Hopefully, more collaborations like this are on the horizon, garnering more visibility in popular music for the bilingual populations of the U.S. and the Caribbean. –John Calderon


Juan Gabriel, Julión Álvarez & J Balvin - "La Frontera"

Finally, a song your tía and sobrina can agree on. Seriously, though, there is so much going on in this Juan Gabriel song it’s almost hard to digest on first listen. It starts pretty innocently enough: a duet with Julión Álvarez true to both of their styles, but at the three-minute mark, a full gospel choir comes in to back up the chorus, while J Balvin, King of Features, repeats his name for about 30 seconds. When he’s finally ready to deliver his rhymes, the song flips into a reggaeton jam fest, complete with a funky breakdown. While Juan Gabriel is planning a third installment of his Los Dúo series for next year, we think he’ll be hard pressed to top this weird (and bizarrely addictive) collaboration. –John Calderon


Gepe and Wendy Sulca – "Hambre"

Everybody remembers where they were when Gepe‘s “Hambre” showed up in their feeds, especially because it featured none other than Peruvian folk and viral superstar Wendy Sulca. Gepe is no stranger to collaboration, having worked with the likes of Julieta Venegas, Carla Morrison, and frequently sharing credits with Javiera Mena and Alex Anwandter. But the brilliance of Wendy Sulca’s feature left our heads spinning, if for no other reason than how much sense it made and how criminally underrated Sulca’s talents are. Having been lumped in with La Tigresa del Oriente and Delfín Quishpe as just another viral kitsch act, Wendy Sulca’s formidable set of pipes deserves respect and material to shine on. The song was Gepe’s first single off Estilo Libre, his fifth studio album, and the video was filmed in Bolivia, crystallizing this beautiful moment of redemption in Andean pop. –Richard Villegas


Anahi & Zuzuka Poderosa - "Boom Cha"

Anahí, better known as First Lady of Chiapas and teen icon of RBD, teamed up with Brazilian powerhouse Zuzuka Poderosa this year for “Boom Cha.” The song is best described in alcoholic terms: what happens when you order a caipirinha and the bartender convinces you to add a popular teen drink to the mix? You get a really fucked up caipirinha. –Michelin Polanco