Fearless Records’ famous Punk Goes… franchise has certainly come a long way since its first installment in 2000. Genre discrepancies aside, it’s impossible to deny the success of one particular subseries: the Punk Goes Pop albums. There are now seven volumes, with speculation of an eighth floating around online. Of course, as with any expansive discography, not every song can be a hit.
Writing and performing the perfect cover song is a challenge. However, as the bands who’ve made numerous appearances in the Punk Goes Pop series know, nailing a cross-genre cover is an art all its own. Taking a generic top-40 track and scene-ifying it is no easy feat. When done well, though, it can turn even the strongest opponents of pop music into believers.
Over the years, there have been some serious masterpieces. Then there have been some song selections and stylistic choices that have left us scratching our heads. From the heyday of Britney Spears to the Ed Sheeran era, we’ve ranked 50 of the most iconic Punk Goes Pop covers from worst to best.
50. “Send Me An Angel” – Thrice (originally by Real Life)
Sometimes, changing up the entire feel of a song—tempo and key included—totally works. This wasn’t one of those times. Thrice’s cover of “Send Me An Angel,” off the very first Punk Goes Pop album, lacked the feeling of desperation that characterized the original song, and the intro feels all but empty without that celestial synth. Without any other distinctive sonic features to add staying power, “Send Me An Angel” is a pretty underwhelming cover.
49. “Bye Bye Bye” – Further Seems Forever (originally by *NSYNC)
Sure, Further Seems Forever spiced up this classic *NSYNC track with drums and a prominent bassline in the verses, but otherwise, there isn’t much that stands out in this cover. Taking away the glossy sheen on the boy band’s vocals make the song feel literally lackluster, and while it might sound crazy, we actually found ourselves missing the “Oh, oh”s. After all, what’s a ’90s pop hit without them?
48. “When We Were Young” – Andy Black feat. Juliet Simms (originally by Adele)
Andy Biersack and Juliet Simms’ rendition of “When We Were Young” seems to be one of the more controversial covers in the entire Punk Goes Pop series. While hearing this powerhouse couple together was a peak moment for fans, many critics state that Simms jumping up an octave felt unnecessary, as did the bombastic descending hits in the verses and the slightly overproduced quality. However, there are also many things about it that work well such as the guitar, drums and vocal harmonies in the second and third choruses.
47. “Ice Box” – There For Tomorrow (originally by Omarion)
There For Tomorrow frontman Maika Maile’s beautiful voice works well for this emotional R&B song. However, the band did themselves a disservice by sticking so closely to the original, without really adding much of their own signature sound. Thankfully, the second and third choruses are a bit more rock-infused.
46. “Crush” – Noise Ratchet (originally by Mandy Moore)
California alternative rockers Noise Ratchet decided to take Mandy Moore’s “Crush” in a different direction for their contribution to the very first Punk Goes Pop album. While they definitely succeeded in making the song feel less cheesy, their approach was a little too out there, and this track would have been best left to its sweet simplicity.
45. “Can’t Feel My Face” – The Amity Affliction (originally by The Weeknd)
While the Amity Affliction’s cover of the Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face” was a valiant effort, the note changes in the chorus and prechorus were enough to make the whole track sound somewhat off. The band challenged themselves by taking on a pop song with a very distinct sound and mood, and unfortunately, the end result was pretty generic-sounding. However, the accompanying zombie-apocalypse music video definitely adds a few points in the song’s favor.
44. “Love Song” – Four Year Strong (originally by Sara Bareilles)
Sara Bareilles’ “Love Song” is the epitome of mid-2000s, midtempo, piano-driven pop. Because of this, Four Year Strong’s interpretation comes off as a little too jarring. This is just one of many instances across the seven Punk Goes Pop albums where the issue wasn’t so much the band’s approach to the song but rather the choice of song itself. Needless to say, these longtime post-hardcore icons might’ve been better off covering a track in which it would’ve been more fitting to come on strong (no pun intended).
43. “I Knew You Were Trouble” – We Came As Romans (originally by Taylor Swift)
Metalcore mainstays We Came As Romans added some really cool guitar and drum elements to this still slightly overplayed Taylor Swift track from her 2012 album, Red. Ultimately, WCAR’s cover sounded a little too much like the original to be a standout Punk Goes… song. Our biggest question: Why weren’t the “Oh”s screamed more prominently?
