Tuesday Ten: Pop Goes Punk

By | November 25, 2014 at 3:00 PM

The Punk Goes Pop series is six volumes deep at this point, celebrating the release of its most recent compilation this week — but what if we were able to flip the script and pull in artists from the world of mainstream pop to take on music from our scene? For this week’s Tuesday Ten, our writers let their imaginations run wild to put together our top contenders for Pop Goes Punk…dream with us and check out the list below.

Bruno Mars x The Summer Set

Don’t even try and tell me upon seeing this match you’re not thinking “yes”. Bruno Mars is pop’s cheekiest sweetheart, and Brian Logan Dales is pop punk’s run for his money. They both know how to charm the ladies with their sugary sweet vocals, and yes, they can pull off a bow tie. If Bruno won’t cover one of The Summer Set’s songs, we’d settle for a duet. “Boomerang” has enough energy to get anyone on the dancefloor, and even more pop culture references than Bruno Mars’s “The Lazy Song”. There’s a great mix of acoustic riffs, bouncy synths, and bubbly choruses that would make Bruno feel completely at home. There’s a kind of unabashed cuteness to this TSS song, which Bruno Mars is king of. Compare it to the acoustic sparkle of “The Lazy Song”, and you can already imagine Mars making “Boomerang” into an even smoother pop melody, with plenty of that irrepressible personality. I’d love to see how he’d transform the already lively beat into a pop mix with a retro twist. There’s no better cross-genre match in charisma, musicality, and pure charm. Plus, regardless of genre or celebrity, who wouldn’t want to be like Jay-Z and Beyoncé? (Alex Bear)

Demi Lovato x Rise Against

Demi Lovato is one of pop music’s fiercest competitors. While strictly a top 40 worthy songstress, she brings a certain edge that introduces kids ’round the world to rock and roll glamour. Beyond the stage presence and star power, however, Lovato also packs a killer voice. A woman who could cause “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” to bring you to tears, it’s easy to wonder what it would be like if she were to grace the mic with a Rise Against original. With the insane passion and undeniable emotion the rock band pumps into every one of their songs, duplicating it would present Lovato with one hell of a challenge — but we think she’d conquer it. Imagining how her voice would sound over the riffs of “Savior” is enough to send chills through your spine. (Reversing the roles, however, is a little more difficult to dream up. Hearing Tim McIlrath fight off the inescapable feeling of a crush in “Heart Attack” is a little far fetched, but the slower “Skyscraper” might work, if a handful of guitar leads and a mosh-worthy drum were incorporated in.) (Emillie Marvel)

Ed Sheeran x State Champs

Ed Sheeran deserves praise as one of the best songwriters out there today through his own work and co-writing, while State Champs have caught fire in the new pop punk wave of bands with the emergence of vocalist Derek DiScanio’s infectious tone, which sounds like a crossbreed of Jonny Craig and Parker Cannon all tied together with huge drums and catchy guitar riffs. The song “Elevated”, the latest single off of State Champs’ newest record The Finer Things, would be perfect for Ed because he writes such an aggressive style for pop, which would make him the perfect fit for the track. Stripping it down to just the acoustic guitar and Ed belting the heartfelt lyrics would culminate in a hidden gem. (Joseph Britton)

Eminem x La Dispute

There are so many reasons why Eminem would be a perfect candidate for covering La Dispute. First off, they are both from Michigan–something that clearly seems to carry a lot of baggage for both parties. But more specifically, the next time you bump La Dispute’s “Such Small Hands,” simply start rapping Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” over it when the drums kick in. Apply this method using a variety of La Dispute songs and you will find that the two artists are really not all that different. Sure, La Dispute is a post hardcore band with influences in jazz, blues, punk, what have you. But what makes Eminem really any different? Eminem is hardcore in his approach to music in a very similar sense and his music draws from most of the same roots. For instance, his instrumentation, although mostly electronic, is typically in minor keys and the vibe is often dark and moody. And it’s not uncommon for an Eminem track to feature a heavily distorted or arpeggiated guitar lick to add edge and aggression to the music. Likewise, La Dispute shares many commonalities with Eminem in their approach to music. The biggest distinction is that they choose to use real instrumentation to execute their emotional dynamics and intensities. The clever diction, phrasing, flow, and quick wit behind the vocal performances are still there as Jordan Dreyer alternates from a hushed monologue to a broken shout. In a similar sense, Eminem will go from calm and collect to completely irate within seconds. Whether it’s an automatic beat or a full-band arrangement, there is always a steady groove that backs an articulate spoken word performance that gets incredibly personal. The intensity of both artists holds equal weight and the intent is practically the same. At the end of the day, Jordan and Marshall are just two skinny white dudes from the motor city trying to get some things off their chest–and they do it in strikingly similar ways. I think they could learn a lot from each other. (Ethan Rose)

Justin Timberlake x Copeland

For someone who’s about as entrenched in mainstream pop music as you can be, Justin Timberlake sure doesn’t seem concerned with the genre’s usual conventions. His most recent effort The 20/20 Experience — a sprawling two-part project whose average song runs over seven minutes — is proof positive of that. Easily Timberlake’s most experimental work to date, the album sees him embracing minimalistic production and ambience in a way that no other massive pop star ever has. It’s not unlike the way that Copeland channel their pop influences, particularly on their more recent work: each element perfectly weighted, with electronics dressing up the brilliant songwriting that lies at each track’s core. These parallels would make JT covering Copeland an absolute dream — imagine him putting his own spin on a song like “Should You Return” or “The Day I Lost My Voice”. Our spines might never be the same after those kinds of chills. (Eleanor Grace)

