Since its first rendition back in 2002, Fearless Records’ “Punk Goes Pop” has given a whole new meaning to the term “pop punk.” The concept is simple: give punk bands the opportunity to put a spin on some of Top 40 radio’s favorite chart-toppers, and after three very successful releases, Fearless has given fans number four. For the most part, these heavier bands have always pulled through, delivering an original sound, despite the fact that these tracks are not all their own. There are many that, even objectively, may in fact be even better than the original. That being said, however, with any album, there are always a few that just slightly miss the mark.
This time around, it may be the opener, All Star Weekend, with their cover of Chris Brown’s “Yeah 3X.” Although I’ve always been a fan of these compilations, I’ll be blatantly honest: there is nothing original about this song, and it falls flat in comparison to the later tracks on the album. For someone who isn’t particularly familiar with Brown’s voice, they might not even be able to tell the difference between the pop and punk version. The music is relatively all the same, and it seems that the only thing that’s been altered are the vocals, and even this isn’t incredibly obvious; Vocalist Zach Porter’s voice carries it well, nonetheless.
This is still a punk album, though, meaning that despite whether or not you’re a fan, (I’ll admit it-I’m not) the heavier, borderline “screamo” tweaks to the chart topping hits are inevitable, and in this case, Bands like Chunk! No Captain Chunk and For All Those Sleeping seem to be doing exactly what fans have known them to do. I will say, however, that Taylor Swift’s quirky, fairytale-esque “You Belong With Me,” along with Katy Perry’s “Last Friday Night (TGIF)” are barely recognizable unless you’re looking. Though maybe that was their intent, and if so, I won’t criticize.
Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” is taken on by a courageous Go Radio, who manage to soar through the chorus and impressively make it their own. The same can be said for Tonight Alive’s take on “Little Lion Man,” which also gives a fresh, new sound to what we might otherwise say the radio has managed to overplay. Jenna McDougall’s voice is not only powerful, but hypocritically sweet, and although it shouldn’t work in theory, somehow the band pulls out strong, making it a definite top contender. Though the true shining moment goes to The Downtown Fiction, who take on Nicki Minaj’s “Super Bass.” Not only do they strip out most of the autotune-esque sound from the original, but frontman Cameron Leahy impressively keeps a similar tempo to which Minaj has become so well known for since the start. The addition of the guitars and catchy rifts in true “pop punk” fashion give it the sort of sound that are enough to easily pit it up against the original. For some, it may even surpass it.
It’s still evident to remember that these are cover songs. That being said, it’s interesting to see how little or how much bands are able to make them all their own, without entirely changing the context. This has been the fun since the first “Punk Goes Pop” was put out, and since then, either us as the audience have become more narrow minded, or perhaps the originality is all beginning to sound the same. The redundancy comes when the bar is set high, when in fact, these songs really shouldn’t be taken into account as anything more than something clever and fun.
This album is not particularly strong, but it certainly isn’t weak, either. While there are a few songs I’m not a huge fan of, there are others that I’ll be queuing into my iTunes playlists very shortly. And this is the diverse aspect of this series: there seems to be at least two or three songs for everyone. You may not find that you’re falling in love with the album in all it’s entirety, but whether you’re looking for an acoustic breakdown, an additional screaming rendition, or something somewhere in the middle, it shouldn’t be too far off. Fearless may not go platinum with this one, but it’ll certainly deem itself a few playlist worthy tunes, nonetheless.