42. “Wrecking Ball” – August Burns Red (originally by Miley Cyrus)
We love Jake Luhrs’ screams as much as the next person, and there are definitely a few sections where August Burns Red’s heavy sound fits, but clean vocals almost seem like a requirement to capture the undeniable emotion in Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball.” A mix of the two styles might’ve made for a more compelling cover. That said, there are some fantastic instrumentals in this version.
41. “Down” – Breathe Carolina (originally by Jay Sean feat. Lil Wayne)
Maybe it’s unfair to expect a primarily pop band to change the feel of a pop song all that much, but Breathe Carolina’s cover of Jay Sean’s “Down” definitely left a bit to be desired. We were pretty happy, though, to see the bridge of the song, originally rapped by Lil Wayne, turned into a sick breakdown with screamed vocals, albeit a short one.
40. “Disturbia” – The Cab (originally by Rihanna)
It’s rare that this happens, but turning Rihanna’s “Disturbia” from pop to pop punk—if you can even really call it that—actually made this dark song sound a little too bright and happy. We will argue it’s not even so much that Alexander DeLeon’s voice doesn’t work for the song; it’s more that his singing lacks the distress that Rihanna’s conveys.
39. “Chocolate” – Knuckle Puck (originally by the 1975)
While the instrumentals in this cover are impressive, Joe Taylor’s aggressive vocal style just doesn’t fit this iconic 1975 single. There’s something about the allure and intrigue of an audible British accent in a song that can’t be replaced. Some true pop-punk defenders have argued that it’s nice to be able to actually understand the lyrics, but much like other rock-turned-pop acts such as Fall Out Boy, isn’t that just part of the 1975’s charm?
38. “Some Nights” – Like Moths To Flames (originally by fun.)
As cool as it was to see this all-too-familiar fun. track reimagined as an aggressive metalcore song, the balance between the screaming and blunt sung vocals felt a bit odd. Like Moths To Flames’ all-over-the-place approach just doesn’t work for a song with such a consistent feel throughout. However, they did interpret the quiet bridge beautifully.
37. “Heathens” – Boston Manor (originally by twenty one pilots)
With such a unique style and sound, twenty one pilots’ shoes aren’t easy to fill. British pop-punk quintet Boston Manor definitely did “Heathens” justice, but even with vocalist Henry Cox’s impressive performance and the addition of distinct guitar, drum and bass parts, the dark themes of the song aren’t conveyed quite as clearly.
36. “Drunk In Love” – Oceans Ate Alaska (originally by Beyoncé feat. Jay-Z)
We were on board with Oceans Ate Alaska’s metalcore reimagining of Beyoncé’s 2013 hit, up until the first “We be all night” kicked in. This was another less-than-perfect cover that mostly came down to poor song choice for the band’s style. Admittedly, there probably aren’t too many tenor vocalists out there who could fully match the power and soul in Queen B’s high notes.
35. “Love Yourself” – Grayscale (originally by Justin Bieber)
Grayscale swapped out the simple, chill diss-to-an-ex vibe for a driving rock sound, complete with plenty of pop-punk drum fills and a big chorus. In this particular case, the style of the original song might’ve just been more fitting. Grayscale’s reimagining could have worked better had they pushed it a little further. However, it was pretty cool to see the band give the song a new meaning through a clever and powerful music video, and to go harder than the likes of Justin Bieber ever could, even if the approach didn’t quite fit the song.
34. “Airplanes” – The Ready Set (originally by B.o.B feat. Hayley Williams)
The Punk Goes Pop series had already strayed from its first titular genre when the third volume was released in 2010. So, given the Ready Set’s massive popularity in the scene at the time, it only made sense to feature the singer-songwriter on the album. This cover of “Airplanes” is still undoubtedly pop, with some new twists and turns. While the song feels incomplete without Hayley Williams, we at least have to give Jordan Witzigreuter props for getting creative and singing the verses.
33. “Paper Planes” – This Century (originally by M.I.A.)
M.I.A.’s unique vocal style fits the meaning of “Paper Planes” so well, it’s hard not to find it a little boring when sung by anyone else. However, if This Century had to cover this track, we would’ve liked to see them do more to change it up from the original. By a fair margin, M.I.A. wins this round.
