Between Brexit, Donald Trump, and Lochtegate, you could definitely say that 2016 was the year when things got weird — and music was no exception.
This year’s Grammy nominations include tons of crossover collaborations between some of the unlikeliest artists in the music industry. For the days when you feel like exploring some genre-bending songs, here are some of the most unexpected (and for the most part, exhilarating) music pairings to come out of last year.
"Forgive Me Father" — DJ Khaled ft. Meghan Trainor
Nomination: DJ Khaled's "Major Key" forBest Rap Album
With his catchy one-liners and much needed advice on the major keys to success, it’s no wonder that DJ Khaled pretty much became the breakout star of Snapchat last year. That’s why it’s hard to remember that social media is just a side gig for the 41-year-old DJ, whose “Major Key” is nominated for Best Rap Album this year.
The album includes guest appearances from some of the biggest names in hip-hop and rap, but it also includes a track with one of the wildest trios we’ve ever heard of: Wiz Khalifa, Wale and, that’s right, Meghan Trainor. Lending her softer vocals to the hook, the “All About That Bass” singer proves she can break out of doo-wop and light-hearted pop songs through this inspirational closing track. The song stands out from the rest of the album as an empowering anthem about redemption and religion.
"Love Yourself" — Co-written by Justin Bieber and Ed Sheeran
Nomination: Song of the Year
What do the chaotic Canadian popstar and the sensitive folk-singing Englishman have in common? Their mamas don't like you — and they like everyone.
Though Sheeran’s fans were sad to see him take an extended hiatus through 2016, they weren’t left with nothing — it turns out he helped co-write Bieber’s smash breakup single, “Love Yourself,” which is currently nominated for Song of the Year. This isn’t the first time Sheeran has penned a mega hit for someone else: he’s also written four songs for British boy band One Direction, as well as music for the likes of Taylor Swift, Tori Kelly and The Weeknd.
Though we definitely loved the original, Sia-only version of this song, the remix — featuring OG dancehall artist Sean Paul — truly made this song stick out. The dancehall tune combines two of our favorite things: a bass-thumping beat and Sean Paul’s signature rap-reggae style. Reminding us that the best things in life are free — cut to chorus: “I don’t need dollar bills to have fun tonight" — “Cheap Thrills” immediately became the de facto summer anthem of 2016 and is now up for nomination in the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance category at this year’s Grammys.
"Don't Hurt Yourself" — Beyoncé ft. Jack White
Nomination: Best Rock Performance
This song helped Beyoncé make Grammy history — not only is she nominated for the most number of Grammys this year (she’s up for a whopping nine awards), but she’s also the first artist in history to earn nominations in the pop, rock, R&B and rap categories all in the same year.
Supported by White Stripes frontman Jack White, Beyoncé makes her bold debut into the realm of rock and roll with “Don’t Hurt Yourself,” a Led Zeppelin-inspired track that makes for a killer feminist anthem. After listening to this song, we now know what the Beyhive knew all along: Beyoncé is not someone to mess with.
"Forward" — Beyoncé ft James Blake
Nomination: Beyonce's "Lemonade" for Album of the Year
Yes, we’ve already talked about Beyoncé on this list. But given that “Lemonade” is one of the most talked about albums of 2016, it’s only appropriate that Queen Bey get another shoutout. “Forward,” the product of Beyoncé’s collaboration with British producer James Blake, is a 54-second-long track that appears toward the end of her album. But don’t let its short length fool you: featuring Blake’s hypnotic falsetto and melodic piano, the somber song immediately stops you in your tracks, making it one of the most notable tracks off the album.
"Setting the World on Fire" — Kenny Chesney ft. P!nk
Nomination: Best Country Duo/Group Performance
We never thought that country singer Kenny Chesney would perform a romantic duet with a female pop rocker like P!nk — but somehow it works. The feelgood song off of Chesney’s album “Cosmic Hallelujah” is all about young love and feeling alive. Though the track starts off with some laidback acoustic guitar, all bets are off once P!nk comes onto the scene, transforming the song into a more rock-influenced piece with louder chords and a brief electric guitar solo.
"Jolene" —Pentatonix ft. Dolly Parton
Nomination: Best Country Duo/Group Performance
Plenty of artists have covered Parton’s classic 1973 single “Jolene,” but none do so quite as masterfully as a cappella group Pentatonix. Combine Parton’s vocals with the pop group’s beatboxing, harmonizing and clapping, and you get a refreshing rendition of the song that definitely merits a Grammy nod.
"Leave Me Lonely" by Ariana Grande and Macy Gray
Nomination: Best Pop Vocal Album
R&B veteran Macy Gray and pop diva Ariana Grande team up on this bluesy tune that effortlessly highlights both artists’ signature vocal styles, combining Gray’s raspy crooning with Grande’s powerful belts and riffs. The jazzy piano chords, heavy percussion and gospel backing make “Leave Me Lonely” hauntingly beautiful, easily distinguishing it as the standout track on Grande’s “Dangerous Woman.”