REVIEW: Various Artists – ‘Punk Goes Pop Vol. 6’

Artist: Various
Album: Punk Goes Pop Vol. 6
Genre: Covers/Compilation
Label: Fearless Records

Two years have passed since Fearless Records shared Punk Goes Pop Vol. 5, and in that time the world of top 40 music has undergone quite a transformation. There is less music created by actual instruments at radio today than ever before, replaced at a startling rate by EDM headliners and star-studded collaborative efforts that revolve around mindless hooks backed by thumping bass. Transforming these tracks into well-executed covers performed by artists using guitars is no easy task, but Fearless found thirteen artists up to the challenge and worked with them to create the diverse and incredibly entertaining Punk Goes Pop Vol. 6.

Dropping the open embrace of classic pop songs found on Punk Goes Pop Vol 5, the latest installment in Fearless Records’ long-running Punk Goes franchise is focused solely on what’s been hot at radio over the last year. This means Taylor Swift, Iggy Azalea, Calvin Harris, Ariana Grande, Beyonce, and Paramore, in addition to several other familiar top 40 favorites. The artists attempting to make these tracks their own are largely scene regulars, including We Came As Romans, Crown The Empire, Tyler Carter (of Issues), August Burns Red, and Upon A Burning Body, as well as newcomers like Oceans Ate Alaska and Knuckle Puck. The quality of their contributions vary greatly, but regardless it’s nice to see a diverse selection of alternative styles represented.

Starting with the covers worth your time and money, which I’m happy to report is the majority of the release, Knuckle Puck and Crown The Empire steal the show in unique and endlessly enjoyable ways. Knuckle Puck’s American-bred pop punk take on The 1975’s sex-infused “Chocolate” brings an infectious and gravelly twist to the song, while Crown The Empire channel their arena-ready sound into Calvin Harris and Ellie Goulding’s chart-topping single “Burn.” Not all covers should be turned into live show regulars, but I hope both bands immediately bring these tracks to crowds. The same can be said of the two singles of the compilation, Tyler Carter’s “Ain’t It Fun” and We Came As Romans’ duel-vocal take on T Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble,” as well as Slaves’ take on “Sweater Weather” by The Neighbourhood. I said this on Twitter already, but Jonny Craig’s second (perhaps third?) chance in the music business exists so that he can deliver the vocals on the cover.

State Champs and Palisades both deliver thoroughly enjoyable covers. Neither necessarily stand out in any way, but they’re fun and demand more than a single listen.

Set It Off deserve special credit for their take on the Ariana Grande hit “Problem.” Anyone who listens to top 40 regularly knows the song, which also features an appearance from Iggy Azalea, only left regular rotation in recent weeks. As much as anyone can say they enjoy the track, it’s been played to death at every station around the country, and fans have already moved on to more recent singles from both artists. Still, despite the track’s quickly fading shelf life, Set It Off have found a way to make everyone give a damn about “Problem” once again. It’s a cover that perfectly fits the band’s upbeat take on alternative rock, but it also has a danceability rarely found in today’s world of Warped Tour-ready bands. They could lose the “No Scrubs” cutaway in the middle of the record, but there will be some who think it’s that moment that makes the track.

As for the downside of the record, August Burns Red’s heavy take on the Miley Cyrus’ power-ballad “Wrecking Ball” is a chaotic mess. Likewise, up-and-coming group Oceans Ate Alaska chug and scream the catchiness of Beyonce’s “Partition” into obliteration. There have been numerous impressive heavy covers on previous Punk Goes… compilations, but it’s the heaviest tracks that largely feel the weakest on this record. The two exceptions are Upon A Burning Body’s “Turn Down For What,” which only really shines because of an appearance from Body Count singer (and Law and Order: SVU cast member) Ice-T — and the slow-building tension of Youth In Revolt’s take on Lorde’s “Royals.”

Punk Goes Pop 6 is the best Punk Goes… in years. Though it’s almost impossible for an uninspired cover to hurt someone’s career, the ability for a great twist on a familiar hit to change the course of an artist’s career is unlike anything else found in music. This compilation is far from the perfect mix, but the good far outweighs the bad, and I can see this record bringing a lot of great attention to some hard working bands that can always use a little more attention from press/media/critics/etc. The amount of replays this record gets will vary greatly from listener to listener, but anyone with the slightest of interest in any of the bands included should make it a point to give the full compilation a chance to impress. There are several great covers here, and it’s not just the current headliners who are responsible for them.

You got me this time, Fearless Records. Just when I think the next Punk Goes… release should be titled …Out Of Style you come along and give me another reason to care. Well done.

SCORE: 8.5/10
Review written by: James Shotwell

James Shotwell
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3 Responses to “REVIEW: Various Artists – ‘Punk Goes Pop Vol. 6’”

  1. TylerIkari says:

    August Burns Red provided the only good cover on this garbage can of an album.

  2. Matthew Moore says:

    I’d give this album a 3/10 since there was only 3 worthwhile songs on it. Slaves, Knuckle Punk and Crown the Empire.

  3. Andar Barrishi says:

    I totally disagree with you on August Burns Red’s ‘Wrecking Ball’. I’d like to hear how you could justify describing it ‘a chaotic mess’?