Review: Fearless Records Presents: Punk Goes Pop Volume 7

Artist: Various Artists
Album: Fearless Records Presents: Punk Goes Pop Vol. 7
Rating: 9/10

1. STATE CHAMPS – “Stitches” by Shawn Mendes
2. Dance Gavin Dance – “That’s What I Like” by Bruno Mars
3. New Years Day – “Gangsta” by Kehlani
4. The Amity Affliction – “Can’t Feel My Face” by The Weeknd
5. Andy Black (feat. Juliet Simms) – “When We Were Young” by Adele
6. Grayscale – “Love Yourself” by Justin Bieber
7. Capsize – “Fake Love” by Drake
8. Boston Manor – “Heathens” by twenty one pilots
9. Eat Your Heart Out – “Shape Of You” by Ed Sheeran
10. THE PLOT IN YOU – “Let It Go” by James Bay
11. Ice Nine Kills – “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever” by Zayn, Taylor Swift
12. Seaway – “Closer” by The Chainsmokers
13. Too Close to Touch – “In The Name Of Love” by Martin Garrix & Bebe Rexha

Let’s start this review off with a history lesson: Fearless Records created something unique and exciting with the first installment of their “Punk Goes” series, Punk Goes Metal, in 2000. When this album was released, it’s unclear if the label had planned it to be an ongoing thing. Since the release of the seminal debut of that album, though, they’ve boldly gone where no label has gone before. Having tackled some of pop’s biggest hits over the year, underground hip hop, the biggest hits of the 90s and much more, the Punk Goes… series has become a force to be reckoned with. The most popular installments, though, are the Punk Goes Pop series, originally started in 2002, and featured covers by artists like Yellowcard, Further Seems Forever, Thrice, NICOTINE, Rufio and more. On Friday, July 14th, the world will be introduced to the 7th installment in that series, Punk Goes Pop. Volume 7.

The Good:

Let’s be honest with ourselves: The past couple of “Punk Goes” albums, with the exception of …90’s Vol. 2, have been fairly hit or miss. Playing it safe seemed to be something that a lot of the bands wanted to do, not wanting to deviate too far from their original counterparts. However, with the release of Volume 7, that has changed. Starting with the devastatingly catchy version of “Stitches (originally by Shawn Mendes)” performed by State Champs. This version kicks up the energy levels and picks up the pace just enough to really get the listener moving. Creating a pop/punk version of a pop/rock hit is something that has to be approached with the utmost care, so as not to butcher it, but State Champs has done a masterful job.

The weird vibes will hit you hard with the album’s lead single, “That’s What I Like (originally by Bruno Mars),” as Dance Gavin Dance truly takes this chance to make it their own. At first listen, if unfamiliar with the original, you might have thought that DGD wrote this one themselves. While Bruno Mars is known for his smooth, sensual and unrivaled vocal style, so is vocalist Tilian Pearson and he takes every opportunity to get bodies moving and panties droppin’. The math-rock vibe, given by Will Swan’s unmistakable riff-work is something that seems to fit this track a lot better than one might think.

“Gangsta,” originally performed by Kehlani and appearing on the Suicide Squad soundtrack, is the last song I expected from Anaheim horror rock quintet, New Years Day. That being said, the dark-themed, sensual essence of the track’s subject matter is still very prevalent in this version (if you’re worried about that.) The band takes the pace a bit slower on this one, adding a slightly darker edge to it and brings a more alternative rock vibe to it. Vocalist Ash Costello couldn’t have been a more perfect substitute for Kehlani’s style, honestly. The only complaint I have is that this is one that stuck a bit closer to the original than I would have liked. The good news, in that regard, is that if you’re looking to become a New Years Day fan after this, this provides an easy transition.

One of my favorite tracks, for the beautiful duet aesthetic that was created out of it, is that of Andy Black and Juliet Simms providing their take on Adele’s “When We Were Young.” The classic-era sound that Adele placed in the track has been taken out, in place of a darker, piano-driven and ballad-like version. Black is known for his unique, almost monotone voice but the way he uses it, throughout all of his projects, is something to be envied. The addition of Simms’ beautiful, raspy voice and the love between the two, creates something that is truly awe-inspiring with this cover. The thing that always gets me is the way it manages to build up, exploding in the second chorus and slowly winding down to the end.

Some of the more notable covers come from Too Close to Touch, The Plot In You, Ice Nine Kills (come on, who’s surprised there?!), Capsize, Boston Manor and Grayscale.

The Bad:

“Can’t Feel My Face” will get anyone moving, it’s a proven fact. Even if you aren’t a fan of The Weeknd, this track is one of those that has the ability to transcend any distastes you may have in the R&B genre. However, Australia’s The Amity Affliction tried to tackle the track, putting their flair on it while keeping a lot of the same arrangement and, honestly, it just clashes too much to be enjoyable. The exception to this is the chorus, which turned out pretty well.

When I saw that Seaway was going to be covering “Closer,” originally by The Chainsmokers (feat. Halsey), I got excited. After all this is one of Canada’s premiere pop punk bands and they’ve really made a name for themselves in their short career. The result, though, is a “play-it-safe” approach that makes it feel almost like you’re listening to the original. The difference being that there is no female counterpart to provide that dual-aesthetic, which makes the original so enjoyable.

The bottom line is that if you’ve been a fan of the series, up to this point, and found yourself disappointed with some of the past covers… Volume 7 is the redeeming factor that will restore your faith. After all, the best part about these albums is seeing how bands can provide their own, unique approach to some of today’s biggest hits. In that respect, Volume 7 has knocked it out of the park. I’d love to see Our Last Night on the next installment, though, Fearless Records… I’m looking at you! Punk Goes Pop Volume 7 is out this Friday, via Fearless Recordsand you can check out “That’s What I Like” and “Can’t Feel My Face” below!

Pre-Order Punk Goes Pop Volume 7