Lorde x Paramore

Lorde is known for for her minimalistic musical style, and her debut Pure Heroine is just as glamorous as her mature voice. She’s not afraid to lay the sarcasm on thick with “Tennis Court,” declaring, “Don’t you think it’s boring how people talk?” And it’s a parallel to Paramore’s “Ain’t It Fun”—despite how lighthearted the single may sound, the cheery instrumentals coat over lyrics that are actually quite sarcastic: “Ain’t it fun living in the real world / Ain’t it good being all alone?” Lorde has the kind of style that could cover “Ain’t It Fun” and still be just as catchy as the original, all while exposing just how brusque the song really is with glossy instrumentals and bass rumbles. Her vocals are mysterious and enticing, like a modern day siren call, and would be perfect for a stripped-down cover of “Ain’t It Fun” with satire stamped all over it. (Emily Yee)

One Direction x Cute Is What We Aim For

With the release of their new album FOUR, the British boybanders in One Direction are inching ever closer to at least being the illusion of a real band while still hanging onto the pop irresistibility of the “What Makes You Beautiful” days. Although they’ve been inactive for quite some time (with the exception of this summer’s Warped Tour stint), a band who has a similarly saccharine-sweet sound is Cute Is What We Aim For. Their songs have such a deep-rooted sense of insanely catchy melodies and harmonies that it’s nearly impossible to get songs like “The Curse of Curves” out of your head – I know I still know all of the words, and I haven’t listened to those songs in years. For their cover, 1D would have the power to turn the lust-ridden song into one that’s maybe a bit more innocent with the boys’ voices harmonizing over an acoustic guitar and shining production. (Tarynn Law)

OneRepublic x Yellowcard

Yellowcard have always struck me as brilliant. The band crafts magnificent songs ranging from epic anthems to heartfelt ballads, and their latest release Lift A Sail proves that more than ever. It is this kind of musicianship that makes them a prime candidate for a OneRepublic cover. OneRepublic are another brilliant band who have the ability to combine pop music with meaningful lyrics, which is hard to do in mainstream music these days. Though their respective genres are not entirely similar, it gives OneRepublic a bit of a challenge to make one of Yellowcard’s rock ballads their own. The new record especially lends itself to a cover by OneRepublic—I can already imagine a sweeping piano taking the place of guitar, and the sweet high notes of the violin taken down a couple of octaves with OneRepublic’s signature cello. The fast paced drums would slow down to a bass-heavy rhythm accompanied by sharp synths for a touch of flair. And of course, OneRepublic vocalist Ryan Tedder would add silken vocals and an extensive range to the music, which is where I imagine the cover would shine. On songs like “Lift a Sail” or “One Bedroom,” OneRepublic could truly transform the song into something different. Even though Yellowcard are a rock band and OneRepublic definitely fall more on the pop side of the spectrum, seeing the two musical styles come together on a cover for Pop Goes Punk would be something worth hearing. Time to step up your game, Fearless. (Hannah Pierangelo)

Rihanna x PVRIS

With the release of their debut album White Noise, PVRIS jumped onto the music scene with a bang and have certainly made a name for themselves in 2014. Lynn Gunnulfsen’s celestial yet piercing voice brought a unique sound to the punk world—much like what Rihanna brought to the pop rankings in 2008 with the chart-topping “Umbrella.” The two powerhouse female vocalists fit in with each of their respective genres, but both also have the ability and vocal range to cross over effortlessly. So, why not have RiRi cover PVRIS’s “Mirrors”? It’s the kind of cover one could only hope and dream for. “Mirrors,” with its upbeat and poppy hooks mixed with a hint of darker rock elements, fits in with the likes of Rihanna’s “We Found Love,” “Diamonds”, and even “Disturbia.” Honestly, it’s not too far-fetched as both songbirds can really kill the high notes and drive home the powerful emotion in their lyrics. While Lynn and the rest of the band perfectly execute their original version, I can’t help but think that RiRi would add a more sexual, seductive element that would give the song a nice twist. Put Rihanna on this track and we’ll be dancing, maybe headbanging. Yeah, headbanging—that’s what I want to do with a Rihanna-PVRIS cover. (Alyson Stokes)

Taylor Swift x The Story So Far

The Story So Far first blew up with Under Soil and Dirt, a collection of brazen, unapologetic break-up songs—so who better to interpret them than the mainstream’s queen of break-up songs, Taylor Swift? When it comes to songwriting, neither Swift nor Parker Cannon have any qualms grilling those who have wronged them. There really isn’t too much difference in Swift going from singing “She’s better known / For the things that she does / On the mattress” to “Do you look yourself straight in the eyes / And think about who you let between your thighs.” Of course, Swift’s cover will sound dramatically different. She would probably replace Cannon’s anger with an endless amount of sass instead, transforming, “I’m trying hard / Real hard / Every day not to lose my temper” into one those talking interludes she’s been so fond of lately (see “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”, “Shake It Off”). Hearing The Story So Far’s ferocity converted into Swift’s bubbliness would be such a fascinating change in style since they pretty much lie at opposite ends of the musical spectrum. Swift proudly declared 1989 as her first official pop album; now I want to see how she handles pop punk. (Catherine Yi)

Related Content

(Un)covered: Runaway Baby

September 11, 2015 | By Hannah Pierangelo

(Un)covered: Uptown Funk

February 26, 2015 | By Hannah Pierangelo