Let’s go a step beyond the ever-loved Moldy Peaches song, “Anybody Else But You,” and take a peek at other duets of the past decade. Long gone are the days of schmaltzy love songs (thankfully). That said, boy/girl duets are still very popular. Below are tracks that ought to be recognized for how sincere, open, and relatable they are. Much appreciation for the modern twist of the classic song style.
Synthy shoegaze pop doing it right. Let me clarify: using the dreamy sound to frame the story of two kids daydreaming about each other? Couldn’t have been better utilized. It gets pretty intense, too. Oh, that teenage love. It’s the simplicity of the word play: “come over now so we can fu… get about everything,” that makes it a perfect song of bold longing for the otherwise stilted, awkward, shy kid.
This is the most introspective one on the list, guys. “One more night, the end should be a good one,” is what the two voices in this piece can agree on. And it’s the only thing. Too bad the characters are too busy being selfish to their own needs and picking each other apart to even enjoy their fleeting time together. Plus, bonus, the music is a character in this song, too. After the voices have told their sides of the story, the long, winding musical interlude tells us, the listener, the timeline of the relationship. It’s messy, multilayered and repeats itself. Sound familiar?
Not a lot of harmonies or call and response (the typical things that make a duet interesting, right?) but it’s the repetition that does the trick with this song. Two voices repeating “it’s been a long time coming” with the refrain “I’m gonna stab your kissy kissy mouth.” Yes, yes, yes. And the steady crescendo from start to finish on the track as the two voices repeat (to each other?) their threat. Understated and simple, the Kills always have it.
Fearsome call and response in this one. Her demanding respect and him calling her out on her bullshit. (And you bet I’m featuring two Alison Mosshart songs in a row.) This track is wild and have you seen the music video? (Hats off to director Jonathan Glazer, we dig it.) Ooh, man. How can I describe “Treat Me Like Your Mother” other than calling it a sung paso doble? Fierce stuff. Keep it up.
Hipster elitist, calm thyself. The Postal Service aren’t a terrible band (and you loved them, too, at one point, I’m sure of it). Now that we have that out of the way, can we acknowledge what an honest track “Nothing Better” is? It’s a simple, familiar story: a couple breaking up. Voices not just addressing each other but pleading with one another; his desperation to hold on and her desperation to let go. It seems to me that it would be impossible for anyone whose had their heart stomped on even once in their life to not feel a hard hit from this one’s raw, vulnerable lyricism.
A sweet duet. This number is pulled from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman’s psycho opera Stop The Virgens. The opera itself tells the tragedy of youth corrupted. This song in particular is early in the opera and expresses a rather pure, honest—I hesitate to say “innocent”—thought, “when we leave can we leave goodbyes behind? And if we do, your devotion makes me wanna die.” Let’s break it down. Unlike the other songs in this list, the voices are in complete agreement with each other. It goes beyond that, even: it’s less two voices singing to (or at) each other and more one voice reflecting the other. Their song, its message, is so personal. By having it be a duet, a reflection of voices, that very personal message becomes universal. Quite the creative use of the duet if I do say so myself.
Image: Kurt Halsey