Punk Goes Pop, Volume 7
Genre: Alternative, Punk, Metal
Release Date: July 14, 2017
Label: Fearless Records
There's one thing that was made crystal clear to me after finishing my listening session for Fearless Records' seventh installment in the Punk Goes Pop series: the state of pop music is incredibly bland. There's not a lot of flavor in the types of songs that are hitting the radio, give or take a few standout artists. I'm just grateful that we have a compendium every one to two years that takes some of the songs that would make the average listener go "meh" and turn it on its head.
Punk Goes Pop is a compilation album from the fiercely popular Southern California-based Fearless Records, taking some of the best acts in pop-rock, alternative, punk, and metal, and bringing them together on one CD with a number of pop cover songs that allow each band to showcase their own unique stylings. In past years, there are some tracks that have failed tremendously, while others have remained on my playlist since Volume 2 of the series came out in 2009.
This time around, I'm happy to say that there really aren't any tracks that fail. Some don't really explore outside of the arrangement that the band decided to take on, but it's not a major downfall of the compilation. The opening track is a cover of "Stitches" by Shawn Mendes, performed with an upbeat arrangement from pop-punk outfit State Champs. This is followed by "That's What I Like" by Bruno Mars, covered by none other than Dance Gavin Dance. This particular cover is a perfect example of what the Punk Goes Pop series allows artists to do: take a popular song, and really showcase their own style, while still retaining the original elements of the song. It's rare when a band is able to completely do that, and Dance Gavin Dance have definitely pulled off this feat.
Then again, other tracks take an artist that is of a completely different genre and allows them to showcase what they can do outside of their comfort zone. One of the highlights of this compilation is The Plot In You's cover of James Bay's "Let It Go". The original is a gorgeously composed, emotional song, and rather than putting more of a hardcore spin on it in a way that most fans expected, The Plot In You showed that they are able to be versatile, playing it almost exactly like the original. Landon Tewers' vocal performance on this track is easily one of my favorites of the year.
Kehlani's "Gangsta" was covered by alternative/goth-rock act New Years Day, with the band bringing a unique twist of their own to the original. Ash Costello's vocal lines in this would even give the track's original singer a run for her money. Boston Manor's cover of Twenty One Pilots "Heathens" turns the Suicide Squad soundtrack hit into an almost Nirvana-esque grunge track with highlights of the pop original throughout.
Another really wonderful aspect of the Punk Goes series is its ability to showcase up and coming acts, like on the fourth installment when Tonight Alive's "Little Lion Man" exposed their compositional and musical abilities to a massive wave of fans. Volume seven does this for Philadelphia, PA's Grayscale with a pop-punk-infused cover of Justin Bieber's "Love Yourself". Also in the mix is Newcastle, Australia's five-piece pop-rock act Eat Your Heart Out, who present their spin on Ed Sheeran's "Shape Of You". (Fun fact: both songs were written by Sheeran.)
Certain tracks throughout the album don't veer too far off from the original composition, but they managed to be brightened up by the artists that are covering them. Seaway's cover of The Chainsmokers' "Closer" takes what could be considered a rather boring song and actually makes it likable. The Amity Affliction's take on "Can't Feel My Face" (The Weeknd) and Too Close To Touch's rendition of "In The Name of Love" (Martin Garrix and Bebe Rhexa) remain straightforward in their approach, but both showcase metalcore (The Amity Affliction) and alternative rock (Too Close To Touch) intermixed effectively with hit pop songs. Capsize even throws in a heavy cover of Drake's "Fake Love", showcasing one of the more "out there" takes of the compilation.
There is one duet throughout the course of the fifty minute record, and it comes in the form of an Adele cover. Andy Black, the charismatic frontman for Black Veil Brides, along with his wife and vocalist Juliet Simms, bring forth their interpretation of Adele's "When We Were Young". Obviously, Black's vocal range is lower than Adele's, and the composition here is a tad more upbeat than the Australian vocalist's original, making use of more instrumentation rather than just a piano and light percussion.
Overall, this is an effective and well-constructed version of the Punk Goes Pop series. As I said before, if anything, it showcases that the state of the pop music scene is in a rather desperate need of a facelift. While we find the proper artists to take care of this near-monumental task, we have compendiums like this to hold us over and help us remember the bright side of the music scene, with artists that are willing to put their unique and memorable signature on cover songs.
This has been another Shameless Promotion.