Music has offered us so many fruitful pairings between artists from different corners of the sonic realm. Whether this is for a stand-alone single, album, or live performance, we the consumer have been blessed to witness the convergence of many of our heroes to our listening delight. The pairings of Gorillaz and De La Soul, David Bowie and Nile Rodgers, or even Johnny Marr and Noel Gallagher make these power couplings seem like a great idea.
However, there are times when what the artists had hoped to achieve through teaming up doesn’t come to fruition. There have been countless instances where artists have teamed up and it all got very weird, very quickly. In this category, one particular case springs to mind. So let us cast our minds back then to 2006, and the 48th Grammy Award Ceremony.
2006 was in the middle of the noughties, a time when seemingly anything went, and where pop culture is deemed to have been at its pinnacle. The internet had really taken off, reality TV was at its peak with shows like Big Brother and The X Factor at the forefront of public discussion, Gnarls Barkley scored a number one with the ubiquitous ‘Crazy’ and The O.C. and V for Vendetta became iconic for very disparate reasons.
Fittingly, the year and decade produced many cringe moments, and what we are about to discuss embodies this. As we have discussed, this may have been the peak of popular culture, at least for a certain generation, but this does not mean everything of the time was quality, in fact, it was quite the opposite. One only has to note the winners and nominees at the 2006 Grammys to get a real grasp of the state of culture and how the zeitgeist was somewhat hard to pin down.
U2 claimed victory as the Album of the Year for How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, Green Day scored Record of the Year with ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams’ and Kelly Clarkson won Best Female Vocal Pop Performance for ‘Since U Been Gone’. Winners and nominees in other categories were Gorillaz, Gwen Stefani, Kanye West and Keane.
It is clear that 2006 was a momentous one, yet in parts, a necessarily forgetful year for music. Coupled with this, there did occur some of those classic musical convergences at that year’s Grammys. Kanye West and Jamie Foxx triumphantly smashed through ‘Touch the Sky’ and ‘Gold Digger’, then there was the Sly and The Family Stone tribute that included Steven Tyler, Joss Stone and will.i.am and even Gorillaz and De La Soul enlisted Madonna to recreate ‘Feel Good Inc.’
Another supergroup emerged that night, one that we can be thankful has not reared its ugly head since. Linkin Park, Jay-Z, and The Beatles founding member Paul McCartney.
Linkin Park and Jay-Z had previously come together on the 2004 EP Collision Course, a commercial success. Ironically, this had been inspired by The Grey Album by Danger Mouse, which remixed the works of Jay-Z and mashed them with samples from the Beatles’ White Album. Furthermore, Collision Course marked the period wherein Linkin Park and Jay-Z were at their commercial peak, and this partnership affirmed “mash-up culture” as a music-business success story.
Being the beacon of the mainstream music industry that they are, the Grammys couldn’t resist getting in on the action – we have noted that the 2006 ceremony featured a whole host of genre-defying couplings. However, the one that carried the most weight on paper was the intergenerational giant. The nu-metallers, the rap titan and former Beatle mixing their sounds in a sonic cauldron would seem to some a mouth-watering proposition.
It started off as any ordinary high-profile Grammy performance would do. In this case, the iconic intro to ‘Numb/Encore’ is played by Linkin Park’s DJ/turntablist Joe Hahn to crowd applause, then Jay-Z and the late Chester Bennington jump into the main vocal melody and then the rest of the band joins. However, this would not be the Grammys without the addition of the orchestra to affirm the glamour of the evening.
Then though, something strange happened. At 1:30, a key change slowly rises from the depths of the mash-up. The beat slows down, and a piano plays a very similar sounding progression. Jay-Z carries on with his rap, then at 2:25, Bennington starts to sing the Beatles’ beloved ‘Yesterday’.
Subsequently, at 2:40, like an angel in a white linen shirt, come to bless contemporary music after being forcibly plucked from his holiday in the Algarve, McCartney emerges from the darkness of backstage. He then sings the remainder of the Beatles classic he had famously penned back in 1965. Bennington and Jay-Z step back and contribute offer some ad-libbed lines.
What started off as a promising performance quickly becomes an excruciating and cheesy rendition that is way too immersed in its own worth. Given the context of the time, it is no surprise that the collaborative EP between the nu-metal legends and Jay-Z is semi-iconic, giving us the banger that is ‘Points of Authority/99 Problems/One Step Closer’.
However, given the glitz and the glamour of the evening, the unnecessary addition of the orchestra, and the fact that Bennington, Jay-Z nor McCartney seem to truly know what they’re doing makes this mash-up seem overcooked – particularly when taking into account that the Beatles are about as far away from urban culture as Katie Hopkins is from being a nice woman. Additionally, the vocal performances are all off, truly sealing this performance as a painful, unaware cringe-fest.
At the end of the rendition, Jay-Z asks the crowd “sounds so beautiful don’t you agree?” We’ll let you make your own mind up on that. The phrase three’s a crowd springs to mind.
Watch the performance, below.