Olivia Rodrigo, left, and Billie Eilish seem like a natural pairing for a co-headlining tour, sitting in on each other's songs and sharing the spotlight, if that concept made a comeback.

Olivia Rodrigo, left, and Billie Eilish seem like a natural pairing for a co-headlining tour, sitting in on each other's songs and sharing the spotlight, if that concept made a comeback. (AP photos)

Blame it on Kanye. Or, well, kind of.

There was a time, not all that long ago, when true co-headlining tours were all the rage. I’m not talking about a traditional opening act time slot filled by an opening act, only to be followed by a traditional headlining act time slot filled by a headlining act. Instead, I’m talking about tours featuring two headliners that meshed their bands together, sat in on each other’s performances and switched the spotlight back and forth every three or four songs. Nothing was binary.

We can blame Kanye at least partially because it was 2011 when he teamed up with Jay-Z to launch “Watch The Throne,” both a collaborative album and a collaborative tour. The ordeal was novel for its time — it’s not that nothing like it had never been done before because concerts like that can date back decades in many forms, including the old revues Motown or Stax Records would put together, but for the popular culture mainstream in the 2010s, it certainly felt fresh (don’t forget that the Jay-Z/R Kelly package tour came in 2004, but we’re going to put that aside for the sake of this conversation because that felt like an anomaly at the time).

From there, the world saw a weird influx of those types of bills. Jay-Z went on to do a similar jaunt with Justin Timberlake only a couple years later. Sting hit a daily double, first sharing a stage nightly with Peter Gabriel and his band before doing the same with Paul Simon and his band. I was a sucker for those things. The Watch The Throne tour proved to be one of the three best hip-hop shows for which I’ve ever been present while the Sting tours were interesting in their own right (not in a million years did I ever anticipate seeing Sting, in the flesh, sing the chorus to Gabriel’s “Kiss That Frog” alongside the former Genesis frontman).

My biggest question these days: What happened? They came and went and that was about all we got in the 2010s. It was a quick handful of short years and everyone moved on without anyone really reflecting on why artists stopped teaming up like this. Thinking about that way too much recently (as a geek like me would), I started going down the mental rabbit hole of what combination tours in 2024 might make sense. And while it appears the heyday of these mashups is gone, we can dream for another two-to-three years of this concept making a comeback someday ... right?

Either way, here’s some ideas for managers and promoters alike who might want to dip their toes back into the true co-headlining way.

Billie Eilish/Olivia Rodrigo

Of all the possibilities out there, this feels the most natural. Eilish just announced that her next record is coming down the pike next month and Rodrigo is still flying high off 2023’s very good “GUTS.” Imagine the lights go down, Eilish starts things off with “Bad Guy” while Rodrigo sings the harmonies and from there, we get right into a trio of “Driver’s License,” “What Was I Made For?” and “Vampire,” the two trading verses on each song every step of the way. Take all my money.

Morgan Wallen/Hardy

How has this not already happened? The (occasionally problematic) country bros bro-ing out at crowds filled with bros who like to bro-out all night long. Both are poster bros for the latest wave of mainstream country male almost-superstars; why not allow them to grab their respective bottles of Jack Daniels and hit amphitheaters far and wide? Love them or hate them, you wouldn’t be able to deny the drawing power of a tour like that.

Noah Kahan/Ed Sheeran

One’s on the way up. The other ... isn’t necessarily on the way down, but when was the last time Ed Sheeran moved the needle in the seismic way he used to do so regularly? Pairing Kahan with, say, Mumford and Sons might make more sense, but this game can only be played with solo artists, so here we are. The collaborative potential is there and it’s not like these two aren’t some of the most celebrated Pop Guys With Acoustic Guitars in the world. Don’t dismiss it so easily.

Pink/Kelly Clarkson

How great would this be? Arguably the two best pure singers in the pop music game today, these two would combine for one hell of a show. I’d pay top dollar just to see how Pink would approach “The Trouble With Love Is.” Ditto for Clarkson and “Just Give Me A Reason.” This could survive in stadiums, right? Just think about the amount of No. 1 songs between the two.

Kendrick Lamar/J. Cole

Welp. Let me get this straight. J. Cole released a diss track aimed at Kendrick Lamar. A couple days later, Cole got up in front of a live crowd and did something nobody in hip-hop has done in the immediate aftermath of going after someone in song: He apologized. Cole is getting roasted. Lamar is still perceived as a king. How could you not want to see a tour like this?

Taylor Swift/Beyoncé

I have to save the most impossible (and most lucrative) idea for last. Practically speaking, Beyoncé is moonlighting as a country artist these days while Swift is the biggest pop star on the planet so somehow these two changed positions right before our eyes and we didn’t even notice it. I don’t know how the logistics of this would work. They are both doing multiple-night runs at stadiums by themselves, so maybe parachute into a city for a week and perform five of those seven nights?

Who knows. All I know is it would break the music industry. And the Internet. And popular culture as we know it. So, someone has to make it happen before Beyoncé releases her pop-punk album and hits the road with Fall Out Boy. “The Tortured Cowboys Department” has a ring to it, don’t you think?

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