Hip-Hop to Hardcore Rock

On November 1, Fearless Records released the much-anticipated third installment of the Punk Goes Pop series, in which underground alt bands cover current radio hits. Fearless cur­rently signs 23 bands of mixed genres — for example, mainstream pop-punkers Plain White T’s and Mayday Parade are Fearless labelmates with metalcore giant blessthefall and post-hardcore popularities Alesana and A Skylit Drive — and Punk Goes Pop, Vol. 3 features an equally diverse set, with covers of artists from Lady Antebellum to Akon.

The pieces of the resulting compilation run the gamut from laudable (“Right Now (Na Na Na),” “Airplanes”) to laughable (“Hot N’ Cold,” “Paper Planes”). Denver electronica-hardcore trio Breathe Carolina, always reliable for a catchy single, delivers with their infectious rendi­tion of Jay Sean’s “Down,” as do Phoenix-based quintet The Word Alive with Kanye West’s “Heartless,” proving that they can in fact survive—and thrive — as a band even after losing former frontman Craig Mabbitt to the far more prominent Escape the Fate. Best, though, is Justin Timberlake’s “My Love” as interpreted — and improved — by Michigan’s We Came as Romans, who impress yet again following their debut full-length To Plant a Seed, arguably one of the strongest post-hardcore releases of 2009.

On the other hand, Mayday Parade — strangers to neither covers nor pop-punk songs — disappoint with a less-than-stellar rendition of Jason Derülo’s “In My Head,” especially in light of their excellent con­tribution to the previous volume of Punk Goes Pop; likewise, Family Force 5’s cover of La Roux’s “Bullet­proof,” while not by any means awful, is far too similar to the original to be considered an improvement. Meanwhile, Of Mice & Men — an up-and-coming band featuring former Attack Attack! frontman Austin Carlile — and Miss May I lend a shredding metalcore edge to “Blame It” and “Run This Town,” respectively. Relative newcomers Sparks the Rescue takes a major risk with “Need You Now” — the only country song covered — but succeeds nicely, presenting an uptempo piece of pop-punk; Artist Vs Poet’s gutsy rendition of the megahit “Bad Romance” — a single that, given its worldwide popularity, is undoubtedly an intimidating one to cover — is itself radio-worthy material, evidencing that the band’s rapid rise to power-punk prominence was not at all undeserved. Surprisingly, British metalcore unit Ask­ing Alexandria chose to cover Akon’s “Right Now (Na Na Na)”, but they creatively turn it into the kind of thrashing, hardcore headbanger that fans — and, stateside, Asking Alexandria has some impressively devoted ones — have come to expect from the band.

Perhaps the worst track on the album is Woe, Is Me’s cover of Katy Perry’s “Hot ‘N Cold,” which contains little in terms of musical skill (though there is one redeem­ing quality: a spoken, semi-humorous in­terlude between bridge and chorus, two minutes and thirty seconds in). Though Punk Goes Pop, Vol. 3 does have its weak tracks — as well as some songs that may, with their screamed (albeit skillfully) lyrics and blistering riffs, be too heavy for some non-post-hardcore listeners — it is overall a decent album that, for fans of both the contributing bands and original songs, is absolutely worth looking into.