The 20 best duets of all time, ranked

1 November 2023, 14:42

The greatest duets of all time
The greatest duets of all time. Picture: Getty

By Tom Eames

If you're looking to add some gravitas to a pop banger, then you can't go wrong by making it a duet.

From '60s soul anthems to '80s power ballads, we've picked the very best duet songs of all time, for when you're searching for the ultimate karaoke playlist.

  1. Whitney Houston & Mariah Carey - 'When You Believe'

    Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey - When You Believe (Official HD Video)

    Despite rumours that they hated each other for years, two of the biggest female artists in the world came together for the soundtrack of Disney's The Prince of Egypt.

    Whitney said of working with Mariah: "I enjoyed working with her very much. Mariah and I got along very great. We had never talked and never sang together before. We just had a chance for camaraderie, singer-to-singer, artist-to-artist, that kind of thing."

  2. Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes - 'Up Where We Belong'

    An Officer and a Gentleman • Up Where We Belong • Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes

    It's impossible to hear this song and not think of Richard Gere in his navy whites in An Officer and a Gentleman.

    This Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes duet topped the US charts and won an Oscar, though producer Don Simpson was apparently convinced it would be a flop. Hindsight, eh?

  3. Neil Diamond & Barbra Streisand - 'You Don't Bring Me Flowers'

    Barbra Streisand Neil Diamond - You Don't Bring Me Flowers

    This duet is about two lovers who have drifted apart over time, while they "go through the motions" and heartache of life together. It was intended as the theme tune for the short-lived TV show All That Glitters, and was later recorded as two separate solo versions by Neil Diamond and Barbara Streisand.

    After an early form of 'mashup' featuring the two versions gained popularity, an official duet was recorded by the pair, and it became a huge hit - helped a lot by their sexually-charged duet at the Oscars.

  4. John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John - 'You're the One that I Want'

    John Travolta And Olivia Newton John - You're The One That I Want

    Along with 'Summer Nights', Olivia and John scored two of the biggest hits of all time, let alone the 1970s.

    Both songs featured on the Grease soundtrack in 1978, and reached number one in the UK and sold 15 million copies worldwide.

  5. Phil Collins & Philip Bailey - 'Easy Lover'

    Philip Bailey, Phil Collins - Easy Lover

    Phil Collins was producing American singer Philip Bailey’s new album in 1984 when Bailey approached him at the end of the sessions and asked him to write a song together.

    Phil later said of the song: “The hip-hop brigade fell in love with me after ‘Easy Lover’. They were like, ‘Where’d that come from? That ain’t black music and that ain’t white music. That’s kind of an interesting colour of beige”.

  6. Pet Shop Boys & Dusty Springfield - 'What Have I Done to Deserve This?'

    Pet Shop Boys - What Have I Done To Deserve This (Official Video) [HD REMASTERED]

    Not the most obvious collaboration on paper, but it worked brilliantly. This song gave the Pet Shop Boys another number one in the UK, and a number two in the US. It also helped revive Dusty's career.

    Neil Tennant had wanted to collaborate with Dusty, who had been one of his childhood heroes for many years, but her management only accepted after the worldwide success of their debut album Please.

  7. Bryan Adams & Mel C - 'When You're Gone'

    Bryan Adams - When You're Gone ft. Melanie C

    Sheryl Crow was actually the first choice to sing this classic duet before Spice Girl Mel C got involved. "When I was first doing it, I asked Sheryl Crow to do it and never heard back from her!" Bryan Adams later said.

    "I was in LA at the time and got in the lift at the hotel and in walked Mel and I said 'hey Mel!' and she said 'Hi'. I said: 'We should sing something together' and she said 'I'd love to!' Then I said: 'I've got one for you!'"

    Weirdly, Bryan later released a new version with actress Pamela Anderson for his Anthology album.

  8. Elton John & Kiki Dee - 'Don't Go Breaking My Heart'

    Elton John - Don't Go Breaking My Heart (with Kiki Dee)

    Elton John scored his first UK number one single with this classic track, which he and songwriting partner Bernie Taupin originally intended to be with Dusty Springfield.

    However, Dusty withdrew the offer due to illness, and so relatively unknown singer Kiki Dee stepped in.

    The song was intended as an affectionate parody of the Motown style, notably the duets recorded by Marvin Gaye with Tammi Terrell and Kim Weston. And it worked!

  9. Michael Jackson & Siedah Garrett - 'I Just Can't Stop Loving You'

    Michael Jackson - I Just Can't Stop Loving You (Feat. Siedah Garrett)

    The first single taken from Michael's Bad album, Siedah's presence on the track was a last-minute decision by Michael and producer Quincy Jones, after their first two choices, Barbra Streisand and Whitney Houston, both declined.

    Before then, Siedah was a protégé of Jones's who co-wrote 'Man in the Mirror', and she didn't know that she would be singing the song until the day of the recording session.

