Sometimes it takes two incredible artists to create a hit. This is a list of songs where two singers share equal vocal credits on the track. In other words, these are duets only. The ranking is based on performance on the weekly Billboard Hot 100 since it launched in August 1958.
Here’s to the power of two!
1. ‘Endless Love’ by Diana Ross & Lionel Richie, 1981
Diana Ross & Lionel Richie’s “Endless Love” is at the top of the list of the best duets of all time. Why? Well, not only is it the biggest No. 1 hit for both artists (having spent nine weeks at the top), it also clung to the chart for 27 weeks. That’s a long run for a single back in 1981.
Richie wrote the music and the lyrics for the song for the soundtrack of the Brooke Shields movie called ‘Endless Love.’ He recruited Ross to join him on the song’s vocals. The hit single almost returned to the Hot 100 spot 13 years later when Luther Vandross and Mariah Carey did a cover that stayed at No. 2 on October 1, 1994.
2. ‘Say Say Say’ by Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson, 1983
Seeing the names Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney next to each other is a surefire way to make music fans’ heads turn (or better yet, bob to the beat). It was back in 1983 when “Say, Say, Say” was released. The super duo spent six weeks on top of the Billboard Hot 100 and was the second of two duets from the two artists, following “The Girl Is Mine” (from 1983).
The stars disconnected after 1985 when Jackson purchased the ATV catalog of songs (which included a large majority of the Beatles’ catalog). McCartney was later quite cold to Jackson, but after he passed in 2009, he issued a statement about the King of Pop, saying, “I feel privileged to have hung out and worked with Michael. He was a massively talented boy man with a gentle soul. His music will be remembered forever, and my memories of our time together will be happy ones.”
3. ‘The Boy Is Mine’ by Brandy & Monica, 1998
This duet had all the ingredients of a smash hit. First of all, it paired up two rising teen female R&B stars Brandy and Monica. Each artist had four top 10 Billboard Hot 100 hits of her own, but not yet a No. 1 hit. And second, rumors were swirling around that the two ladies weren’t exactly friendly with each other.
Third of all, the lyrics of the song was all about fighting over a man. It was the perfect subject matter for alleged rivals to sing about. The result was a No. 1 hit that lasted for 13 weeks at the top. It was one of only seven singles in the chart’s history to spend the amount of time at No. 1.
4. ‘Ebony And Ivory’ by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder, 1982
Yet another appearance on this list by Paul McCartney. The track was recorded for McCartney’s “Tug Of War” album. The duet spent seven weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100, making it the longest-running solo No. 1 for both McCartney and Stevie Wonder.
“Ebony and Ivory” is something of a “can’t we get along?” type of song, with the lyric: “Ebony and ivory live together in perfect harmony / side by side on my piano keyboard, oh lord why don’t we?”
5. ‘Dilemma’ by Nelly & Kelly Rowland, 2002
If you’re a member of a group in which there is a clear lead singer, it isn’t easy to break out on your own. So, for Destiny’s Child’s Kelly Rowland, her first break away from the group was quite an event.
It’s something that could have gone either way, but it ended up making a big impact. Her “Dilemma” duet with rapper Nelly notched a very nice 10-week run at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. It turned Rowland into a solo star, and not just a backing vocalist to Beyoncé.