32. “Payphone” – Crown The Empire (originally by Maroon 5)
This cover has lots of great qualities, but it could’ve been better if Crown The Empire hadn’t changed the notes in the chorus. Adam Levine’s falsetto on the word “pay” is a standout part of the original that we would’ve liked to see preserved.
31. “Grenade” – Memphis May Fire (originally by Bruno Mars)
Speeding up Bruno Mars’ “Grenade” definitely detracted from the song’s emotional quality. However, Memphis May Fire did add an acceptable amount of screaming—and a brilliantly crafted breakdown—to make this more than just your average Punk Goes Pop cover. We just found ourselves wanting more of that.
30. “Bad Romance” – Artist Vs. Poet (originally by Lady Gaga)
Of course Artist Vs. Poet decided to bring their pop-punk sound to Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” by adding guitar, but it isn’t really enough to make their cover feel much different from the original. Tarcy Thomason’s voice sounds as sexy as ever on the track, but ultimately, Lady Gaga’s throaty style is what gives “Bad Romance” its signature vibe.
29. “We R Who We R” – Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! (originally by Ke$ha)
Ah, to go back to the days when Kesha had a dollar sign in her name. Like the original version of “We R Who We R,” this cover by Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! also sets the perfect getting ready for a night out at the club vibe—that is, if the club happens to have a metal band performing that night. Despite being composed of mostly screaming, the sung choruses make the song feel just as danceable.
28. “Toxic” – A Static Lullaby (originally by Britney Spears)
The screaming in A Static Lullaby’s cover of Britney Spears’ iconic single “Toxic” feels well placed, and the drums and guitar make the song feel much more exciting. That said, we can’t help but feel like the bridge would’ve been the perfect spot for a breakdown.
27. “Dead And Gone” – Cute Is What We Aim For (originally by T.I. feat. Justin Timberlake)
Cute Is What We Aim For conveyed the feeling of having been traveling on the same road for too long by slowing down the tempo, dropping the key and adding acoustic guitar to this dark T.I. track. The rapped verses (with occasional bits of singing) don’t work quite as well at this new tempo, and some of the sung lines feel a bit awkward and oddly placed, but the choruses provide the opportunity to reflect more deeply on the song’s powerful message.
26. “Run This Town” – Miss May I (originally by Jay-Z feat. Kanye West and Rihanna)
Miss May I’s sound lends itself well to an edgy hip-hop song such as Jay-Z’s “Run This Town.” Some of the band’s rhythmic choices feel a little off, particularly in the verses, and their interpretation of Kanye West’s section comes off as less effective than the original. But the real issue here is that there was only so much that could be done with this track, which is why it gets the solid middle-of-the-road spot on our list.
25. “Beautiful Girls” – Bayside (originally by Sean Kingston)
Bayside’s cover of “Beautiful Girls” features all the awesome instrumental qualities that have made the band a beloved fixture in the pop-punk scene, even after almost 21 years. The only major flaw here is that frontman Anthony Raneri’s vocal style is just a bit too straightforward for a Sean Kingston song.
24. “Love The Way You Lie” – A Skylit Drive (originally by Eminem feat. Rihanna)
A Skylit Drive struck a nice balance between screaming and clean vocals in their cover of Eminem’s “Love The Way You Lie.” Some of the notes, however, along with the change in rhythm, make the verses of this serious and emotional song feel a little too bright.
23. “Fuck You” – Sleeping With Sirens (originally by CeeLo Green)
Sleeping With Sirens frontman Kellin Quinn’s vocals shine in this cover of CeeLo Green’s “Fuck You.” We all love it when he adds in those impossibly high riffs and runs, but still, they don’t quite live up to Green’s soulfulness. The less aggressive sound in the original actually conveys this song’s clear message more effortlessly.
22. “Super Bass” – The Downtown Fiction (originally by Nicki Minaj)
The Downtown Fiction gave this bouncy pop anthem more musical merit than we ever thought possible. The slower tempo does make the song feel a bit lacking in energy compared to Nicki Minaj’s version, but if nothing else, the charming lyrical changes (“She might drink Coke” in place of “He might sell coke,” for example) are sure to make you smile, regardless of your stance on the original song.