  10. Sonny & Cher - 'I Got You Babe'

    I Got You Babe - Sonny and Cher Top of the Pops 1965

    Technically we're only including duets between artists who don't normally sing together, but we're making an exception for this one.

    Then-lovers Sonny & Cher recorded this iconic duet in 1965, giving them a massive number one hit around the world.

    UB40 and Chrissie Hynde later teamed up for their own duet of the song 30 years later.

  11. Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell - 'Ain't No Mountain High Enough'

    Ain't No Mountain High Enough (extra HQ) - Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell

    Songwriters Ashford & Simpson described this song as their 'golden egg' which got them their first Motown gig.

    Dusty Springfield wanted to record it first, but the duo turned her down so that they could secure Motown, and it landed with Marvin and Tammi Terrell, who scored a big hit with their original in 1967.

    Three years later, Diana Ross achieved her first solo US number one with a cover version using a different arrangement.

  12. Patti Labelle & Michael McDonald - 'On My Own'

    Patti LaBelle - On My Own (Official Music Video) ft. Michael McDonald

    Written and produced by Burt Bacharach and his former wife Carole Bayer Sager, it was first recorded by Dionne Warwick but she decided not to release it.

    A year later, Patti Labelle recorded it brilliantly as a duet with Michael McDonald, and it became a huge number one hit in the US.

  13. Diana Ross & Lionel Richie - 'Endless Love'

    Diana Ross & Lionel Richie Endless Love 1981

    Recorded by two Motown legends, this song was written as the theme for the Franco Zeffirelli film of the same name.

    It ended up becoming both of their biggest hits in America, and was named by Billboard as the greatest duet of all time, and helped elevate Lionel as a solo star.

  14. Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper - 'Shallow'

    Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper - Shallow (From A Star Is Born/Live From The Oscars)

    Barbra Streisand already had huge success with her '70s version of A Star is Born, including the song 'Evergreen'. But Gaga and Cooper had their own triumph with their 2018 remake.

    'Shallow' was one of many hugely popular songs from the soundtrack, and the heartbreaking ballad reached number one in the UK, and also won the Oscar for Best Song.

  15. Robbie Williams & Kylie Minogue - 'Kids'

    Robbie Williams, Kylie Minogue - Kids

    Robbie decided to turn this song into a duet, and was written when Kylie approached him to write her some songs for what would be her album Light Years.

    It was then that Robbie noticed their chemistry and decided to include it on his album too.

    It remains one of the greatest pop duets of all time, and is always a winner at karaoke, especially if you can remember Robbie's rap at the end.

  16. Queen & David Bowie - 'Under Pressure'

    Queen - Under Pressure (Official Video)

    A duet like no other, this anthem saw rock legends Queen team up with the one and only David Bowie.

    Brian May said of the song's tricky process: "It was hard, because you had four very precocious boys and David, who was precocious enough for all of us."

  17. The Pogues & Kirsty MacColl - 'Fairytale of New York'

    The Pogues - Fairytale Of New York (Official Video)

    This song just missed out on being the Christmas number one back in 1987, but has gone on to become one of the nation's favourite Christmas songs ever.

    That's all thanks to the tale of an on-off couple's bickering conversation between Shane MacGowan and Kirsty MacColl.

    The song was written as the result of a wager made by Pogues producer Elvis Costello, who said that the band would not be able to write a Christmas hit single. How wrong he was!

  18. Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes - '(I've Had the) Time of My Life'

    Bill Medley, Jennifer Warnes - (I've Had) The Time Of My Life (Official HD Video)

    Proving that Jennifer Warnes was the undisputed queen of 1980s movie soundtracks, this time she teamed up with Righteous Brothers singer Bill for the main song from Dirty Dancing in 1987.

    People have been attempting (usually unsuccessfully) to do the Patrick Swayze 'lift' to the song ever since.

  19. George Michael & Aretha Franklin - 'I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)'

    George Michael, Aretha Franklin - I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me) (Official Video)

    This one-off project between two giants allowed George Michael to perform with one of his all-time favourite artists, Aretha Franklin.

    Co-written by Simon Climie of Climie Fisher fame, it was a number one hit in both the UK and the US.

    It was also Aretha's first top 10 in the UK since 'I Say a Little Prayer' two decades earlier.

  20. Dolly Parton & Kenny Rogers - 'Islands in the Stream'


    The Bee Gees originally wrote the song for Marvin Gaye in an R&B style, but later changed it to fit Kenny Rogers’ album. Recently speaking about how he wasn't a fan of the song, Kenny explained: “I finally said, ‘Barry [Gibb], I don’t even like this song anymore’ and he said, ‘You know what we need? We need Dolly Parton'.

    “I had a recording studio at the time and she was downstairs and my manager Ken Kragen said, ‘I just saw her!’ and I said, ‘Well, go get her!’ He went downstairs and she came marching into the room, and once she came in and started singing the song was never the same. It took on a personality of its own.”

    Dolly Parton interview: 40 years of Islands in the Stream and writing 'Jolene'