All pop stars try to expand their audience these days with collaborations, but few this side of rapper Kendrick Lamar have opened their tents as widely as white-hatted country star Brad Paisley, who plays Nassau Coliseum on Thursday night. The singer-guitarist has had hit duets (with Carrie Underwood on "Remind Me"), goofy duets (with the great Little Jimmy Dickens several times) and poignant duets (with Charlie Daniels on last year's underrated domestic-violence rant "Karate").
Of last year's guest-filled "Wheelhouse," which includes the infamously awkward "Accidental Racist," Paisley told a reporter: "I wanted it to feel like a country band in a house bringing in all these other things they liked without rules or walls." Check out five of Paisley's most unexpected (or unexpectedly great) collaborations.
1. "Here Comes the Sun," with Pharrell Williams and Cirque du Soleil, post-Grammy Beatles tribute, broadcast Sunday night. Paisley's voice blended sweetly with super-producer Williams, as acrobats scaled ropes behind them. But the stars of the show were the hats -- Williams' oversized park ranger dwarfed Paisley's trademark white cowboy.
2. "Accidental Racist," with LL Cool J, on 2013's "Wheelhouse." Paisley meant well, but this awkward, tossed-off poem reduces centuries of racism to oversimplified images like wearing a Lynyrd Skynyrd T-shirt while ordering coffee.
3. "Dead Flowers," with the Rolling Stones, Wells Fargo Center, June 2013. Paisley was among the Stones' all-star guests during their brief 2013 run, and the band's choice of its dark 1971 country-rocker "Dead Flowers" accommodated his harmonies and fingerpicking guitar style. "They're desperate," Paisley later deadpanned, before (accurately) praising the Stones as a "great country band when they wanted to be."
4. "Eastwood," with Clint Eastwood, on 2011's "This Is Country Music." When filling an instrumental full of "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly"-style whistling and naming it after the world's greatest living Western movie star, why not invite the man himself for a cameo? "You want Western?" Eastwood rasps at the beginning. "This is a Western."
5. "Cornography," with the Kung Pao Buckaroos, from 2005's "Time Well Wasted," starring Bill Anderson, the late George Jones and Little Jimmy Dickens, plus Dolly Parton as the femme fatale. The country legends rasp from a shticky action-movie script and can't stop croaking with laughter.
WHO Brad Paisley
WHEN | WHERE Thursday at 7:30, Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale