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Best TV Musical Collaborations of 2009

December 22nd, 2009 by Rebecca Harper Editor

We’ll go ahead and say it: 2009 was the year that musical collaborations got big on the small screen. These days, it seems that to build buzz around a TV show, producers are following what we’ll call the digital short method. Following the tried-and-true method of the pre-taped Saturday Night Live digital shorts, they’re creating the equivalent of TV music videos that can be shared online with a single click. The good news for those of us watching online? Since these bits are a chance for actors, writers and musical artists to stretch their creative wings, the majority of them are funny, and so, hot on the heels of Stephen Colbert’s hilariously suburban take on the Alicia Keys/Jay-Z hit “Empire State of Mind,” the Hulu team rounded up some of best musical collaborations to go viral 2009. — Rebecca Harper (), Editor

1) Stephen Colbert/Alicia Keys – “Empire State of Mind (Part II)”

We already knew Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert could sing (see his 2008 Christmas special for proof), but we were absolutely delighted to learn that the political satirist can rap, too. Last week on The Colbert Report, he busted in on Alicia Keys’ performance of “Empire State of Mind,” replacing Jay-Z to offer his own, pointedly suburban take on New York’s concrete jungle: “Hard Rock Cafe for the appetizer deal / M&M Store, Disney Store, I’m in heaven.”

2) Taylor Swift/T-Pain – “Thug Story”
At the June CMT Music Awards, Taylor Swift was well on her way to becoming 2009’s Entertainer of the Year, but it was her “Thug Story,” a pre-taped collaboration with T-Pain, that showed America that this country/pop singing sensation had a sense of humor, too. (It probably paved the way for her hosting/performing appearance on SNL earlier this fall, too.) In this squeaky-clean rap, Swift — aka “T-Swizzle” — proudly boasted “You can find me making cookies at night/You out clubbing? I just made caramel delights.” (This video isn’t available on Hulu, so we’ve embedded it from CMT.com below.)
3) Andy Samberg/T-Pain – “I’m On A Boat”

Sure, T-Pain was making hits well before he teamed up with Andy Samberg and the rest of The Lonely Island back in February. But with “I’m On A Boat,” a Saturday Night Live digital short, Auto-Tune became a mainstream phenomenon, with everyone from Diddy to Jimmy Fallon using the voice modulation tool to mimic the T-Pain sound. Heck, there’s even an app for that now, too.



4) Kristin Chenoweth/Matthew Morrison – “Alone”

When Kristin Chenoweth of the late, great Pushing Daisies guest starred on Glee as April Rhodes, a boozy former show choir sensation, we knew we were in for a treat. After all, Chenoweth is also a Broadway star. Her duet with the show’s Matthew Morrison (Mr. Schuester) delivered all that and more: Not only was it a karaoke cover of “Alone,” one Heart’s best ballads, but it was haunting and a whole lot of fun at the same time. Note to the producers: More April Rhodes in 2010! (This clip isn’t available at this time.)

5) Andy Samberg/Rihanna – “Shy Ronnie”
You can stage a comeback with a candid TV interview by the likes of Diane Sawyer, but Rihanna’s team had an additional way for her to step back into the spotlight: a collaboration with Andy Samberg in an SNL digital short. The pop star did just that in early December as the pair introduced “Shy Ronnie” to the classroom (and the world). Not only did the track have a catchy hook, “like fire and ice,” but it proved that the “Umbrella” singer hadn’t lost her sense of humor.



6) Subtle Sexuality (Mindy Kaling/Ellie Kemper/B.J. Novak/Ed Helms) – “Male Prima Donna”

For fans of The Office, the roller-coaster love affair of Kelly and Ryan the temp (Mindy Kaling and B.J. Novak) isn’t news, but their relationship went viral this fall with the introduction of Subtle Sexuality, the spandex-laden girl group whose first Auto-Tuned single featured cameo appearances by Andy (Ed Helms) and the O.G. prima donna himself, Ryan.

7) Justin Timberlake/Susan Sarandon – “Motherlover”
Sure, “Motherlover,” the sequel to 2006’s “D**k in a Box,” is truly a collaboration between Andy Samberg (SNL) and Justin Timberlake, but when we look back on this viral sensation, it’s Timberlake’s onscreen romance with Susan Sarandon (as Samberg’s mother) that stands out in our minds:”I’m gonna be the syrup/She can be the waffle.” Sarandon showed off a cougar side that we haven’t seen since 1988’s Bull Durham — and we loved it. Talk about the perfect Mother’s Day gift.

8) Jimmy Fallon/The Roots – “Slow Jam the News”
One of the smartest things Jimmy Fallon did when he signed on as host of Late Night was to score The Roots as his house band. Not only has it been fun to see guests strut their stuff as the hip-hop ensemble played funked-up intros, but some of Fallon’s finest moments have come in the form of his “Slow Jam the News” segments. In bits like the one below, Fallon offered his take on the latest headlines as ?uestlove and Co. provide a sexy drumbeat and backup vocals. The news never sounded so good.

9) Donald Glover/Danny Pudi – “La Biblioteca”
Each week on Community, there’s something that makes us stick around through the end credits: the antics of Troy and Abed (Donald Glover and Danny Pudi). In this bit — our favorite of the year — the classmates beat-box it up, Spanish class-style. Of course, after hearing choice lyrics like “the goat’s mustache is Cameron Diaz,” we think these students should perhaps focus on their studies.

10) Ed Norton/Ty Burrell – “True”
In a brilliant move, ABC’s freshman comedy Modern Family cast Ed Norton — better known for starring roles in Fight Club and The Incredible Hulk — as aging Spandau Ballet bassist Izzy LaFontaine. It was a stunt that generated lots of buzz for the series, and Norton’s turn as La Fontaine lived up to all the hype as he appears as a one-of-a-kind anniversary gift from Claire (Julie Bowen) to Phil (Ty Burrell).

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