Can Miley Cyrus escape the curse of Elton John?

The younger singer has appeared on stage with the Rocket Man at the Grammys, but will she find, like so many others, that duetting with the great man is a career kiss of death?

A performer as flamboyant as Elton John would never exit the stage quietly, and this week’s announcement of his retirement performance happily coincided with news of a three-year farewell tour. Still, while fans, florists and makers of garish outfits prepare to mourn the Rocket Man’s last stands, it might come as a relief to those for whom a duet with the piano-playing singer has meant a career kiss of death.

Kiki Dee

“Don’t go breaking my heart,” sang the songstress in 1976. “I couldn’t if I tried,” replied our Elton, chivalrously. But while the pair’s stomping Don’t Go Breaking My Heart topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic, Bradford-born Kiki wouldn’t trouble the US charts again until 1993, when True Love, another Elton duet, limped to No 56.

Scissor Sisters

Jake Spears, Ana Matronic and pals had enjoyed a run of smashes before they bravely risked the Faustian pact of work with Elton. Their 2006 chart-topper I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’ – the band’s biggest single – probably describes exactly how they felt when their hits immediately dried up.


Slim Shady’s duet of Stan with gay icon EJ at the 2001 Grammys was meant to answer criticisms of homophobia in his lyrics. This worked so wonderfully that the superstar rapper gave Elton a pair of diamond-encrusted dildos as a thank you. Eminem went on to sell 22m copies of The Eminem Show, but rarely reached the same creative peaks.

Pete Doherty

Elton and the Libertine’s disastrous Live 8 stab at T Rex’s Children of the Revolution was universally unloved, not least by the artists, as the curse struck again. Elton called his lyric-forgetting partner “a mess”.

Those who avoided it

Being on Elton’s 1993 Duets album didn’t visibly help PM Dawn or Nik Kershaw. Praise, then, for serial duetter Yog, whose long career wasn’t impaired by Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me, a 1991 transatlantic No 1 with Elton. Others who also went on to bigger fame after famous duets with Elton include Ed Sheeran (at the 2013 Grammys) and Lady Gaga (in a star-making turn at the 2010 Grammys). The curse’s hopes currently rest with Miley Cyrus, who boldly took the stage with Elton at the badly received Grammys this week. Still, Elton has nothing on David Bowie. The Thin White Duke’s 1977 duet partners – Marc Bolan and Bing Crosby – failed to last the year.


Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

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