A certain mismatch on paper, yet a striking triumph in practice, modern troubadour M. Ward (best known for his work with Beth Orton, Norah Jones, and Bright Eyes) and rising actress Zooey Deschanel (whose biggest claim to fame is almost certainly her bitterly raw turn opposite Paul Schneider in 2002’s gut-wrenching love story All the Real Girls, and who is still slated to portray the iconic Janis Joplin in Penelope Spheeris’ oft-delayed biopic) have joined forces to create the duo She & Him. Having first collaborated on an end-credits tune for the 2007 independent film The Go-Getter, Ward and Deschanel enjoyed the experience so much that they decided to tackle a full-length project, and She & Him, Volume 1 was born.


Volume 1 is actually something of a showcase for Deschanel (whose warm, if slightly tinny, timbre recalls a young Lucinda Williams), with Ward largely playing a behind-the-scenes role, but when he does turn up in front of the mic — as on their stripped, stunning cover (maybe, just maybe, the best one I’ve ever heard) of Smokey Robinson’s “You Really Got a Hold On Me” — the results crackle with pure magic.


She & Him is just the most recent in quite a fascinating string of oddball male/female musical pairings, and in honor of this trend, I thought it would be fun to use the Buzz’s latest playlist to take a look back at several other successful collaborations whose concepts may have seemed strange at first glance, but whose executions were nothing short of exemplary.


1. “Please Read the Letter” — Robert Plant & Alison Krauss (from Raising Sand) — Robert Plant & Alison Krauss - Raising Sand - Please Read the LetterSand seems to be near the top of urrybody’s shortlist (including, most definitely, the Buzz’s) for album of the year honors, and here’s as good a reason as any exactly why. Don’t fail to stand in awe of how the angelic Krauss can make anybody — even that ridiculous ass Brad Paisley (sorry, Sherry Ann) — sound brilliant.

2. “All the Roadrunning” — Mark Knopfler & Emmylou Harris (from All the Roadrunning) — Mark Knopfler And Emmylou Harris - All the Roadrunning - All the Roadrunning — Plant and Krauss almost certainly used this 2006 masterwork as their template; much like Krauss, Harris has a long history of elevating the game of everybody she works with. (Sherry Ann swears Emmylou and Dave Matthews should never leave the house without each other!)

3. “Elephant Love Medley” — Ewan McGregor & Nicole Kidman (from Moulin Rouge [Music from the Motion Picture]) — Ewan McGregor, Jamie Allen & Nicole Kidman - Moulin Rouge - Elephant Love Medley — from one of the most fucked-up films in recent memory, one of the coolest ideas (and renderings of same). This mish-mash of famous love songs could (and, having been entrusted to a pair of actors who haven’t enough combined singing experience to fill a thimble, should) have been an entire disaster; instead, against all odds, it’s dramatic, and thrilling, and alive.

4. “The Prayer” — Josh Groban with Angie Stone (from Josh Groban in Concert) — Josh Groban - Josh Groban in Concert — Charlotte Church performed this with Groban on his debut album, but you’ll forgive me if I much prefer this version. The mix of voices here — his crystalline purity crossed with her raw soul — is not short of revelatory. Even more so for the fact that they did this impromptu before thousands of curious fans.

5. “Stan” — Eminem featuring Dido (from Curtain Call: The Hits) — Eminem & Dido - Curtain Call - The Hits (Deluxe Version) - Stan — the jawdropping smash that lifted good ol’ Marshall from niche novelty to mainstream megastar. The man’s polemical streak can be thoroughly revolting (even when it’s largely an act), but his art — and his artistic mastery of the language — is beyond reproach.

6. “Trout” — Neneh Cherry featuring Michael Stipe (from Homebrew) — Neneh Cherry - Homebrew - Trout — a 1992 classic which, in spite of widespread radio play that summer, went woefully overlooked when Warner Brothers — knowing this tune was a smash just waiting to happen, and fearing that its certain success would overshadow their release of R.E.M.’s monumentally crucial Automatic for the People that fall — blocked Cherry’s label, Virgin Records, from releasing it as an official single. Featuring a bold performance from the ever-ingenious Stipe, this must be the coolest jam about sex edumacation ever composed.

7. “Love at the Five and Dime” — Nanci Griffith featuring Darius Rucker (from The Dust Bowl Symphony) — Nanci Griffith - The Dustbowl Symphony - Love at the Five and Dime — just when you thought Kathy Mattea’s version of this classic (done as a sweet duet with Don Williams) was gonna stand as the definitive take, Griffith stands up and, with an invaluable assist from Hootie’s frontman, defiantly steals it back. Even after nearly a decade, I still get chills whenever I hear this.

8. “Justified and Ancient” — The KLF featuring Tammy Wynette (from Tears of Fire) — Tammy Wynette - Tears of Fire - The 25th Anniversary Collection - Justified and Ancient — the hands-down king of kooky, outlandish pairings, this apeshit crazy four minutes of prodigious pop — a prime artifact from that weird pair of years (which gave us spectacular one hit wonders the likes of Jesus Jones, Divinyls, EMF, and this) between the end of the Madonna eighties and the arrival of the Nirvana nineties — continues to prove that novelty tunes can be — take note, Black Eyed Peas and Gnarls Barkley — fun and brilliant simultaneously.



1 response to “want to split now, just can’t quit now”

  1. the buzz from A.:

    This playlist illustrates the sheer breadth of Brandon’s musical taste; to use Helen’s term, it is literally ginormous! From classic love songs represented in “Elephant Love Medley” to country in “Love at the Five and Dime” to the rather New-Age-y in “The Prayer” to something indescribable in “Justified and Ancient” and so forth, the list seems to cover most genres, at least most American genres.

    My choices from this playlist are exactly the four songs (and, possibly, “Trout”), with a very special nod to Nanci Griffith (whose “Speed of the Sound of Loneliness” is a wonderful, sorrowful piece) and to KLF and Tammy Wynette (“All bound for Mu Mu Land!”; check out the crazy music video here).

    Perhaps one day Brandon will create a playlist of not-so-oddball duets, and in that case, I nominate the following (though, admittedly, it may not have much gravitas for those not familiar with Russian music of the 1980s). Written by the prolific Latvian composer Raymonds Pauls and performed by superstars Layma Vaykule and Valery Leontyev, “Vernisazh” tells the story of two people falling in love at a vernissage (art show) while already being involved with other people and the aggravation the situation creates. Listen to it here.