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The Eight Best David Byrne Collaborations

September 11, 2012  |  8:30am

Today, former Talking Head frontman David Byrne and St. Vincent finally release their addictive and brazen collaboration, Love This Giant—an album that fully exhibits the upsides of what can happen when two great musicians from entirely different backgrounds unite in the name making music together.

For Byrne, Love This Giant represents his latest in a long line of creative endeavors with other artists. While collaborations don’t always live up to expectations, he’s proven the opposite, showing the good that can arise when great musical minds join forces. Paste revisited Byrne’s extensive list of collaborative efforts—check out the finest of those works below.

8. Marisa Monte
“Waters of March” (1996)
There are countless covers of the classic Brazilian pop song “Waters of March” and its original Portuguese counterpart “Águas de Março.” Byrne and the iconic Brazilian singer performed one of the standout versions of this number as a contribution to the Red Hot + Rio in 1996. Their rendition features each musician singing in their native languages, and marks Byrne’s first commitment to the charity album series.

7. Fatboy Slim
Here Lies Love (2010)
Byrne and Fatboy Slim can breathe easy—it’s very unlikely that any other artist or collaboration will attempt an Imelda Marcos-inspired, art-world-disco film score again. After teaming up with Norman Cook to compose these songs, they recruited over 20 vocalists including the likes of Florence Welch, Santigold, Steve Earle, Sharon Jones and Cyndi Lauper. Here Lies Love has since inspired a musical adaption, which is scheduled to premiere in New York City sometime next year.

6. Maximum Balloon
“Apartment Wrestling” (2010)
In 2010, TV on the Radio’s David Sitek released his solo debut, naming the project as well as the album Maximum Balloon. He handled nearly all the musical and production elements, but invited everyone and anyone to collaborate as vocalists—including David Byrne on the album’s ninth track, “Apartment Wrestling.” It’s an impressive partnership, even if only for this single song, as Byrne carries this afrobeat-inspired song that proudly wears its Talking Heads influences on its sleeves.

5. Selena
“God’s Child (Baila Conmigo)” (1995)
Byrne teamed up with the Tejano superstar to co-write this soulful song right before she was tragically murdered. He recorded his vocals in New York, while Selena worked out of her father’s Corpus Christi studio. Later that year, their collaboration debuted on her sixth album, Dreaming For You—a posthumous release that sold approximately 175,000 copies on its first day. As a result, this track is more than likely David Byrne best-selling project, Talking Heads or otherwise.

4. St. Vincent
Love This Giant (2010)
On Love This Giant, both Byrne and Annie Clark dial up their eclectic knobs a bit, brashly juxtaposing melodic hooks with dissonant textures, creating an immersive but challenging work unlike anything else in either musician’s prior solo efforts. Utilizing the talents of afrobeat specialists Antibalas and throwback soul stirrers The Dap-Kings, this art-rock pair stirs the melting pot just enough to concoct an album that’s the perfect combination of intrigue, accessibility and the best kind of weirdness.

3. Caetano Veloso
Live at Carnegie Hall (2004)
In 2004, legendary tropicalia songwriter Caetano Veloso curated a concert at Carnegie Hall, inviting Byrne to join him for the performance. The subsequent live album, which was later released in 2012, captures each elder statesmen performing a solo set of their own respective work. For the show’s final five songs, however, the two share the stage, trading off on songs as well as performing their duet, “Dreamworld: Marco de Canaveses”—which would later be released on Red Hot + Rio 2 in 2011.

2. Dirty Projectors
“Knotty Pine” (2009)
This song kicks off the overflowing 2009 Dark Was The Night compilation in joyous fashion. It’s a short and sweet pop song that registers at just over two minutes, fronted by the infectious vocals of the Dirty Projectors’ lead ladies. The best moment of this track comes at just after the one-minute mark, where the Davids (Byrne and Longstreth) brilliant share lead vocals on the second verse.

1. Brian Eno
My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today (1981, 2008)
Byrne and Eno’s creative history together dates back more than three decades. It includes two great collaborative albums, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts and Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, spaced a healthy 27 years apart. The former came out on the heels of the Talking Heads’ golden stretch from 1978-80, in which Eno produced More Songs About Buildings and Food, Fear of Music and Remain in Light. Everything That Happens, while a bit more accessible in terms of its musical straightforwardness and cleaner production (sandwiched in between Eno’s work with Coldplay and U2), followed with nearly just as much impact. No matter how one dissects either musician’s career, these two albums are pivotal moments in within each artists’ respective larger career arcs. On average, collaborations failed create a whole greater than the sum of its parts. That couldn’t be farther from the truth in the case of David Byrne and Brian Eno.

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