21. “We Found Love” – Forever The Sickest Kids (originally by Rihanna feat. Calvin Harris)
Forever The Sickest Kids couldn’t have made Rihanna’s “We Found Love” sound any more anthemic. Their particular brand of pop-rock makes the song feel, well, hopeful, as it should. It’s clear that the band had a lot of fun with this cover, but we definitely would’ve liked to see more of the guitar and drums that made the instrumental parts of the chorus so awesome.
20. “Ass Back Home” – SECRETS (originally by Gym Class Heroes feat. Neon Hitch)
The choruses in this cover by SECRETS are nearly flawless, but this is one of those instances where replacing rapping with screaming in the verses doesn’t work as well. Perhaps some more variance in the screaming styles or even a mixture of screams and clean vocals would’ve made for a better tribute to Gym Class Heroes.
19. “Billie Jean” – Breathe Carolina (originally by Michael Jackson)
Surprisingly, former Breathe Carolina frontman Kyle Even’s voice is much better suited for Michael Jackson than Jay Sean. Of course, covering a song by the King of Pop, and replicating that signature soulful groove, is hard to do, which might be why the song feels a little underwhelming. At least until the end, when BC finally get creative with a sick breakdown.
18. “I’m Real” – The Starting Line (originally by Jennifer Lopez)
Ironically, the Starting Line’s uptempo rendition of J-Lo’s “I’m Real” has a more raw and authentic feel to it than the original. If you’re a late ’90s/early 2000s hip-hop purist, though, you might find the totally transformed vibe of this cover to be a bit much.
17. “Turn Down For What” – Upon A Burning Body feat. Ice-T (originally by DJ Snake and Lil Jon)
Is hip-hop metalcore considered an official genre? Because if not, Upon A Burning Body totally turned it into one with this cover of DJ Snake’s “Turn Down For What.” While it isn’t quite as strong as some of the purer rock renditions of hip-hop tracks, there are plenty of entertaining elements that make us want to fire up the loud.
16. “Blank Space” – I Prevail (originally by Taylor Swift)
Ditching the carefree pop vibe for a much darker, heavier sound, I Prevail’s cover of “Blank Space” is widely regarded by fans as one of the best Punk Goes Pop covers. It’s also the song that put the band on the map. They boldly went where no Swift cover had gone before, adding in lots of screaming and a breakdown, one of the track’s standout moments. However, it would’ve been interesting to hear more variances in the melodies from clean vocalist Brian Burkheiser, rather than trying to stick so closely to the original.
15. “Animals” – Ice Nine Kills (originally by Maroon 5)
Ice Nine Kills added some really interesting elements, both vocally and instrumentally, to Maroon 5’s “Animals.” As a band known for incorporating vivid horror themes into their lyrics, it seems fitting that Ice Nine Kills would’ve picked a song with such a distinct and eerie metaphor. However, the howl gets lost in the breakdown.
14. “What Goes Around…Comes Around” – Alesana (originally by Justin Timberlake)
For the most part, the balance between screams and clean vocals in Alesana’s rendition of “What Goes Around…Comes Around” feels pretty solid. They manage to add even more texture by combining highs and lows. The main stylistic aspects that feel questionable are the decision to split the lines of the chorus as half-screamed, half-sung and the spontaneous key change.
13. “Let It Go” – The Plot In You (originally by James Bay)
Say what you will about the lack of screaming and breakdowns in this cover, but there’s definitely something to be said for this stripped-down version of the Plot In You. They honored the tender sound that English singer-songwriter James Bay is known for while still managing to add their own twist and an extra layer of emotion, thanks in no small part to frontman Landon Tewers’ incredible vocal performance.
12. “Gangsta” – New Years Day (originally by Kehlani)
From the same movie soundtrack that gave us “Heathens” (DC Films’ Suicide Squad) came this badass single. And New Years Day’s cover, led by a Harley Quinn-ified Ash Costello, only enhances the song’s eerie vibe. In fact, we’re not sure the band could’ve picked a better “pop” song to cover for the seventh Punk Goes Pop album. The line “That’s just what gangsters do” gives us chills every time.
11. “Over My Head (Cable Car)” – A Day To Remember (originally by the Fray)
Despite being categorized as a rock band, the Fray’s songs have a tendency to sound a lot like lullabies. Of course, in complete contrast, any pop song covered by A Day To Remember is gonna be made loud—and “Over My Head” is no exception. The acoustic guitar only lasts for a few measures before giving way to ADTR’s signature sound.
