A long time ago, right here in the U.S., listening to pop music as a scene kid would get you hung out to dry. Britney was a coveted charm, but admitting you listened to Dashboard Confessional was starting to border on too-popular, and we reached for our copies of Coheed and Cambria’s In Keeping Secrets… 3 CDs to keep us warm at night.
A year before that, though, Fearless Records grew wise to the sinking suspicion that we, as a listening public, really freaking loved a good pop song. Taking that risk — yes, back then it was a risk — Fearless put out the first-ever non-Napster era cover mixtape with our favorite bands playing every song we refused to admit we were singing in the shower. Further Seems Forever (with then-vocalist Jason Gleason) emo-ed up ’N Sync’s “Bye Bye Bye,” Noise Ratchet had their way with Mandy Moore’s “Crush” and Yellowcard knocked Michelle Branch’s “Everywhere” out of the park.
We are technically on the sixth volume of that franchise now, but that’s only in the Punk Goes Pop line only. There were some Punk Goes Acoustic lines in there, some ’80s jams by way of Relient K, Sugarcult and Emery, we went through some ’90s volumes as soon as we could — we even had Punk Goes X, a full album done for the 2011 Winter X Games.
If the material is right, none of these albums should ever fail. It is, effectively, a metalcore version of the reason Weird Al Yankovic can still top charts and get Radio Shack commercial deals in 2015. That’s why a lot of this record’s forebearers — The Devil Wears Prada covering “Still Fly” (don’t ask them to play it again), Mayday Parade’s foray into the acoustic with a stripped down version of their own hit, “Three Cheers for Five Years,” There for Tomorrow’s fantastic rendition of Omarion’s “Icebox” — should be praised sound good over time. We miss the nostalgia of living in the cross-section of pop we were allowed to listen to, the years and Warped Tours it meant to us and our first cigarettes or beers as adults.
It just feels like all of that air gets taken out every pop collection that accompanies a new Pop edition. There are some good song choices here (Drake’s “Hold On, We’re Going Home” by The Volumes), some safe bets (August Burns Red’s “Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus) and some misses (Slaves version of “Sweater Weather” drags on). Some of the bad seems to hit a pretty low bottom. I hate to sound like a crotchety old man, but as of writing this, Upon A Burning Body and Ice-T’s cover of the anthem of clubs and sports stadiums “Turn Down for What” is trending on Spotify. Unfortunately, and with all due respect to Ice-T (whose latest single, “Talk Sh-t, Get Shot,” makes it clear I should not disrespect the King), but the decisions of where to come in and out make it seem like he literally only took one take at the song and then had somewhere else to be. That, or no one wanted to tell the man to do it one more time.
Jams like Set if Off’s version of “Problem” (by Ariana Grande) and Knuckle Puck’s near-direct interpretation of The 1975’s “Chocolate” elevate the album amidst some of the poor decisions that made it to tape. Oceans Ate Alaska have no problem getting as low and dirty as they can on this major release, and it’s fantastic.
At the end of the day, it’s a franchise worth owning, and, if you’re a complete-the-set type of person, it’s worth the money for the actual songs you’re getting in return. In fact, it doesn’t even feel like the record was bad, just that, as it serves as a slice in time of our musical lives, we’ve seen better days.