The worst words in pop: 'We'd like to sing a duet...'

As Kylie and Jason prepare to reprise their 1988 'Neighbours' hit, Genevieve Roberts recalls other twosomes best forgotten

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The Independent Culture

Pleas for mercy rang out across the UK last week as it emerged that Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan are reuniting, to sing a duet.

Twenty-three years ago, the duo – better known at the time as Scott and Charlene from the Australian soap Neighbours – performed Especially For You, the tune that became the soundtrack to their on-screen wedding. This time around, they will be warbling in Hyde Park in central London, with fellow record label mates, at an event next month called Hit Factory Live.

Ms Minogue is possibly misguided in her conviction that the nation will be overcome with gratitude when the duo gets back together, so many years on. "I don't think we'll even need to sing it," she said. "I'm sure the audience all went through the Neighbours wedding. It's going to bring the house down. Even though it's outdoors."

The release was indeed more popular in the UK than in any other market, but that was 1988. The UK has moved on. Critics suggest the duets of the Eighties should remain in that decade, as unfortunate entries in our history books.

Ms Minogue and Mr Donovan follow in the disreputable footsteps of musical heavyweights Sir Mick Jagger and David Bowie, who have spent decades recovering their reputations after performing Dancing in the Street in 1985, and Mel Smith and Kim Wilde, who in 1987 gave us Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree. Phil Collins hit an all-time low when he teamed up with Philip Bailey for Easy Lover, while Willie Nelson and Julio Iglesias's toe-curling paean To All the Girls I've Loved Before, still evokes shudders in many quarters.

Gwyneth Paltrow and Huey Lewis suffered a temporary lapse of reason in releasing their joint performance of the soul standard Cruisin' in 2000.

Tragically, it seems singers refuse to learn the lessons of the past. Gary Barlow took to the stage last week with Cheryl Cole at the Queen's diamond jubilee concert for a performance of Need You Now which, even on this goodnatured occasion, was hard to file under anything but dire.

Obviously, the duet can produce some delights. Few would cavil at Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel performing Don't Give Up; Debbie Harry and Iggy Pop's spirited version of Well, Did You Evah!; or Morrissey and Siouxsie Sioux reuniting for another rendition of Interlude.

Ironic appeal it may have, but some internet posts suggest people are considering fleeing the capital if the authorities do not step in to put a stop to the Jason/Kylie reunion.

Do you think two's a crowd when it comes to music? Please tweet your yeas, nays, and nominations for the worst duet ever, to @IndyonSunday #jasonandkylie

Mick Jagger and David Bowie

Dancing in the Street, 1985

Combine the swaggering energy of Jagger and the iconoclastic brilliance of Bowie. What could possibly go wrong? The video, that's what. Recorded in less than a day and one of the most buttock-clenchingly awful misuses of music and visuals in modern history, it serves as a warning to wrinkly rockers and would-be duetters everywhere.

Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder

Ebony and Ivory, 1982

It was supposed to be a song about peace and love, but the teeth-rotting harmonies and Hallmark card lyrics earned it a thoroughly well-deserved "worst duet ever" award from Radio 6 Music listeners. It reached No 1 in the charts, proving that you can fool most of the people some of the time. Parodies performed on Spitting Image, Father Ted and Saturday Night Live are infinitely superior.

Glenn Hoddle and Chris Waddle

Diamond Lights, 1987

Hoddle and Waddle were highly talented on the football pitch. But why they thought this qualified them to record themselves singing is beyond human ken. It comes as no surprise that Diamond Lights is one of the more embarrassing moments in popular music history. Luckily, the dynamic duo returned to their core skills quickly after this totally misguided mish-mash.

Mel Smith and Kim Wilde

Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree, 1987

Raising money for charity, especially Comic Relief, excuses a multitude of sins. But not this. Smith and Wilde's sacrificial slaughter of the Brenda Lee hit was made worse, if possible, by the liberal sprinkling of "How about pulling my cracker?" quips. Little that either has done before or since can entirely absolve them. Seasonal taste-lapse propelled it to No 3 in the charts.

Gwyneth Paltrow and Huey Lewis

Crusin', 2000

In the film Duets, Paltrow (amateur karaoke daughter) and Lewis (karaoke hustler dad) came together to perform what music website has declared the worst-ever duet. The pair compounded their sin by releasing their mangling of the Smokey Robinson hit. It appears the song's lyric "Let the music take your mind" came true. But not in a good way.