10. “Bulletproof” – Family Force 5 (originally by La Roux)
Knowing that synth-pop duo La Roux specifically wrote “Bulletproof” in an attempt to stand out from the same old musical and lyrical themes that dominated mainstream radio in 2009, we can appreciate Family Force 5’s cover even more. Their take feels distinctly different from other Punk Goes Pop tracks, but somehow it just works. We’re curious to know what the song would’ve sounded like with more guitar, but we’re definitely not complaining about FF5’s interpretation.
9. “Need You Now” – Sparks The Rescue (originally by Lady Antebellum)
Sparks The Rescue made more changes to Lady Antebellum’s (now Lady A) “Need You Now” than what’s typically heard on a Punk Goes Pop track. But in this case, the changes worked simply because Sparks The Rescue committed to altering the whole mood and tone of the song. The central theme of longing still feels just as genuine with a faster tempo and intensified instrumentals.
8. “Heartless” – The Word Alive (originally by Kanye West)
The Word Alive frontman Telle Smith’s vocal delivery in this cover of “Heartless” somehow makes the song feel so much more emotional. Not to mention, the band did an incredible job of creatively reimagining the verses without a single bit of clean singing. And the guitar outro is the perfect finish to a metalcore cover.
7. “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” – The Maine feat. Adam Lazzara (originally by Cyndi Lauper)
Right off the bat, you know a John O’Callaghan/Adam Lazzara collab is going to be worth listening to. The two prominent vocalists from different eras of the pop-punk scene give an entirely new meaning to this Cyndi Lauper classic. Some stronger instrumentals would’ve elevated the Maine’s cover of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” from good to great.
6. “Stitches” – State Champs (originally by Shawn Mendes)
Who knew that some guitar, drums and fresh pop-punk energy was all this Shawn Mendes track needed to go from overplayed breakup song to total banger? Vocalist Derek DiScanio puts a unique spin on “Stitches,” while drummer Evan Ambrosio’s fun fills tie everything together beautifully. State Champs stayed true to the original in many ways, adding their own sound in all the right places.
5. “Everywhere” – Yellowcard (originally by Michelle Branch)
Yellowcard’s cover of Michelle Branch’s “Everywhere” is undeniably one of the most memorable and well-done tracks on the album that started it all. The second verse feels a bit strange, but we can still appreciate the band’s attempt to add texture to this 2001 hit.
4. “Somebody That I Used To Know” – Mayday Parade feat. Vic Fuentes (originally by Gotye feat. Kimbra)
Mayday Parade’s rendition of “Somebody That I Used To Know” takes on an entirely different feel than the original—in a good way. Despite the new key, tempo and pop-punk instrumentals, it still has all the emotion of a breakup song. How could it not, having been performed by Mayday Parade? And Vic Fuentes’ verse is just to die for.
3. “Rolling In The Deep” – Go Radio (originally by Adele)
Go Radio frontman Jason Lancaster’s voice packs the same emotional punch and features the same soulful rasp as Adele’s. That makes him a perfect candidate to cover the English singer-songwriter’s breakout single, “Rolling In The Deep.” Lancaster’s bandmates back him up with far more interesting guitar and drum parts than those heard in the original, helping to kick this fiery chart-topper up a notch.
2. “Apologize” – Silverstein (originally by OneRepublic)
The members of Silverstein certainly don’t need to apologize for their faster yet just as emotional (if not more) rendition of this well-known song. From the soft guitar intro to the fervent drum fills, which build up to an explosive chorus, Silverstein add the perfect raw punk touch to OneRepublic’s “Apologize.”
1. “Little Lion Man” – Tonight Alive (originally by Mumford & Sons)
No cover can ever fully compare to the melancholy yet stomp-along quality of Mumford & Sons’ debut single, “Little Lion Man.” But Tonight Alive’s cover is such a fantastic reimagining. While the original is an excellent example of modern folk-rock done right, the Tonight Alive version is a great example of a Punk Goes Pop cover done right. They made the sound brighter, the chorus punchier and the guitar work tighter, all while holding on to the raw passion in the original. To top it all off, frontwoman Jenna McDougall’s vocals are incredible.
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